Walking in L.A.: An Introduction Walking in L.A.: An Introduction

Walking in L.A.: An Introduction

by Ryan Bradley

May 21, 2010

Ryan Bradley heads out on foot to find out what's wrong (and right) with transportation in Los Angeles.

Everyone thinks they know L.A., even if they've never been west of St. Louis. Nobody walks in L.A., right? There's that Missing Persons song, or that line from Steve Martin's L.A. Story: "...it's not like New York, where you can meet someone walking down the street. In L.A. you practically have to hit someone with your car. In fact, I know girls who speed just to meet cops."

But the truth is people do walk in L.A. And bike. Fully 12 percent of all trips in Los Angeles are by bicycle or on foot—that's more than Austin or Portland. In sheer numbers, L.A. has more bikers and walkers than Washington, D.C., or Chicago, or even San Francisco. And it happens to be far safer for biking and walking than all three, according to a 2010 Benchmarking Report by the Alliance for Biking and Walking. I lump walking and biking together only because, until very recently, so did everyone else. In the 1990s biking and walking were "alternative," like rock music. Fifteen years ago, Los Angeles spent "about $1 million" a year on pedestrians and bike services. This year Los Angeles has earmarked $36 million on walking alone. Could it be that this western cow-town, this place that's synonymous with self-reinvention, is reinventing itself?

I'm out of the terminal now and into the shade of the arrivals curb at LAX. I march due east toward Sepulveda, where I'll jog north until Culver and then east again. I have to make downtown by nightfall—17 miles from here. Seventeen miles, that's 25,645 steps.

"Young man," someone says and I stop. He's smiling and wearing a blue airport shuttle uniform; by now I've nearly reached the end of the shade, the end of the airport.  "Do you know what you're doing?" he asks.

"Walking across Los Angeles," I say. The man in blue says something back but I'm already past him, into the sunlight.

Next up: Trees are sidewalk vandals.

CORRECTION: This piece has been updated with the correct original name of Los Angeles.

Photos by Ryan Bradley


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Walking in L.A.: An Introduction