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Foot Soldier Alissa Walker Explains Why She’s Better Off Ped

A richer (and skinnier) writer on the perks of going car-free in L.A.

I’m not Anti-Car. Far from it. When I abandoned my four wheels, it was part of a game. I had noticed how my car sat motionless in one place—my garage, the parking lot at work, the 101—and I wanted to see how long I could get by without driving it at all. Six years later I can confidently say I’m healthier, happier, and wealthier. I estimate that I have $10,000 of “extra” income every year that used to go to car expenses.

I also have more time. Walking, biking, and taking public transit require a lot of planning ahead, but the time shift works to my advantage. I read more books and answer more e-mails. I can effortlessly ride a bike a few miles during the day instead of forcing myself to squeeze in yoga at night. I lost ten pounds in the first year, even though I could swear I was eating more than ever. (It’s a lot tougher to avoid taco trucks when you’re on foot.)

It’s not all biped bliss. I’ve waited on dark corners for buses that never came. My phone was stolen out of my hand on the Blue Line. I don’t regularly see my friends on the other side of town. And yes, the city still has a ways to go when it comes to infrastructure. But with the money I’ve saved, I can easily afford a cab when I don’t feel like hoofing it. (I realize my fellow riders may not have this option.) Being car-less is not for everyone, but it’s worth trying one day a week as an experiment. You might find it as liberating as I did. It’s called going car free for a reason.

6 Small Steps to Living a Car-Free Life

1) Draw a two-mile circle around your house
Make it a rule not to drive anywhere inside that circle (about a 40-minute walk). You’ll start to see how many car trips you can replace by walking. Plus you’ll notice how your daily needs can be largely met by local businesses.

2) Start wearing a pedometer
By sweating an hour on the treadmill at the gym, you may rack up a few miles. But by monitoring your steps while walking and taking public transit during the day, you'll quickly realize you can do three or four miles just the same.

3) Stock up
You’ll need to prep for life on foot. In addition to that pedometer and your smart phone, get a reloadable TAP card for riding public transit (you can buy one at most Metro stations and on buses), as well as reading material. Invest in stylish yet sensible shoes, too. 

4) Download Metro’s excellent app
Yes, our bus and rail system is massive and intimidating, but you no longer have an excuse not to use it. Metro’s new app can help you plan trips, find the nearest station or stop, and view real-time bus arrivals. You’ll crack it in no time.

5) Have your groceries delivered
Many local community-supported gardens will bring edible goods to your door. Web sites such as yummy.com and vons.com save your purchase history, and since most of us buy the same items every other week, arranging for a routine drop-off is a time-saver. (Delivery charges are $4 to $13.)

6) Join a car-sharing service
Just because you don’t own a car doesn’t mean you can’t drive one. Need to escape to Joshua Tree for the weekend or take a meeting in Orange County? The subscription car-share company Zipcar is better known, but LAX Car Share is locally owned.

Have your own tips for car-free living in L.A.? Share them by commenting below.

RELATED: Take Los Angeles Magazine's Better off Ped Challenge!

 

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