Cruising is a social activity that primarily consists of driving a car. Cruising can be an expression of the freedom of possessing a driver's license. Cruising is distinguished from regular driving by the social and recreational nature of the activity, which is characterized by an impulsively random, often aimless course. A popular route (or "strip") is often the focus of cruising. "Cruise nights" are evenings during which cars drive slowly, bumper-to-bumper, through small towns. Another common form is a "Booze Cruise": this is where a group of people go out 'cruising' and drinking. A cruise can be a meeting of car enthusiasts at a predetermined location, organised predominantly through the internet (in recent times) but also largely through mobile phone, word of mouth or simply by a cruise being established enough that it becomes a regular event.
One of the oldest cruising strips is located on Whittier Boulevard in East Los Angeles. Cruising on this strip became a popular pastime with the lowriding community during the 1940s before spreading to surrounding neighborhoods in the 1950s. Van Nuys Boulevard in the central San Fernando Valley has been a popular cruising strip since the 1950s-1960s; the 1979 film Van Nuys Blvd. depicted the cruising culture on the strip. Perhaps the most famous cruising strip (or main drag), however, is McHenry Avenue in Modesto, California. The cruising culture of the late 1950s and early 1960s was depicted in the film American Graffiti. The film was set (but not actually filmed) in director George Lucas's home town of Modesto, which also hosts an annual "Graffiti Summer" celebration in the film's honor.
Cruising in Detroit took place from the 1950s to the 1970s in the city's northern suburbs along M-1 (Woodward Avenue), from Ferndale north to Pontiac. Cruising along Woodward reached its peak in the mid-1960s, with muscle car competitions that were covered by journalists from Car and Driver, Motor Trend, and CBS World News Roundup. The cruising culture on Woodward Avenue faded in the 1970s when new car safety standards and higher gas prices altered American automotive design. Other popular cruising strips in the Detroit area include US 24 (Telegraph Road) from 12 Mile Road in Southfield to Michigan Avenue in Dearborn, and M-3 (Gratiot Avenue) on the East Side. The Woodward Dream Cruise occurs on the third Saturday in August along the original cruising strip in Detroit's northern suburbs. The event is a tribute to the classic Woodward cruisers and attracts approximately 1 million people and 40,000 muscle cars, street rods, and custom, collector, and special interest vehicles.
Cruising in the southwestern Minneapolis suburb of Hopkins, Minnesota was so popular in the late 1970s and early 1980s that people from all over the State of Minnesota traveled there to show off their cars. It became such a phenomenon that a local TV station went there and did a piece for a locally produced news program, Twin Cities Today.
The Dragging the Gut Festival is an event held each year on the fourth weekend of August (August 23–24, 2013) in the historic downtown of McMinnville, Oregon. The festival gives participants the chance to relive the classic 1950s car cruising on the main street that took place for decades in downtown McMinnville. The Dragging the Gut Festival was born out of a Facebook group called "I Dragged the Gut in Downtown McMinnville" which grew rapidly and led to the creation of the festival.
Cruises such as the one on International Drive in Orlando, Florida, from the early 1990s, were broken-up by city ordinance signs that stated what hours drivers could and could not turn around throughout the strip, which kept cruisers from turning around in u-turn areas during specific times at night or cruisers would be ticketed. Cruisers had to go to a light in order to turn around. Many cruisers saw this as a hassle and stopped going. Local businesses enforced the signs, but paid the price in the long run, because cruisers would purchase goods, food and entertainment from many of the shops, attractions and restaurants set up along the drive. Some of the businesses in and around the area have closed down since the ban, due to poor sales afterwards.
There are two main types of cruise: regular cruises, also known as meets, and one-off cruises. The events that take place are similar; cars meet in car parks, park up or cruise (drive slowly) around the car park while people socialise – often meeting people from cruise websites, show off their cars and admire others' cars. If there is enough space there are often drag races, burnouts, and doughnuts.
A meet is a regular gathering, usually weekly or monthly, where the time and place is freely publicised and well known. It is becoming more common these days for these events to be referred to incorrectly as cruises.
A one-off cruise is an event organised by a particular group of people or club which would usually be advertised through cruise websites. The final destination of the cruise is often kept secret; it is known only to the convoy leaders in an attempt to keep the cruise unknown to the police. until there are a large enough numbers of people at the cruise to make it difficult to disperse.
One-off cruises tend to be larger than meets, but larger meets may have magazine attendance. This type of cruise is increasing in recent times due to increased police interest in regular, established cruises.
Some large cruises operate a "convoy-only" policy.
Cruises are generally held in retail parks due to the large open car parks needed to accommodate high attendance numbers (sometimes more than 500 cars). Naturally, with many cruises situated in retail parks, most cruise locations are also in close proximity to fast food restaurants such as McDonald's or Burger King.
Cruising and the law
Although cruising is not a crime in itself, there are many illegal activities associated with it and as such cruises are often monitored by the police or even closed. The most commonly cited reasons for breaking up cruises are breach of the peace, caused by loud exhausts and sound systems disturbing local residents and dangerous driving (such as street racing, burnouts and doughnuts). Police also claim that cruises are used as cover for drug dealing and are attended by stolen or otherwise illegal cars. More recently, police have been using ASBO laws which enable them to seize and impound cars if anti-social behaviour is taking place or if a group refuses to disperse from an area.
As a result of increased police powers, legal cruises have been established such as Weston Wheels, although these tend to resemble car shows with camping, music stages and trade stalls. This passive, organised nature often does not satisfy the desires of cruisers, so illegal cruising continues.
Cruising and modifying have long been represented in the commercial magazines Max Power, Fast Car Magazine and Redline. In mid-2006, Max Power, the magazine that brought cruises to the forefront, abandoned the scene – preferring to concentrate on "dream" cars such as Nissan Skylines. Long-time rival FastCar assumed Max Power's position and now covers multiple cruises across the UK in each edition.
UK and Ireland
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- Genat, Robert (2010). Woodward Avenue: Cruising the Legendary Strip. North Branch, MN: CarTech Books. pp. 15, 41, 90, 124–5. ISBN 978-1-932494-91-4.
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