I'm outing myself here as somewhat of a geek, but I love The Lord of the Rings. I've probably read the whole series, cover to cover, about ten times. For those of you who haven't read it or watched the movies, this is the basic plot of LOTR:
Frodo walks to Mordor to toss a ring into a pit of fire.
Some other stuff happens as well, but that's pretty much the main plot. And yes, on occasion, Frodo gets to ride on a horse/pony/eagle/whatever, but much of the time, he's walking.
On Saturday, as I was walking a mile and a half to my local library, I became curious. Just how far does Frodo walk? Luckily, there are people on the internets way more geeky than I, who had not only PONDERED this question, but figured it out. According to these directions, it's 1,841.8 miles from the Shire to Mordor! Sheesh, Frodo! Maybe next time you're traveling to Mordor, consider a Greyhound bus!
Clearly, I don't think that people should consider walking as an alternative form of transportation next time they decide to travel 2,000 miles, but I think it is worth rethinking what is walkable and what isn't. Walkability means different things for different people, but the culture of a city can also affect what is considered walkable.
For example, when I went to college, I lived in a university town. I walked 1.7 miles from my apartment to the theatre building where most of my classes were located, and I made that round trip walk at least once a day, sometimes several times a day, in the sunshine, in the rain, and in the icy wind and snow.
I did it because I had no other choice. I didn't have a car with me in college. But, to be perfectly fair, I also did it because it was normal. Had everyone driven, I would have probably bought a car, or driven my car out from California. Because most of my friends walked everywhere, I walked as well.
And then I moved to Los Angeles. Los Angeles is a peculiar city. You see, we are blessed with some of the best weather on the planet, and yet we choose to spend the majority of our days in our little (or sometimes very large) vehicles. Even though I had always walked several miles a day, even in the snow, once I moved to LA , walking became unthinkable.
I started to drive everywhere. A mile, a half mile, two blocks. It's a cliche, and it's not entirely true that "nobody walks in LA," but it's true that the attitude towards walking is vastly different in LA than in San Francisco, Chicago, or New York. In LA, if the only parking spot is three blocks away, it means you should probably just valet.
I don't mean to take anyone's cars away from them. Personally, I still love my car even though I use her a little less frequently than I used to. And there is nothing more magical than driving on an LA freeway at 2:00 am. Part of the reason I am so vocal about electric cars is because I have hope that to a certain extent, Angelenos will one day be able to have their cake and eat it too: that is, I dream of a day when we are able to drive cars powered by that beautiful Southern California sunshine.
But at the same time, I think we can do a better job of assessing whether we really need to drive to every little errand. In the past month, I've walked to the metro, to Honda's house, to the bulk food store, to Trader Joe's, to the video rental, to restaurants, and more.
And you know what I've found?
That LA is freaking beautiful. While walking, I can fully appreciate the dazzling array of flowers, the palm trees that litter every block, the aroma of jasmine in the morning. I've also had time to admire some of the man-made beauty in LA: Craftsman houses, Tudors, mission style homes, we've got it all.
You know what else I've found?
That I look better and feel better.
My muscles are more toned, I have no problem running a couple flights of stairs anymore, and, dude, I'm tan! Okay, I'm Indian so I'm always tan, but seriously. I'm tann-er!
Now some of my fellow Angelenos may think, That's great Arduous, but isn't walking everywhere really inconvenient? Or, I could never walk TWO miles to the Metro. That's insane! I just don't have time for that.
And you know what? Maybe you don't have time for that. But let's do the math, shall we?
I walk for about 70 minutes every day. The rest of my commute (via subway and bus) takes about half an hour each way, just five minutes longer than my drive would be.
It does make for a somewhat long commute. But you know what I don't do? I don't drive twenty minutes to a gym that charges me $80 a month so that I can WALK on a machine that seems more suited to HAMSTERS THAN HUMANS! And THEN, I don't pay more money to have some people spray some stuff on me so that it looks like I've been in the sun!
So, the next time you are about to jump in your car on an errand, take a moment to think to yourself, What Would Frodo Do?
The answer is, he'd probably walk. And you should too.
1 day ago