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Why LA is more walkable than you think

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This weekend's 17-mile walk demonstrates how to make a city known for its cars more pedestrian-friendly.

If you're driving along Beverly Boulevard Saturday, you might see hundreds of people walking as a group, heading west.

They're probably a part of the Great Los Angeles Walk -- an annual event that encourages Angelenos to get out and experience the city by foot. This year's route is along Beverly Blvd. Walkers will start downtown and hoof it for 17 miles ... all the way out to Santa Monica.

The 2017 Great LA Walk is largely along Beverly Blvd.
Via Great LA Walk
The 2017 Great LA Walk is largely along Beverly Blvd.

Mike Schneider is the founder of the Great Los Angeles Walk, and when it comes to tips for newcomers, he has some pretty basic advice: Stay hydrated, wear comfortable shoes, apply lots of sunscreen and come with the spirit of exploration.

"I always tell people to stop at a couple restaurants, take photos," Schneider said. "Really take your time and feel the city."

Schneider created the event 12 years ago when he was celebrating his ten-year anniversary of living in L.A. He had just read the book "Wilshire Boulevard" by Kevin Roderick, in which a walk along Wilshire from downtown to the ocean is mentioned, and Schneider thought to himself, "I want to do that."

"I went on my blog and told people I'm doing this the weekend before Thanksgiving. Who wants to show up? I got about 40 people to show and we really explored that year.

I never expected it to be more than a one-time deal, but then I was like, why don't we do Pico? Why don't we do Santa Monica Blvd.? Sunset? Hollywood? We eventually started hitting a whole bunch of streets."

And since then, every year, rain or shine, the walk has taken place. One year it took place on Pico, another on Sunset and this year for the first time, on Beverly. It just stands to prove, despite its reputation, that Los Angeles is actually walkable. 

The case for L.A.'s walkability

It's all about the neighborhood

To get you started, Schneider suggests picking a neighborhood you have never explored. Maybe it's Highland Park, downtown or Atwater village. The key is to stay in the eastern neighborhoods because they're generally more walkable.

"Throughout Southern California, it is definitely a patchwork of neighborhoods, and that's what's great about this town. Koreatown, Little Tokyo, East Hollywood -- every neighborhood has its own flavor, its own collection of restaurants and businesses and it's an opportunity to travel all over the world, just in your city."

It may not have been built to be walkable, but it has come a long way

"It's definitely changed. The walkability and accessibility of public transportation in Los Angeles have obviously grown a great deal. So it's much easier to explore this city on foot than it was 10-20 years ago."

And all signs only point to it getting better.

The little surprises along the way make the walk worth it

As Schneider walked along Beverly Blvd., he stumbled across a small koi pond filled with red-eared sliders. The discovery of the pond delighted Schneider. "Just this little koi pond with turtles that we're passing by..." he said, "I don't think I've ever seen this before."

It's those small treasures that can only be discovered on foot that fuels The Great LA walk.

The small koi pond Schneider came upon during his walk on Beverly.
KPCC/Lori Galarreta
The small koi pond Schneider came upon during his walk on Beverly.

"When you walk around other cities like New York, you have that sense of discovery. That's something I think a lot of people don't look for in L.A., but we have that. We have that just like any other metropolitan area. It's just not enough people are taking the time to do that."

It strengthens the sense of community

In spite of the large crowds the event draws out, there's still a tight sense of community on the walk, Schneider explained.

"The [participants] all sort of have a more than passing interest in their city, in Los Angeles. I find that even as the groups start to split up, people start to make friends. There has been at least one wedding that I know of that's come out of the walk, and I think other relationships as well and friendships."

To hear the full walk and talk, click the blue play button above.

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