Editors’ pick

I Went Car-Free in LA and All I Got Was This Lousy Medium Post

Bought my own e-scooter!

Scooter Part Deux

Estimate: $240.85 (one time purchase)
Reality: $240.85 (one time purchase)

I loved scooting so much that I bought my own semi-highly rated scooter on Amazon. Was this a good or a bad idea? I’m not sure.

Pros: Pretty cheap, sturdily built, bought with mostly Amazon credit so felt like I wasn’t spending any REAL money.
Cons: Only went about 12 miles per hour which felt slow when you have cars whizzing past you; I suck at owning things; heavy to carry around.

I bought the scooter in mid-April. It got stolen by the end of June. I left it in the stairwell at a community space near downtown LA because I didn’t want to carry it up a couple flights of stairs and someone grabbed it and rode it away into the eerily empty Los Angeles night. :( :( :( :( :( :( :(

Bike

Estimate: $80
Reality: $60.34 ($5/month)

I wasn’t kidding about the mural wall.

This was by far the cheapest method of transportation available (other than walking). I started to bike a lot more after my scooter was stolen in late June. My only bike-related expenses were getting my back tire fixed twice at a local bike shop.

Pros: Good exercise, fun, free!
Cons: Biking in the heat was oppressive when it got into the 90s this summer; I suck at owning things; I’m clumsy and I would bang or scrape my ankles and shins on my bike; getting flat tires.

There’s this feeling that I get when I get on a bike. I used to ride a lot as a kid in Beijing and I think that level of comfort and connection has stayed with me.

Well, my bike got stolen from the Palms station on the Expo Line late last year. I’d left it to take the metro to a party and when I got back, it was gone. :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :(

LA Metro

Estimate: $60/month
Reality: $47.50/month

I feel like public transportation in LA gets a bad rap. And nothing I say here is going to convince someone who’s never taken the bus to take the bus. BUT. But, sometimes it truly is the best option. Plus, the metro train is a great option for getting to Santa Monica or downtown if you live in my neighborhood (Palms).

Pros: You can go almost anywhere in LA; I heart the Expo Line; listening to audiobooks.
Cons: It might take you 2+ hours to get there; waiting endlessly at the bus stop for a bus that never comes; occasional sketchy characters (I was going to say “bad actors,” but this is LA, so…).

I took a lot of buses in 2019. I can’t say it was always fun, but I want to share some moments I got to witness out there in the big wide world of public transportation:

  • A guy rolling up his sleeves to help a stranger push his stalled car out of the way of traffic on Venice Blvd.
  • A woman helping two tourists who didn’t speak English figure out how to get to their destination at a bus stop.
  • Waiting for my bus in the rain and getting called in to shelter under the awning at a mechanic’s shop.

Angelenos! Being good citizens!! Helping other people!!! I know!

Lyft

Estimate: $80/month
Reality: $57.50/month

I spent more money on ride-share than I would’ve liked, but sometimes it’s truly the best option or even the only option. After several hours-long treks out to the valley via the LA Metro (scooter to metro station, take the Expo Line to downtown LA, take the Red Line to North Hollywood, take a bus to Burbank…), turns out that I would rather spend $20+.

Pros: Easy, convenient, fast.
Cons: Expensive! Being stuck in LA traffic even when you’re not driving.

I’m really surprised I didn’t end up spending more than I did!

Other (Wheels, JUMP Bikes, LANow)

Trying to figure out the apps is hard, just ask my sister.

Estimate: $30/year
Reality: $26/year

This felt like the year where there were almost too many new micro-mobility options popping up everywhere the eye could spy!

via KPCC

A quick word about LANow: It’s LADOT’s ride-share service and it is AWESOME. Granted, the area that LANow covers is very limited, but for $1.50/ride you can get around on the westside to within walking distance of your destination. It’s like Lyft’s much, much cheaper younger cousin.

So, let’s round up some numbers

Bikes: -1
Scooters: -1
Bird, Lime, Etc.: $33.88/month
Bike: $5/month
LA Metro: $47.50/month
Lyft: $57.50/month
Other: $2/month
Irrational fear of being towed despite not even owning a car: 100%

So, normally I can’t math, but my estimate was pretty damn close! Not listed: How much more walking I did! Walking to the bus stop, walking from the bus stop, walking to find a scooter, etc.

And now for some very unscientific conclusions:

  1. I shouldn’t own things (RIP bike, RIP scooter).
  2. When you take public transportation, you are almost always early.
  3. I kind of hate wearing socks and my ankles pay the price (ouch).
  4. Bring noise canceling headphones with you everywhere.
  5. Always carry your phone charger and a backup battery pack.
  6. You don’t need a car to get around! But also—
  7. Sometimes driving is the best possible option.
  8. Not owning a car feels like freedom.

I think what I was missing in 2019 was the option to easily rent a car for the day or for a few hours. I didn’t explore the many apps available, but maybe I’ll do that this year.

Overall, I feel pretty good about my first year completely car-free. For a long time, I kept my car because I was afraid of the what-ifs: what if I really needed a car and didn’t have access to one? Eventually I realized that even if I could drive to Los Feliz at 6pm on a Thursday night the chances of me actually doing it were approximately nil.

I don’t miss sitting in stop-and-go traffic. I don’t miss trying to find parking. I don’t miss street cleaning or parking tickets. I don’t miss most things about driving except driving when there’s no traffic (and when does that happen in LA?).

When you don’t drive, every trip can be an adventure! So here’s to more adventures in 2020.

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