Transitioning from Car Driving to Bus and Train-Hopping in LA

After 20 years of a life in LA, only in the past few months have I also started riding the bus and trains.

I'm feel like I'm making more than a concerted and strained effort to make public transit in addition to biking my main mode of travel. My transition from car driving to bus riding and train-hopping in LA has been leeched with plenty of growing pains.

-The first time I took the bus in about year was on a trip from the Valley to LA Union Station. I thought I could buy a $5 all-day Metro Pass.


I had to buy a TAP Card...not at all available at any bus station cause that would be too convenient. I had to pick one up at Ralphs. A public pass via a private vendor!

-A week ago was the first time I tried to use the bus and trains for something important.

That morning I had to go to a meeting in Compton from the Valley. I biked to the Red Line in North Hollywood, transitioned to the Blue Line in Downtown, and got off in Compton.

Taking the red line, the underground subway from North Hollywood down to LA seemed like punishment because I couldn't actually contact anyone while underground.

The inspectors on the Blue Line were giving me shit for the bike being in THEIR way. So I had to stand up in the handicapped section of an empty ass bus.

-On Parking Day LA, September 18th, 2009, as a full-fledged newly-initiated biking enthusiast, I was fumbling with the bike rack on a Metro bus, holding up the bus for 2 minutes, and ultimately failing to pull down the bike rack correctly. The bus driver, (on the 233 Bus on Van Nuys going south at about 7:30), made a gesture to quit it and rudely told me to get on the next bus. I waited about 2-3 minutes for a Rapid line and thankfully correctly put my bike on the bus.

One of my main concerns with using the bus and trains from the experience of driving has been losing the flexibility and mobility I have with my car. With my car, I could get into almost any nook and cranny in LA at any time of the day I want.

Having a car in LA is like having a mobile phone in that it offers you the ability to connect with other people, places, things on your own terms and you can act more quickly and/or be more spontaneous with such a tool.

In contrast to this flexibility and mobility offered by the personal vehicle is the public transportation infrastructure of Los Angeles. It's like limiting my usage of the phone to pay phones.

Biking in Los Angeles, a Noob's Perspective

For years I had been entertaining the thought of not having a car. My fantasy has been to avoid paying car insurance, gas, and parking.

Instead, all my transportation needs would go towards biking.

With the help of a special friend, I took step one towards this, and am now biking for the first time since my 2nd year of college, when my mountain bike got unceremoniously stolen.

While my personal reasons for biking are entirely practical, I feel like my personal transition to biking in LA is an more of an impractical achievement fretted with inconvenience as opposed to an actual, practical solution.

Here are some of the little annoying hurdles obstructing my daily use of a bicycle as a form of commute throughout Los Angeles:

1) The fact that I can't really take both hands off the wheel yet to signal for turns
2) The bike is very greasy to handle, which means my hands get really dirty. If I had to wear a suit to work or some interview, unless there were a shower at the place of employment, it'd kinda suck
3) Wouldn't know what to do if I got a flat or got any other malfunction, leaving my biker noob butt stranded in the middle of nowhere
4) In comparison to the car, would not be able to travel all that practically and reliably from the Valley to South LA

Th first one and third points I WILL eventually get over with more time behind the wheel and on the streets. Perhaps, there could be better supportive biking infrastructure for the third point, like a patch kit at every stop.

The second one I MIGHT be able to get over with practice. Maybe I'll get good at finding a shower, or place to wash my hands and/or shower in public, if there isn't any private establishment to provide that.

The last point however, is one problem that might be unfixable and due to the nature of Los Angeles.

With that last point I have in mind a very specific situation that actually happened: From my house in the Valley,, I wouldn't be able to make it that comfortably on bike to a job interview in Huntington Park. Obviously, I'd need to take the bus and trains, meaning I'd need to plan well in advance and everything about the trip...not too fond of having to pre-emptively strike and shell out $62 on a bus pass for one month, which seems kinda high and like I'm saving on nothing.

For an individual to be biking on Los Angeles streets with cars, you need a youthful, bodily fearlessness and extremely sunny, but fierce resolve. I cringe everytime I think about having to carry on through narrow streets and sidewalks where there are no bike lanes. I don't want to slam into a person, a car door, another biker, or into some driver. You need some nerve to ride into the middle of the street with alongside anxious LA drivers only see bikers as obstructions to clear lanes.

If biking is to be done and used by lots of people, then it has to be practical for the lots of people. Maybe if the biking networks available address the transition for new riders there'd be more infrastructural change in LA transportation that could eventually address that fourth point.