Tag Archives: Living Car Free in L.A.

Car Free in L.A. for Three Years – and counting


Three years ago on June 7, 2013, I drove into CarMax in Burbank, California, and sold them my car. They gave me a check for $6000.

The Blogger at an Orange Line stop, waiting patiently.

The Blogger at an Orange Line stop, waiting patiently.

I walked back to my apartment via Magnolia Boulevard. It took more than an hour. During the early summer walk, I had numerous moments of “oh my god, what have you done?” but I did not fall into the earth, wailing or otherwise.

I’d planned to go car free, and had been thinking about it, reading about it for years. There were lots of reasons, from wanting to be more environmentally conscious to wanting to save money to frustration with driving and especially with parking.

I made lots of dry runs with LA’s Metro system, did lots of bike riding on streets with bike lanes (and others without them, but rarely) and started figuring out places I could walk to in my neighborhood of Valley Village.

Still, it was very strange to arrive back at my apartment and leave my parking space empty. That voice in my head would say, well, you’re crazy, you’ve finally done it buddy, what are you thinking, Jim? You can’t live in L.A. without a car, everybody says so!

But then I have lived in L.A. without a car, and for three years now.


  • more money for me (I save about $5K a year on car costs)
  • easier for me to keep weight stabilized, as I get so much aerobic exercise
  • stress level is lower, and blood pressure readings are more in the normal range
  • I see the city on a more human, sidewalk level. I notice people and buildings and plants and . . . that I would have missed before, speeding by.
  • I don’t get road rage.
  • I don’t have to deal with road ragers.
  • I don’t fret over the price of gas or car insurance or car repairs or any of that.
  • I can still be spontaneous — hello car sharing services, Uber and Lyft. That’s one of the missing pieces to this puzzle, and it’s been filled in.
  • I love just showing up at a venue and walking through the front door, shaking my head when someone asks if I need to be validated.
The donut stand on Magnolia and Keystone in Burbank. That's my bike, but the guy is someone else.

The donut stand on Magnolia and Keystone in Burbank. That’s my bike, but the guy is someone else.










There are really no cons to being car free, but I have learned some things about myself and the whole idea of “car free” from a white, middle class perspective.

Some of these things are:

  • Public transport is really a class thing in L.A., still. Regardless of the new Expo line, which everyone wants to ride, because it goes to Santa Monica and the beach, most people ride the Metro because they can’t afford cars. A decision like the one I made to be “car free” was born of privilege (similar to Voluntary Simplicity or New Frugality movements) — because I can afford a car if I want one, if I wanted to return myself to that misery. I imagine that most of the people who have no choice but to take the trains or buses would consider me a silly old fool. I hope that perception will change and we’re making headway, but we’re not there yet.
  • Speaking of that Expo line or the Wilshire 720 Rapid or any of the other public transport ways to get to the Pacific Ocean from the San Fernando Valley: There’s no quick way to get to the beach, other than a car, and even that’s relative. At like, 4 am. On a Tuesday. It would probably take about half an hour at that date/time. But at any other time, rail makes the journey a lot more palatable, i.e. there are no potholes on the rails. And you can read, you can access WiFi or a cell tower (Expo is above ground). You shouldn’t read while driving.
  • When you have a car, you go to lots of places just because you have a car to get there, whether it makes any sense to go there or not. It SEEMS purposeful, but I think that might be an illusion. Because I’ve found that with just a little bit of resistance (the resistance being not having an easy transport option at the ready 24/7) you make lots of different choices.
  • Driving also serves to mask boredom and loneliness. You’re part of this stream of humanity, all GOING somewhere, or at least seeming to, if really not. Listening to the radio is part of it, too, feeling connected to the music or the DJ or the newscaster makes it all a little less lonely.

Just as I started this post I saw that yet another bicyclist had been killed in the LA area, this one in Compton, today, June 6, 2016. RIP.

Be careful out there.

How the blogger lights up his ride

How the blogger lights up his ride

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.