Ten things I learned in my week (as a pedestrian) in Los Angeles.

  1. You will be alone. It’s possible to walk blocks and blocks and blocks in Los Angeles without encountering a single soul. If you do pass someone, they will likely be exercising their dog. If they are not exercising their dog, it is probably because they are a middle-aged Latina woman. That old adage is true: no one walks in L.A. Especially if they’re white and/or middle class.P1130194
  2. People will stare at you. Everyone will stare at you, though you will get extra special attention from Mexican guys in pickup trucks, who will see this as a convenient opportunity to hurl misogynistic comments your way. This is probably because you are the first person they’ve seen walking since they left Mexico (a country that, despite a recent jump in car use, has wonderfully walkable cities and towns.) Or maybe, it’s just because you have boobs. Either way, the comments will be creepy, but inoffensive enough that you will not be blessed with the opportunity to practice those wonderfully curse-laden tirades you learnt on your last trip south of the border. No “vete a la chingada” this time, or “chinga a tu madre, pendejo.” Or maybe you just won’t hurl them because you’re simply too afraid to say them, since no is around to protect you…since no one walks in L.A.

    window opening in 3...2...1...

    window opening in 3…2…1…

  3. Sometimes, sidewalks will just end. No need for warnings! They just end, leading you to a freeway onramp, offramp or a barbed wire fence. There will be no crosswalk to guide you to the other side of the street, of course. Why would you need that? No one walks in L.A.! No, instead, you’ll have to make the choice to go back two blocks, or risk your life running across eight lanes of 80mph traffic as they enter and exit the freeways.

    even in seemingly walkable Venice, sidewalks have a habit of just ending...

    even in seemingly walkable Venice, sidewalks have a habit of just ending…

  4. One day, you will try to go left and discover that the street you need to turn on isn’t there. That is because it is below you. The street you’re on has suddenly become an overpass, because an even bigger street is below it. There will be no stairs to get down to that street, because no one walks in L.A. You will walk five blocks out of your way just to make what would be considered a simple left turn in any other city.P1130214
  5. You will smell piss, constantly. Los Angeles likes to pretend it’s heaven on earth, but actually, about 90% of the city smells like pee. I guess people just don’t notice, because nobody walks in L.A. Or, they’ve been doing too much cocaine and their noses are all blocked up or something. Either way, the constant sunshine doesn’t help. That smell hangs around 24/7.

    taste the rainbow...smell the pee...

    taste the rainbow…smell the pee…

  6. Where there’s piss, there’s usually also shit. Sidewalks make for popular toilets all throughout L.A. And I’m not just talking about for dogs.

    this was one of the milder displays

    this was one of the milder displays

  7. Sidewalks also make good garbage cans. Why actually put out garbage cans? No one walks in L.A.! Why not hire street sweepers? Because L.A. is six times more spread out than any normal city, which would require six times as many street cleaners, and that’s a whole lot of money. This is America, remember? They don’t like paying people to do these things. And street sweeping is a job that even trust-fund-supported unpaid interns just don’t want to do.


    why reuse that “reusable bag” when you could just throw it on the street?

  8. Beds are one of the most popular forms of street-trash. In fact, there is probably a bedbug epidemic going on in Los Angeles right now. Walking through the streets of L.A., you will find knocked-over, falling-apart beds and mattresses all over the city. Stand well back.P1130216
  9. At some point in your journey, you will probably be mowed over by a bike. Pretty much every other city in America bans bikes on sidewalks. They’re considered vehicles. But no, in L.A. they roam free in the pedestrian zones, ready to mow you down at any instant. Why? Perhaps they’re afraid of the traffic. Or maybe it’s just because the sidewalks are empty…because no one walks in L.A.! Either way, if you’re wearing headphones and can’t hear what’s coming up behind you: beware.P1130202
  10. If you’re lucky you might meet this guy. That’s right, a cowboy with a pink leopard-print suitcase. You never know just what might happen in the city of angels.

    finally...a pedestrian!

    finally…a pedestrian!


  1. I think walking is always a better way to get to know a city. Do you feel like you found some things people in cars would probably ignore or miss by driving? In any case, your post did make me think of this: http://www.awalkerinla.com/ , I guess it’s the other take on the city.


  2. Yes, I always find I discover more things while walking, rather than driving! Not everything was negative about being a pedestrian in LA, however I found myself continually frustrated by the same things over and over again. Of course, I forgot two of the most important things:

    1. You have to wait waaaayyyy longer for pedestrian lights than in other cities. And when the pedestrian walking-man appears, you have to hightail it, because the flashing red hand appears almost immediately. You could waste half your life waiting to cross the street in LA, then lose it in an instant while trying to get across that eight lane street in 10 seconds.
    2. Many businesses do not have entrances for pedestrians. Sometimes you have to go around a fenced off parking lot (which might occupy a whole city block), go through the parking lot, up onto a sidewalk/set of stairs in order to get into a building. Frustrating, frustrating, frustrating.


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