Biking in L.A. – to Hollywood and Back

November 18th, 2005 by David

   After talking with Mr. Ransom’s 9th grade class, I decided to bike through Los Angles to get a sense of the city. Following a city map, I rode 30 miles to Hollywood and back.

The del Fuego and Stars

   I hoped to talk with cyclists to see how they managed to bike in LA. I found only two. One had lost his license, and was forced to bike. I asked if he had trouble with the cars. He replied, “Recently, I was hit by a Mercedes and then my arm was run over by a Lexus.” The man then listed his hospital bills. I biked on the sidewalk (slowly) afterwards.
   The climate in L.A. is perfect for year round bicycle commuting, yet few people bike because 1) everything is so spread out and 2) there are few (if any) bikeways or bike lanes. The public transit does work, but only a few people I talked with seemed satisfied with it. Most trips are in a car, and in traffic.

Biking in LA is Tough
Cars in LA

    Unfortunately, cars are an inefficient way to travel around a city. A person in a car emits, on average, twice as much carbon dioxide as a person in public transit. Also, by comparison, cycling adds almost no carbon dioxide to the atmosphere (see comment on this).
   I would love to see an L.A. with bike lanes and great public transit. It would require great change, but I think it is possible, and I think the city would be far better for it.

7 Responses to “Biking in L.A. – to Hollywood and Back”

  1. Mandeep G. says:

    Hey Dave! this is Mandeep from Stanford, now living down in LA actually, and commuting daily to Caltech (in Pasadena) *by* Metro — and i love it!

    i live in the Echo Park nbhd, and take a 2 mi ride down Riverside Dr. to the Gold Line Lincoln Hts station, get right on the Metro (no blackout times on this line), and am at my Pasadena stop in about 20 min, then i ride just a mile right to campus. and a $3 Metro day pass lets me go anywhere in the Metro system *and* on all the LA Metro buses — which is a massive system — if i need to go anywhere in the city (this is a *lot* easier than trying to go around the Bay Area with all its dif. public transit jurisdictions). before i found this about 2 weeks ago, i was indeed driving everywhere, but i’ve been very impressed by this system, and it really makes me dread commuting way less, because i can read papers while on the train, and get some daily exercise in too!

    and i think more people will discover the system over time, esp if gas costs keep going up.

    anyway, just wanted to put in a plug there for the very fine and new LA Metro system.

    about your ride — very very cool. i picked up a card at a Palo Alto bike store a few weeks ago, just checked it out now, and am going to try to stay on top of it. very glad you’re doing this. :>

    stay safe, ride hard-
    peace out,

  2. David says:

    Mandeep, That is great to hear that the public transit is working out well for you. It is especially good to hear that it is easy to take your bike on the transit – I think the combination of biking and mas transit is an excellent solution to many commuting transit problems. You can see this working very well in the Netherlands. In Amsterdam, the nation’s largest city, half of the city’s population rides a bike every day. If you go to a train station in the Netherlands, you will see hundreds of bikes parked outside. By comparison, in L.A., I less than 1% of all commuting is done by bike.

    Again, it is good to hear that the public transit works well for you. Of the people I talked to in L.A., I’d say about 1 out of every 4 or 5 said they were satisfied with the public transit. The more common conversation about public transit was like the one I had with medical students where they remarked how difficult it was to get to the hospital by the metro.

  3. Lisa MAc. says:

    Hi… I live in Amherst , Mass. And when I graduate form Umass, I plan on biking the transamerican. I am very inspired by your trip and will check out your website when I can. Good luck, be safe, lisa.

  4. Tawny says:

    Hey this is Tawny .Met you on pico blvd. gave you directions to bike path and south. I think this is fantastic it doesnt register how much of a problem cars are until you ride in L.A. You can be the most carful cyclist in the world and you will still get hit. garunteed. I’ve been hit twice in the past two weeks one resulting in stiches in the head. Both times it was the drivers fault entirley. We need more people to support public transportation and cycling for transportation in LA We need to get people to reconnect to the world they live in. Maybe when people wake up and have to breath the air in the environment instead of stale recycled air-conditioned air that their cars and office buildings produce, they’ll understand how important the issue of climate change is.

  5. David says:

    So, earlier on this post, I said that riding a bike emits 18,000 times less carbon dioxide. The calculation had an error in it, and the number was only 18 times (I didn’t do the calculation, but I should have been skeptical of the result).

    Actually, biking shouldn’t really add any carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. When you bike, you are taking energy from food and turning the food into carbon dioxide. The carbon used to be in the food. The food originally got its carbon from plants, which took carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis. By comparison, carbon dioxide from a car comes from fossil fuels, which have been burried in the ground for millions of years.

  6. nick says:

    Here’s a nice little blog entry from with some _great_ pictures of LA and pavement…ahhh Google Earth…

  7. […]    Biking across the cities of Latin America, I have become interested in the quality of transportation in these cities, and, of course, how easy these cities are to bicycle. (See what I thought of Los Angeles, Mexico City, Bogotá, and Caracas). […]

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