Life Without Wheels: Chronicle of a Car-Free Lifestyle
 
This inaugural entry is titled Day 376; however, it's actually been longer that this experiment has been underway. Below is a short history:

In the Summer of 2008, during what I call my "photography season" (because I have a weekend gig during spring/summer doing portraiture of little children in their dance recital costumes), I decided that, due to the ailing nature of my 2000 Hyandai Elantra, I would attempt to make it to all my shoots without driving, as well as to work, the dance studio, etc. I would only drive once a week, for errands and such.

I did end up driving to a couple of shoots, but I also "metro'd" to Orange County from Koreatown, LA, and did a lot of carpooling. I also began, at that time, riding my bicycle to work (at LACMA) which is  a fair 5 mile straight-shot from my apartment. No biggie, right? Well, in August/September the experiment began to wear on me, and I began driving into work more and more. On September 4, 2008, I was on my way to work at approximately 10am. As I turned into the underground parking garage at the museum, a speeding motorcyclist broadsided my vehicle (going so fast that his motorcycle flipped over the top of my car and landed several yards away). I'm not going to go into the details of the accident, i.e., whose fault it was, etc. (I do believe he was at fault--especially since he ran into me--but I could never prove it in court, unfortunately.) Anyhow, after a two-week-insurance-paid vacation in a rental car, I became one of the many officially transportation-less in Los Angeles, CA.

Well, the experiment became reality. For more than a year now, I have suffered the pains and triumphed in the joys of frequenting the Los Angeles County Metro system and of being a bicyclist trying not to get run over in LA.

This blog has many goals: first, to give others out there who think they can't abandon their cars occasionally and walk, ride, or take the bus in LA the empowerment to believe they can. Secondly, perhaps my thoughts and daily observations of the trials of the LA transportation system will help (in some way, maybe???) make it better. Third, I know there are other people out there like me: professionals in LA who have chosen to live life sans wheels. I'd like to hear from them and see if we can't make a dent in the "car culture" of Los Angeles. I have to apologize and say that for me this is not about "being green" or environmentally conscious in any way. I became a proponent of public transit merely by chance and circumstance, although I welcome all those motivated by such trends to comment and join in the discourse.

That being said, I'll now proceed to tell you today's transportation story.

It's Saturday, which means my schedule for the day includes an early morning ballet class and an afternoon yoga class. If I can help it, I bike to both. So, I departed this morning on my bicycle (which is outfitted with saddlebag-style baskets to hold all my dance junk or work junk or junk in general) west on 4th Street. Why 4th Street, you ask? Well, all you inquiring minds, 4th Street between about Vermont and La Brea is a BIKE ROUTE!!! Yea, right? Wrong. First of all, 4th Street winds North and South, versus being a straight West route. So that means, that not only am I biking my ass off trying to get from point A to point B, but I'm being dragged around a residential neighborhood unnecessarily, and it's taking longer to get to my destination. Like it doesn't take long enough by bike anyhow.

Second, 4th Street is all hills. It is most definitely uphill both ways. So while you're pumping and cranking and winding up and down 4th Street, you're also attempting to best a slow-grade uphill climb as well as steep uphill climbs with what feels like very little coasting in between.

Third, 4th Street might be the worst maintained road in all of Los Angeles. There are not only potholes everywhere, but the City consistently does road work on 4th and doesn't bother to repave and smooth out the holes they dig in the street. This might be the worst factor in riding in LA. If you thought potholes were bad in your car, imagine no shocks and how potholes wear on your butt. Just saying...

Lastly, because it does wind through a residential neighborhood, 4th Street sucks as a bike route because the idiot residents of 4th Street, between approximately Wilton and La Brea seem to think it's a smart idea to run in the street on the wrong side of the street. So not only do I have to dodge cars that are going around me or coming at me, I have to swerve around pedestrian traffic on the wrong side of the street. It's extremely dangerous because it's possible a car may be oncoming. So I have to go around them and then a car is oncoming and runs into me? Or since I could easily stop or slow down or something so as to not hit the car, what if the car were behind me, trying to pass me? Also, there are bicyclists (stupid adults and their children who don't use their brains) who ride on the wrong side of the street. So here's what happens. A car behind THEM tries to pass them and runs into me (on the correct side of the road) because he can't see me oncoming because of them riding on the wrong side of the street. If you can't be on the right side of the street while you're in the street then get on the freaking sidewalk.

So this morning I had the joy of dealing with 4th Street to and from the dance studio on La Brea. In the late afternoon, I enjoyed the sidewalks of 3rd Street while biking to Larchmont Village for a yoga class. Here's the issue with biking on 3rd: you can't bike on the street because you'll get killed by the maniac drivers who, believe it or not, actually passed a driving exam, and the sidewalk is broken up all the way through. Plus, because it is Koreatown, there is a huge immigrant population PLUS it's an urban area, so you're swerving around people who don't speak English and who, for some reason, walk slower than caterpillars chugging across grass and seem to all have hearing problems (no matter how many times I say--read yell--excuse me, can I please get by, or honk my little horn behind them, they never turn around or move over and let me by). Pedestrians have the right-of-way on the sidewalks of LA, but bikes ARE allowed on sidewalks. So for those of you who bitch about bicyclists on the sidewalk in LA, shove it. No really, I do understand why it bothers you. I've been nearly run over sometimes by maniac bikers myself. But just as with cars, the problem is not the vehicle but the driver.

On the way home from Larchmont Village, I nearly got plowed over as I was crossing the street by a driver who was looking to his left, and pulling out to make a right onto 3rd. This happens frequently, and I don't understand it. Why are you looking one way and navigating your car another?! People who creep out into intersections or turns piss me off. They're not looking, and you can't tell if they are going or if they are going to remain stopped. Here's an idea: stop at the stop sign, look both ways, then go. GO! Don't cause all this drama by creeping out slowly until you're completely blocking the road for both the cars and pedestrians. Okay, that's my driving lesson to all today.

While this all sounds negative, here are some positives: I had an amazing cardio workout, and I didn't have to pay anyone for it. I was outside in a very real way, enjoying the rays, etc. Also, while I complain about the people out riding their bikes and jogging on the side of the road, there is also a fellowship that occurs amongst those who choose to actually GO OUTSIDE! I also see the other "regulars" (cyclists I see on a regular basis) out and about, and I enjoy the short moments as we pass that we smile, nod, and acknowledge what each other is doing. Also, I didn't pay a dime for gas. So there!

Since this is my first post, any comments on how I could make this more interesting for the reader, things you'd like to hear more about, extra content, etc...please suggest.


 


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