The beauty of walking and biking is found in the details you see on the street. The curves in the fences, beams supporting roofing, fruiting trees, lettering on signs, and murals on the wall. Each detail offers people moments to stop and appreciate the marvels of life. The art and architecture we choose for our streetscape strongly impacts the way that we experience our city by foot. There are things out there that cannot be seen at 40 miles per hour that expose an intimate and joyous moment for us to share. As the L.A. area builds out its pedestrian infrastructure, let’s make sure we make something beautiful to look at.
To remove oneself from their personal vehicle is to embrace your autonomy and ability to see the small. Each leaf, stone, scribbled graffiti, curved iron detail, sound and smell can only be noticed and appreciated at walking speed. True design of any space should always aim to stop anyone in their tracks, even on a rainy day, to sit on a bench, smell flowers, study a cornice or kiss their companion.
When we look at walkable areas in Los Angeles and abroad, we can easily see that beauty carries a unique importance. When we have beautiful architecture, then suddenly walking changes from a chore into an adventure where we may stop and admire the human touch on the city. Due to a long history of car-minded design there are lapses throughout the region completely void of an interesting detail (unless you find concrete super interesting!).
Our city identity should be something that each member is proud to support and admire. California weather is already ideal for walking, but the built environment largely lacks the human touch that carries the history of the space. As we build new train stations, sidewalks, parks, and plazas the built environment should not just be sufficient, it should be miraculous. At every moment we should be so inspired by the world around us that we feel required to make our own personal contribution to the electricity on the street.
About 2.9 percent of workers in Los Angeles County currently commute by walking, a mode of transportation I think we too often dismiss. Yes, distance tends to mean walking isn’t an option for many commuters but, I think, we tend to overlook walking as a great option for those who live close to work. Or those who live or work close to transit. Thus, the Metro PSA at right.
We can build all the transit, bike lanes and such — and focus on quantity. But I think there’s quality issue too easily overlooked — really making the routes something that are safe and can be relished. That’s why we must put all our care and personality into everything that we create. Then as we walk and bike we can get stopped in our tracks by the garden someone planted, the home they built, and the weathered stone on the stairs.