Tag Archives: Car Free Cities

Another Benefit of Going Car Free: No Cops

from "Less Than Zero" (Spoiler): this would be transporting dead bodies due to drug overdoses.

from “Less Than Zero” (Spoiler): this crime would be transporting a dead body due to a drug overdose.

How we find out about true crimes – this is assuming that we, I mean the majority of the law-abiding population, are not criminals ourselves, is likely relegated to the media: what we see on TV, what we read in newspapers and online publications and blogs, or what we may hear. Or overhear.

I read the usual papers. I’m also a fan (it’s a guilty pleasure) of Cops, the pseudo documentary TV show that follows police departments around on their law enforcement duties. Let’s forget for a moment that the focus of that show seems to be to see how many young men of color’s lives we can destroy by stupid inflated charges and antiquated and moronic non-violent drug laws. Let’s forget that piece for a moment and just focus on the undeniable evidence that a huge number of crimes (and thus, arrests and interactions with the police) occur in the presence of motor vehicles. Am I right?

Here’s a short list:

  • auto theft
  • using an auto as a getaway car for robbing a bank or a store or what have you
  • kidnapping
  • drug dealing/running
  • firearms running
  • vehicular manslaughter
  • vehicular murder
  • mobile prostitution
  • driving without a license
  • driving without registration
  • transporting illegals across state lines
  • using a car for human trafficking
  • using a car for the location of a crime, such as assault, murder, rape
  • using a car for drive-by shootings
  • odometer fraud
  • ram and scam
  • hit and runs
  • speeding while driving
  • unsafe lane changes and other moving violations
  • drunk driving
  • driving while texting
  • driving without a seatbelt
  • using a motor vehicle for a drug factory (hello Breaking Bad)
  • child or animal endangerment (leaving an innocent locked in a hot car)
  • Verbal assaults, i.e. Road Rage

And that is a just a short brainstormed list. As far as I know, you’re not going to get a ticket for walking too fast down the sidewalk. I’ve also never seen a cyclist cited for speeding, though I guess it could happen. No, really, cops are focused on motor vehicles. If you look at that list above, it seems a car is actually a prerequisite for carrying out the crime. For instance, when was the last time you robbed a bank or an art museum and took the bus home? It’s been awhile, I bet.

So there you go, another fringe benefit of going car free. Less potential involvement with authorities. I think we can all agree, these days that’s a lot better for everyone.

The Real Reason U.S. Gas Is So Cheap — We Don’t Pay the True Costs of Driving

I'm not in this line.

I’m not in this line.

Thought this was interesting — especially because I don’t think Americans generally realize how much the automobile – not just the gas but everything associated with them – is heavily subsidized by government, which means taxpayers, which means all of us.

Or it’s at least not top of mind. We are so used to the relatively low cost of gas, we just freak when it gets near $5 a gallon, not realizing that even that price, which seems outrageous, is really outrageously cheap!

I urge you to read it for the perspective, because we often don’t think about the externalities of things which in our economy are not often paid for. Or they’re paid for by someone else. And/or we all suffer for it.

As the linked article points out, the federal gas taxes we do pay are not enough to offset highway construction and repair, as originally intended, so everybody pays for roads whether they drive or not. I don’t really have a problem with this, even though I don’t drive; it’s like I don’t have a problem with my taxes going to public schools either, even though I don’t have children in them. (Don’t want to live in an uneducated society, no thanks, thankyouverymuch). And, to be fair, I ride the bike on those roads and also walk on them, so I do use them.

I’ve often thought that real folks who make out here, the real bandits, are the auto companies themselves — as they really do require paved roads for their products, which are fairly useless without them. How much do General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Daimler Chrysler and all the rest pay for road construction?

What’s that noise? Crickets?


Gimme My Three . . . feet, that is.


So today’s the day, motorists in California need to give bicyclists a three foot buffer when passing. 

Commuters arriving North Hollywood subway station.

Commuters arriving North Hollywood subway station.

