Nobody Walks in L.A.

Tina Lerno, Librarian, Digital Content Team,
Walking in the rain by the Warner Downtown
Walking in the rain by the Warner Downtown, [1938]. Herman J Schultheis Collection

Walkin' in LA, nobody walks in LA; walkin' in LA; walkin' in LA, only a nobody walks in LA—Terry Bozzio, Missing Persons

People say Los Angeles is not a very walkable city. As an L.A. native growing up in the San Fernando Valley, I've heard it all my life. But, I disagree! While it's true you may have to drive to get to your walking area, they are here and plentiful.

Intersection traffic
Pedestrians throng across an intersection in Los Angeles, [1960]. Security Pacific National Bank Collection

Los Angeles sounds and smells different when viewed from the street and not just whizzing by in a car. For me, it's the smell of a bacon-wrapped hotdog after a concert and the night-blooming jasmine as I walk to my car parked blocks away (every music lover knows never to pay the insane venue parking rates)! Its the cacophony of birdsong heard from my walk up the street to my local farmer's market—a mix of wild parrots, scrub jays, doves, and baby hawks learning to fly. Occasionally it's helicopters and police sirens mixed with the clip-clop of horses. It's also a walk through the hills or along a coastal trail smelling the salty sea air, and the thrum of the freeway which sounds like rushing water. Los Angeles is a unique place, to be sure, and I wouldn't want to live (or walk) anywhere else!

September is National Pedestrian Safety Month. If you love walking and exploring this amazing city of ours as much as I do, you may encounter distracted drivers, unevenly paved roads and other common hazards. Everyone in Los Angeles deserves safe streets, and the city's safety initiative Vision Zero is committed to eliminating traffic fatalities by 2025. Here are some safety tips from the department of transportation to practice both as pedestrian and driver.

And here they come, kids on bikes
"And here they come!" Children crossing the street on the first day back to school with a friendly crossing guard, [1956]. Photo credit: Justin Westerfield, Valley Times Collection

For Pedestrians

  • Be obvious and predictable, crossing at crosswalks or intersections only, walk facing traffic and as far from traffic as possible if there is no sidewalk.
  • Make eye contact with drivers; never assume a driver sees you.
  • Wear bright colors or reflective material at night or in the early morning.
  • Stop at the curb and look “left, right, left” before entering the roadway.
  • Watch for turning vehicles in each lane. Look for cars backing up, including white backup lights or signs the vehicle is running. Don’t dart out between parked cars.
  • Avoid distractions. Don’t walk and use your phone at the same time.
  • Be conscious of approaching vehicles, and cross with a group when possible.

For Drivers

  • Drivers must be respectful of pedestrian rights and safety needs.
  • Drivers need to be aware of other vehicles at crosswalks as well. It is illegal to bypass a vehicle that has stopped at a crosswalk to allow a pedestrian to cross the street.
  • Put down the cell phone and just drive.
  • Use extra caution when backing up. Look for bicyclists or pedestrians who may be approaching.
  • Drivers have a legal responsibility to yield to pedestrians and exercise care for pedestrian safety within any marked or unmarked crosswalk.

Afoot and Afield L.A. Style

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Secret Walks: A Walking Guide to the Hidden Trails of Los Angeles
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Wild LA: Explore the Amazing Nature in and Around Los Angeles
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Day Hikes & Overnights on the Pacific Crest Trail: Southern California: From the Mexican Border to Los Angeles County
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Day Hikes in the Santa Monica Mountains: From Los Angeles to Point Mugu, Including the Entire Backbone Trail
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Afoot & Afield Los Angeles County: A Comprehensive Hiking Guide
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