Nobody Walks in LA

Feature

Friday, October 26, 2012

Alissa Walker documents her walks in LA Alissa Walker documents her walks in LA (Alissa Walker)

In 1982, the song “Walking in LA” by the new wave pop band Missing Persons quickly made Los Angeles the poster child for a national bad habit. 

You won't see a cop walkin’ on the beat
You only see him drivin’ cars on the street
You won't see a kid walkin’ home from school
Their mothers pick them up in a car pool

And the refrain — “Nobody walks in LA” — became an unofficial motto for the city.

Los Angeles resident Alissa Walker makes her living writing about urban planning and architecture. For her, the song’s claims are just wrong.  She gave up her car six years ago and she walks, bikes, and uses public transit. And she’s not alone: a national study used by city planners estimates that 17% of all trips in Los Angeles County are made on foot. In fact, Los Angeles ranks just behind Portland, Oregon in walkability according to Walkscore. So why, she wonders, hasn’t the city been able to shake its 30-year-old punch line?

Walker tracked down the song’s writer, Missing Persons’ drummer Terry Bozzio, who insisted he had no agenda against pedestrians. Bozzio was inspired by New York comedians like David Brenner who’d appear on the Johnny Carson show: “’I'm going to go to the bathroom.’ ‘Yeah? Take my car.’”

But Walker got some good news: the city’s Department of Transportation just hired two pedestrian coordinators, who will be training engineers to rethink how streets are designed, and making pedestrian plazas and bike routes more available. Because it turns out, people actually do want to walk in LA.

 

Studio 360 Exclusive: “Commuting in Los Angeles”
Eddie Solis wrote this car-free punk anthem for LA’s walkers (performed by Solis and his band, It's Casual).

 

Slideshow: Walking in LA

Alissa Walker takes photos of some of her favorite walks around Los Angeles for her blog Gelatobaby.com. This pedestrian plaza located in the Silver Lake neighborhood was once a street.
Alissa Walker

Alissa Walker takes photos of some of her favorite walks around Los Angeles for her blog Gelatobaby.com. This pedestrian plaza located in the Silver Lake neighborhood was once a street.

This bizarre sidewalk runs between two lanes of the 110 Freeway
Alissa Walker

This bizarre sidewalk runs between two lanes of the 110 Freeway.

Alissa Walker Los Angeles stairways Big Parade
Alissa Walker

Residents who lived on hilly streets used stairways like these (of which there are hundreds) in order to access their local trolley stations. Now an event called The Big Parade explores these stairways on epic urban hikes.

Some alleys have been made into pedestrian walkways. East Cahuenga Alley in Hollywood has transformed from a scary thoroughfare into a quaint spot for outdoor dining.
Alissa Walker

Some alleys have been made into pedestrian walkways. East Cahuenga Alley in Hollywood has transformed from a scary thoroughfare into a quaint spot for outdoor dining.

    Music Playlist
  1. Words
    Artist: Missing Persons
    Album: Spring Session M
    Label: Capitol
    Purchase: Amazon
  2. Walking In L.A.
    Artist: Missing Persons
    Album: Spring Session M
    Label: Capitol
    Purchase: Amazon
  3. The Red Line
    Artist: It's Casual
    Album: The New Los Angeles
    Label: Friendly Hills Recording Company

Contributors:

Alissa Walker

Comments [4]

Nick from Los Angeles

This is all totally wrong. You can cite whatever statistics, and maybe include that photo of 1/2 of a city block where the street is painted green, but walking in Los Angeles is miserable. I moved here from Oakland with just my bicycle. For one year I commuted 10 miles (round trip) 5 days a week to school. I left at 6:30 in the morning so traffic wasn't that bad on the way in. The ride home at around 2pm would leave me sweaty, exhausted and anxious to not leave my apartment. I took the metro if I ever got a flat tire or had too much to carry home. To get from my school to home (5 miles) it took roughly 1 hour, with three different stops/transfers and 3 different swipes of my "tap card". The metro is a horrible joke, it is not affordable, efficient or even moderately well-designed. The reason no one walks in L.A. is simple; there is nowhere (aside from the corner store) to go that is walking distance. There is an insane amount of car traffic, which means crossing a busy street (on foot) can take several minutes alone, jaywalking fines are a sick reality, and I have been hit by motorists twice in the 1 1/2 years I've lived here. The sun is hot and glaring, and there is rarely any shade. The air is bad, (obviously) and the feeling of being stared at by hundreds of passing motorists is dehumanizing. I live in one of the oldest and most pedestrian friendly neighborhoods (with a decent amount of tree cover), and it is still a nightmare to walk anywhere. After buying a car my quality of life improved greatly. Los Angeles is a severely flawed city, walking here is unpleasant, and this article is a lot of bullshit.

Dec. 20 2013 03:43 PM
Robert from NYC

I know I'm not an Angeleno rather I am a New Yorker and therefore a non-motor vehicle license owner and so I don't drive... anything one drives. So when I spent 10 days in Los Angeles a number of years ago I had to get around and let me tell you, I walked a lot. Granted the blocks in LA seemed longer than in NYC (I don't know if that's true or not but they seemed to be longer) so my walks were long walks. But let me say many things to see or visit are within walking distance, long walking distance. Yet I have to say (and this was before the subway system was finished) the bus system is quite good and extensive in LA. Frankly, I don't think Angelenos know that! There were city busses to almost everywhere and because no one was aware of the service, the busses were not at all crowded. So any Angelenos out there listening, check out your bus system, it's very good and will get you anywhere you want to go.

Oct. 28 2012 11:30 AM
Jenny from Studio 360

Hi Eli -- it's posted above as an audio file with a play button (just above the Slideshow). See it?

(Btw, it's pretty awesome -- and loud, so make sure your headphones aren't turned up too high!)

Enjoy.

Oct. 26 2012 04:20 PM
Eli Damon from Easthampton, MA

So where's the song? I can't find a link to "Commuting in Los Angeles.

Oct. 25 2012 11:54 PM

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