It’s the law. Though I suspect, like many traffic laws including the no cell phone use law, it will be widely ignored and most people will be ignorant of it until it’s pointed to them in one way or another.

As a cyclist, I like the sentiment behind the law, i.e., our society thinks that cycling is valuable and good, and cyclists’ lives are worth something. Most (but not all) motorists don’t see/don’t care/shrug when presented with a bicycle on “their” streets, so we have a long way to go.

What would be even better than this? Dedicated bike lanes, bike paths that are actually separated from the roadway — I actually support removing traffic lanes and turning them into bicycle lanes — which, of course, most drivers, at least in a place with congested streets like L.A. would simply balk at.

They (the drivers) feel that the roads are theirs, and why should they share with either pedestrians or cyclists? Here’s a reality check, my dear drivers: there’s nothing in any law or in any tradition older than 100 years or so saying that the road is just for you and your internal combustion engines. So learn to share – whether it’s with a horse or a bicycle or a kid on a skateboard – we all need access to roads.

The Six Things I Like Best About Being CarFree — A Six Month Update

The Blogger, with chariot at night.

The Blogger, with chariot at night.

I’ve now been car free for six months – that’s right, car free in L.A., living without owning a car in Los Angeles. Here’s a status report, and my favorite things about this major lifestyle change.

  • Saving money! Absolutely, my favorite. My last car, the 2005 Scion Xa, cost just about $400 a month to own and operate over the period of time I owned it (almost exactly 8 years). So that’s $2,400.00 right there. I did have transportation expenses, though, so I must subtract those. Metro fares: $280. Car rental: $200. Bicycle expense (a new seat): $25. So let’s adjust: $2,400 – 505 = $1,895 I’ve saved so far. And, that doesn’t even account for the sale of my used vehicle, which was $6,000 (thank you, CarMax!). So I’m really ahead $7,895.00.
  • Keeping fit! I lost about 15 lbs. doing WeightWatchers earlier this year and have been able to keep that off since going CarFree with very little effort, which I attribute to all the walking and biking I do now. My default modes of transportation in preferred order are: foot, bicycle, train or bus, taxi, rental car or ZipCar or other car share service. I live in Southern California, so it’s quite rare that any particular day is not a good bike day.
  • Not Having to Find Parking! There was a time, when I first lived in L.A., probably the early eighties, when it was fairly easy to find street parking in almost any neighborhood and there were very few restrictions on parking. That world is gone! Parking had become very difficult and most often expensive (if you just succumbed to the valet or a garage) but now I’ve never had to pay to park my bike against a pole.
  • Never Having to Deal with Angry Drivers/Road Rage! There are a lot of angry drivers out there, sometimes they’re armed, sometimes they’re just fracking crazy and dangerous. I’ve yet to meet a raging urban walker or a raging bicyclist (though hey, it’s a crazy world, perhaps they exist. Yet they don’t have 2-ton weapons at their disposal).
  • Not Having to Remember Where I Parked My Car, or Worry About that (Insert Expensive Thing Here) I Left Inside It! There was always this nagging feeling that the apocalypse was there, just out of focus, that total disaster could happen at any moment and this Thing I depended on (the car) would be utterly destroyed or taken from me on a whim. To not have this object to worry about at all is a great freedom all its own.
  • Finally: Exposing the Myth that “You Need a Car to Live in L.A.!” No, you don’t. You don’t need to own a car to live in L.A. What the people who say that really mean is that THEY need a car to live in L.A., i.e., they’re not giving advice, they’re talking about themselves. There are hundreds of thousands of people living in the city who don’t own cars. If you step out of yours for a few moments, you might meet the real city.

A great resource for me has been Chris Balish’s book, “How to Live Well Without Owning a Car.” It’s been my roadmap for much of this journey. Thank you, Chris!

Reinventing Los Angeles: Water and Transport

Los Angeles City Hall. Photo by Jimbolaya

Los Angeles City Hall. Photo by Jimbolaya

Earlier today I saw a Facebook post warning about traffic jams on our freeways as a result of a messy oil tanker truck fire.

