Emmys: Meet the Nominee Biking an Hour and a Half to the Red Carpet

8:58 AM PST 08/24/2014 by Austin Siegemund-Broka
Tom Smuts
Tom Smuts in Rapha cycling wear

This 'Mad Men' writer doesn’t just want to beat traffic

What's an Emmy nominee to do about downtown traffic on awards night Monday? Well, one could limo-pool, depart at 2:30 p.m., or use the valet at a nearby hotel — or hail an Uber or brave freeway gridlock like an average commuter. Then there's Tom Smuts' way: bike it.

The writer, who is nominated for Outstanding Drama Series with the rest of the producers of Mad Men's seventh season, will lead a 15-person bike ride to the awards ceremony. The Television Academy has granted permission for six riders to cycle up to the carpet, a group that will include Smuts' wife, Homeland executive producer and two-time Emmy winner Meredith Stiehm.

The route will run 17 miles from their Santa Monica home to the Nokia Theater in about an hour and a half, Smuts says, and forget the spandex — he will arrive in bike-friendly evening attire (pictured) by Rapha.

It's a solution to the transportation debacle of the Emmys on a Monday, which will put limousines on the streets the same time as rush-hour commuters, with the thoroughfare Figueroa Street remaining open this year. The networks' limo allotments were cut by as much as 50 percent, forcing many attendees to handle their own transportation. Emmy organizers advocate carpooling, and Uber rates are already climbing. The traffic situation was what led the Television Academy to restrict Smuts' ride to 15 people, he says. "There was a feeling of 'let's keep this manageable, and if it's successful, let's make it better.' "

"If we wanted to have a hundred people on bikes, the headline might have been 'one hundred assholes on bikes clog up traffic during Emmys,' " he adds.

The inspiration for the ride wasn't dodging traffic, Smuts says. It was "playful activism" on behalf of bike commuters, of which he is one. He cycles 35 to 40 minutes to and from the studio for Amazon's Bosch, he says, and he has felt a "confrontational attitude" from drivers that he wants to change.

 "A group of people dressed appropriately riding to the Emmys sends a message about the kind of people who commute on bikes," he says. "It might make drivers more aware that we're not hooligans trying to lengthen their commutes."

The ride started with a Facebook post — "Riding my bike to the Emmys with a bunch of friends," Smuts wrote on Aug. 13. The positive response led him to call the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and the city government's Bicycle Advisory Committee, then the mayor's office and the TV Academy. The LACBC designed the route for group safety, and Smuts gathered friends, including Paradigm agent Rich Rogers and cycling fashion designer and activist Nona Varnado.

He'll organize rides to next year's Emmys and possibly more events, he says. He'd like to secure the participation of stars and other talent, and he hopes that without this year's traffic, he can organize his initial plan of a "festive" ride with a much larger group. 

"I just wish it was bigger and we had Matthew McConaughey," he says.

Email: Austin.Siegemund-Broka@THR.com
Twitter: @Asiegemundbroka

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