Me, I’m lucky. I live in an amazing, centrally located LA neighborhood called “Miracle Mile”. In this famed place of miracles, I have everything I need just 5 to 10 blocks from my home. There’s a movie theater, a museum, a library, a newly opened wine store, more than a handful of restaurants, three grocery stores, a farmer’s market and a laundromat. For years I’ve done most of my local shopping on foot. And though I live in a rather populated area, I’ve been a lonely walker in the city, never quite sure why my neighbors haven’t caught on to the ease (and financial return) of walking. Until now.
With record high heat and the nation’s highest gas prices (my corner gas station sells the “cheap” gas at $4.69 a gallon), the city sidewalks are finally being used by people other than myself, tourists and the homeless. In what may be the first time in decades, many of Los Angeles residents are enjoying their weekend plans on foot.
Though doing errands on foot may not be a novel idea for city residents outside of southern California, the sprawling city of Los Angeles county covers a total area of about 500 miles, making driving to destination almost a necessity.
People all over the city are noticing there’s a change afoot. Residents that usually take weekend trips to the beach are walking to the local grocers to buy enough food to fill one or two reusable canvas bags so they can BBQ in the back yard. Couples skip the gym and walk a mile to the movie theater. Instead of rushing off to drink ice coffee in their car, money-conscious consumers are enjoying free air conditioning and reading the paper.
Suddenly, the streets are filled with smiling faces, people with canvas shopping bags and paper umbrellas to shade them from the sun. Of course, this goes against the popular Los Angeles tradition of driving half a block to get a cup of coffee as satirized in the popular Steve Martin movie “LA Story”.
Finally residents are leaving the car at home and walking.
Though the prices at the gas pump are unbearable, it’s good to see a major shift in the way people think about local transportation. If everyone spent more time on foot, perhaps we could see a dramatic shift in the state of the environment as well. Regardless, it’s nice to see people out of their cars and walking in the neighborhood.