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09/22/2010: "Carfree Day in LA?"
Well, it's World Carfree Day today, though you wouldn't know it here in Los Angeles, neither by looking out the window nor by reading the Times. Nor by watching me, since I get in a car only about ten times a year, and those only to please nagging relatives.

All my personal and business travel within the city, and most of it out of the city, takes place on foot, on a bicycle, or on a train or bus. And every rare time I do get in a car, I realize how much I do not miss it. I don't miss being trapped within a seat within a box within a lane, sequestered from world and channeled by rules and curbs. One is so much freer on a bike--and yet more free, though slower, on foot. Even on a train, one can get up and walk around (and on Amtrak head to the dining car!), and the world outside is closer at hand, there not being all those lanes between you and the scenery, nor any parking. Equally important, neither you nor your companion is focussed on playing the unpaid chauffeur, and you can actually pay attention to each other. And meet new people, however briefly.

Of course I also meet people all the time while cycling and walking--little interchanges of smiles and small talk, of directions asked and given, of whole human beings chatting face to face, not "through a glass darkly," as it is with motorists in their boxes. It is those interchanges that hold together our communities as mortar holds bricks; together they are in fact the bricks and mortar of civilization, and it is precisely civilization that our car culture kills. I have made friends in these casual meetings.

So, while the rest of LA rolls along in its armored playpens, desperately blasting the twelve-speaker sound system to lessen the tedium of their lonely drives, I'll be out on my bike, as usual: reveling in the simple blessing of being free and alive in one of the few communities that really exists in this town, my fellow cyclists, who have shaken off the shackles of the car.

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