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How to get around in LA without a car

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As Guest Day Editor, Siel, a.k.a Green LA Girl, will be joining LAist with a few posts throughout today. Read her interview here and check out her site.

Drinking and driving isn't cool -- Which is why I made the logical decision to ditch the car a few months ago. Now, not only can I drink all I want most nights, I also have a few hundred extra bucks for my drink budget each month.

So of course not everyone in LA can immediately ditch their car -- I'm also aware of the realities of getting around Los Angeles. Still, everyone can de-car a bit -- and save money, avoid road rage, and enjoy more happy hours in the meantime. Thus, some suggestions:

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1. Pick a line, any line. Yes, figuring out the entire Metro system's like a full time job. But what's your one, nearest bus line? Get to know it -- and the businesses on it.

I used to live near Pico -- and realized I could take a guitar class at SMC, buy wine and snacks at Trader Joe's, stop by McCabes for sheet music, ponder why learning to play guitar's so tough over a cup of coffee at the UnUrban, sob and drink over the same at The Daily Pint, grab dinner at TukTuk to soak up the alcohol -- and get home safe and sound to enjoy said wine and snacks from TJs without ever battling traffic or fighting for a parking space.

Now I live near Wilshire, and with the 720 and the 920, the world's mine oyster. I still can't play guitar, but I have more happy hour options --


2. Get thee a bike. Seriously, I get compliments on my pink Townie every time I ride it. If flattery doesn't move you, convenience might. My bike takes me everywhere from the farmers' market to my yoga classes to my post office, etc. etc.

And if you're short on cash, you can get a decent bike for a steal. Craigslist has posts about bikes for sale every day -- and one freecycler's told me he's gotten 2 bikes off the e-network, FREE.

True -- some 'hoods can seem intimidating for the new biker. Which is why I suggest you get to know other bikers -- they tend to be chilled out, friendly folk, eager to get you on your eco-friendly bike path. BikeRoWave and Bicycle Kitchen are good places to start; joining one of the mass bike rides around town's a fun method too. And if you really feel you could use some educational encouragement to get you started, check out the LA Bicycle Coalition and the bike safety classes they offer.

3. Walk it out. In theory, walking to nearby places isn't hard -- but I do know that in many areas in LA, with its concrete lots and big box stores, walking isn't always the most pleasant endeavor. So find out what the more pleasant, walkable streets are, and what your walking comfort level is. Maybe you really can't do 10 blocks of open parking lots lined with heavy, honking traffic. But even in pedestrian-unfriendly places, you can likely handle 5 blocks to your nearest brunch spot -- or run, iPod volume high, to your gym via side streets. Try it at least once, and see how it feels.

4. Move to a transit friendly neighborhood. Easiest way to de-car is to move to a place where de-car-ing's easy. If nothing's really tying you to your Hollywood apartment, consider moving to a more transit friendly 'hood -- or at least moving near a big transit hub. I moved to Santa Monica specifically cuz I was tired of paying parking tickets and fighting traffic -- and I've been much happier -- and richer -- since.

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5. Find a Flexcar near you. Flexcar's like renting a car -- except you can do it by the hour, without having to deal with sales people trying to sell you insurance you don't need. I simply book via the web, then swipe a keycard in front of the car, and start driving -- all for $7-10 an hour including insurance and gas. This way, I'm never stranded -- I can get to the occasional party or event that's not transit-accessible -- or deal with any type of emergency that never actually comes up but I'd like to be prepared for regardless.

Flexcar isn't all over LA yet. If you're in Santa Monica, Venice, Westwood, Downtown LA, or near USC, this'll totally work for you. If not, write Flexcar and let them know you want its services.

And if you have specific questions about how to get around, lemme know in the comments and I'll try to help you out.

photos by Siel, green LA girl