The Road to Hell is Paved

Food for thought: In Amsterdam, over 50 percent of all trips are taken by bike; in Los Angeles, that percentage is under 1%.

It’s hard to believe now, but L.A. was an early pioneer in public transportation.  There evidently used to be a 9-mile dedicated bike pathway connecting LA and Pasadena that had electric lights the entire way—in 1897. That pathway became a freeway in 1940. The same thing happened to original bikeways in Hollywood and Santa Monica.

Here’s a data point that should make us all stop and think: the percentage of surface area in Los Angeles dedicated to automobiles (roads, parking, gas stations, etc.) is more than 70 percent, while the percentage devoted to parks and open spaces is 5 percent.

As the article from which I took those figures asked, “Is your city designed for you, or for your car?”

Yesterday, a colleague whose opinion I value commented on a previous post about the need for public transportation by saying that it would never happen–that thanks to a combination of low density and the American love affair with the automobile, we have established a “car culture.” If he is correct, our cities will continue to be designed for, and dominated by, automobiles–and increasingly inhospitable to people and parks.

I’ve been to L.A. several times. There are nice areas, but it fails as a city. It’s not a place I’d want to live–or emulate.


  1. The question, “Is your city designed for you, or for your car?” is a false dichotomy.

    I’m sure their crime also plays a part in not wanting to bike from location to location.

  2. I’ve been to Amsterdam twice and did you know that they have more canals than Venice Italy? It’s a beautiful city and I almost got run over by the bikes there. You watch for them and listen for their bike bells when walking around the canals of the city. We didn’t have a car when we traveled there. Didn’t need one. We took a tram to our favorite restaurants and had a great time.

    Big Oil rules this country of ours. It’s shameful.

  3. If we really want public transit in Indy we would focus on modest, incremental improvements like better bus service (hours, routes, quality of equipment, bus shelters) with user accessable GPS, and extension of the Riley-Methodist “monorail” to IVY Tech and the IU Life Science corridor. Proposing sillyness such as Noblesville – Downtown Indy high speed rail for tourists (probably emulating many failures around the world)so we get enormous spending for little result means you don’t seriously want anything.

  4. Drive through suburbia and look at the newer houses. 3 or 4 garage doors dominate every facade. It appears the primary function of a house to is to house the automobiles.

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