Do people actually walk in Los Angeles? I certainly do, but obviously, I cannot speak for all Angelenos. As a Downtown (DTLA) resident and someone who enjoys walking daily, I was glad to learn that DTLA was recently named the “most walkable neighborhood in Los Angeles.” With a Walk Score of 92, DTLA is considered a “walker’s paradise.” The next most walking-friendly neighborhoods are Koreatown and Mid-City. (Walk Score is a number between 0 and 100 that measures the walkability of any address.)
Contrary to popular belief, especially among those who are less familiar with today’s L.A., this city does have some very walkable neighborhoods. I would like to think that our city has become less like the one portrayed in the film L.A. Story (1991) which satirizes the city’s culture, including its obsession with and dependence on the automobile. It has been a while, but I can still remember this humorous exchange between the two lead characters in the movie:
Sara: That’s the first fifteen minutes, then what?
Harris: All right, a cynic. First stop is six blocks from here.
Sara: Why don’t we walk?
Harris: Walk? A walk in L.A.?
In my experience, I find that three main factors have contributed to my own love for walking: convenience, contemplation, and companionship. Living in centralized DTLA, my wife and I are able to dine at a wide variety of restaurants, watch the latest movies at a first-rate theater, enjoy diverse cultural events, attend our church, visit local parks, and go to the gym, all without driving. Also, I have found that walking is a great way to slow down, observe my surroundings, or just contemplate and process my thoughts. In addition, even though I do not mind walking alone, I certainly enjoy the company of others. For example, I often take strolls with my wife around DTLA and walk regularly with my sister on the streets of Koreatown.
To encourage and support walking in L.A., I have done some research and identified the following resources and opportunities that would hopefully lead to more Angelenos walking or at least asking “Why don’t we walk?”
Walk Score (www.walkscore.com) is a wonderful resource that can help you find a walkable place to live or tell you how walkable your neighborhood is. Walk Score uses an algorithm based on walking distances from an address to diverse amenities nearby. The score may be interpreted as follows:
90–100 Walker’s Paradise: Daily errands do not require a car.
70–89 Very Walkable: Most errands can be accomplished on foot.
50–69 Somewhat Walkable: Some amenities within walking distance.
25–49 Car-Dependent: A few amenities within walking distance.
0–24 Car-Dependent: Almost all errands require a car.
Some categories are weighted more heavily than others to reflect destinations associated with more walking trips. In addition, road connectivity measures such as intersection density and average block length are factored into the score. Walk Score relies on a variety of data sources such as Open Street Map, local business listings, and public data sources such as parks and schools.
Inspired by Bogotá’s ciclovía, Los Angeles hosts CicLAvia events which close off streets from auto traffic, and make them safe and available for people to walk, skate, play and ride a bike. There are fun activities along the CicLAvia route, with shop owners and restaurants encouraged to interact with and open their doors to event participants. Four highly successful CicLAvias (10/10/10, 4/10/11, 10/9/11, and 4/15/12) have been held, with ten miles of streets made car-free each time. The next CicLAvia will be held on Sunday, 10/14/12.
Downtown LA Walks
The website www.downtownlawalks.com is intended to help residents and visitors navigate the streets, sidewalks and walking paths that comprise DTLA. There are over 100 square blocks in DTLA, with some gradual elevation gains as one proceeds northbound. Comfortable shoes are recommended when planning a long walk through city streets. As posted on the 1,300 signs that comprise the Downtown LA Walks program, there are 13 different icons that represent specific neighborhoods and areas of DTLA. If you get tired during a walk, there are DASH buses that run every 5 to 20 minutes, and serve most visitor destinations and office buildings. For more information on this inexpensive alternative to walking in Downtown, please visit www.ladottransit.com.
Downtown Art Walk
The Down Town Art Walk brings together art lovers and just about anyone interested to DTLA for free, self-guided, public art tours. This is a monthly event which occurs each and every month on the second Thursday. Hours vary by gallery, but can typically range from Noon to 10:00 pm. Many Art Walk activities take place in and around the galleries located predominantly on Spring andMain streets between 2nd and 9th streets. However, there are also art related events and openings, activities, and special programming in other parts of DTLA.
Los Angeles Conservancy Walking Tours
The Los Angeles Conservancy’s Walking Tour Program explores the history and heart of L.A. through interpretation of the city’s unique architectural resources. Led by knowledgeable docents, The Conservancy’s regularly scheduled walking tours focus on the architecture of Los Angeles’ historic downtown. These tours take place Saturday mornings (except for the Biltmore Hotel tour which is scheduled for Sunday afternoons). Most tours begin at 10:00 am and last about two and a half hours. In addition to docent-led walking tour program, a variety of audio and self-guided tours are offered.
Angels Walk LA
Angels Walk LA is devoted to enhancing the pedestrian environments of Los Angeles by developing self-guided walking trails that commemorate the history, architecture and culture of Los Angeles’ neighborhoods. Angels Walks encourage pedestrians to discover and explore L.A. by connecting directly with major transit and rail lines.
The Great Los Angeles Walk
This annual event (www.greatlawalk.com) is organized by the long-running L.A. blog Franklin Avenue. In 2011, participants walked about 20 miles, from DTLA to the Pacific Ocean, exploring much of Hollywood along the way. Last year’s Walk centered on Hollywood, where walkers checked out classic theatres like the Pantages, the Warner Pacific, the Egyptian, the Chinese, the Henry Fonda and the El Capitan, as well as historic buildings such as the Taft Building, the Janes House (the last remaining Victorian Queen Anne house on Hollywood) and the Guaranty Building. Starting at 9:15 am, swift walkers got to the end by sunset. Most made it to the end during the 5 pm hour, while others made it closer to 7 pm.
Los Angeles Walks
Los Angeles Walks is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to promoting walking and pedestrian infrastructure in Los Angeles, educating Angelenos and local policymakers about the rights and needs of pedestrians of all abilities, and fostering the development of safe and vibrant environments for all pedestrians. It sees Los Angeles as a vibrant city in which people should be able to walk regularly for transportation, exercise, or fun.
The above is just a sample of organizations and activities that promote and support walking in Los Angeles. There are certainly other groups and events in L.A. for walkers. The great thing about walking is that it is simple and can be done spontaneously; one can always go for a walk without participating in any of the organized events mentioned above. While Los Angeles as a whole may be auto-centric, we should recognize, enjoy, and take advantage of its many pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods like DTLA, Koreatown, and Mid-City.
Photos of Downtown L.A. and Wilshire Blvd by Clement Lau
L.A. Story poster from Wikipedia under Fair Use Doctrine – comment or review
Downtown Districts from www.DowntownLAwalks.com under Fair Use Doctrine – comment or review