I then went to sigalert.com to verify this information and I realized I hadn’t gone to this site since I gave up my car in June. There was no need for it; bicyclists are not usually subject to traffic jams, and certainly not traffic jams on freeways.

In the attached article, writer Jeff Turrentine remarks on his culture shock moving from Brooklyn to L.A., and on the overwhelming insertion of automobile life into almost every aspect of how we go about our days here in Los Angeles. I recently spent a month in New Orleans, and upon returning, I also was surprised at how easily I became aware of the tremendous assault on the environment (and Southern California is truly a beautiful environment) the “car” has. From noise, to pollution, to vast amounts of space necessary for roads and parking lots, etc., it’s almost as if we exist to serve this status quo of machinery.

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In addition to the Southern California water situation (in a nutshell, we don’t have any, it comes from elsewhere) and plans to make that more sustainable, he talks about the resurgence of projects in public transportation, biking and walking infrastructure and what has had to happen politically to get there. A lot of the programs, such as the extension of the Purple Line Subway to UCLA, have a completion date of 2035, when I, gulp, if I live that long, will be 80. But heck, I see people much older than that riding the subway. So I’m looking forward to it.

Michael Woo, my former L.A. City Councilperson and current dean of the College of Environmental Design at California State Polytechnic University-Pomona said this about the reluctance of Inland Empire City Fathers and Mothers to the idea of public transit/density issues: “Many of them believed that low-density living, automobile dependence, a culture based on private backyards instead of public open spaces simply reflected the L.A. version of the American Dream. They were reluctant to embrace transit or density as part of the solution. To them it all just seemed like going backward.”

That says a lot about why things evolved the way they did. Still, as even car and backyard lovers don’t like sitting in gridlock much at all, everyone realizes some things must change, and we’ve finally found that there’s political will here to do it (and that will extends into Republican Orange County, as well as that Inland Empire). The end result will be a much more livable Southern California, perhaps more garden-like, as the earlier boosters liked to claim.

Now if they could just do something about that pesky seismic problem. . .

Sold my Car: Car Free in Los Angeles


I finally did it.

Last week I sold my Scion to Carmax in Burbank and walked off their lot as a car-free man!

Buh-bye, little Scion

Buh-bye, little Scion (parked at Dad’s in MKE in 2009)

For those of you who’ve been following my increasing use of my bike, my feet and public transportation over that past few years, this probably won’t be coming as a huge surprise – but it’s still a rarity (to be car-free —  in Los Angeles, anyway) so I opted for this kind of mass explanation.

I gave up the car for many reasons:

  • Financial – my particular car cost me about $5K per year to own and operate, which is actually a low figure as far as autos go. These continue to be tough times and that will make a huge difference to my budget.
  • Environmental – I want to part of the solution, not a part of the problem, in any way that’s available to me – and this was one.
  • I don’t need it – I work from home; I’ve also figured out through enough trial and error and “dry runs” how to live the rest of my daily life quite easily without owning a car.
  • I don’t like to drive and I don’t like to park. Honestly, I’ve not enjoyed this process for years and years now. In L.A., it’s a nightmare! I’d rather leave it to the pros (like cabbies and train and bus drivers).

There are a few other reasons but these are probably the biggest. Having just spent the last month car-free, visiting relatives in New Orleans, it seemed like a good time.

Spontaneity will suffer, yes: we’ll have to make plans, anathema to some, I know. Also, note that I didn’t say that I’d never drive a car, I just won’t own one. There’s now a bunch of car-sharing options (like Zipcar) which makes much more economic sense to me than owning something which sits idle almost all the time.

True, I’ll have to forego those midnight, madcap trips to the beach to frolic in the sand and the waves – unless I want to spend the bucks for a cab out there – but the truth is those kind of nights ended long ago.

I intend to blog more about this as the process unfolds so make sure come back. Or, maybe you’ll just see me walking past you on the sidewalk as you sit behind the wheel, idling away in a traffic jam!

Here’s a great book which really helped me get to this place: Chris Balish’s How to Live Well Without Owning a Car.