If Los Angeles Ran Entirely on Bicycles

What if Los Angeles operated entirely on bicycles instead of cars for transportation? Ok, I realize there are a lot of holes in the idea that would make that impossible. But still! In honor of Earth Day let’s talk about it.  (By the way, Earth Day was yesterday… if you forgot about it, do some extra recycling this week, or plant a tree or something.)


Just this past Sunday, Los Angeles held its fifth CicLAvia event, where the city shuts down a major roadway to make room for bicyclists and pedestrians all over the city.  Last weekend’s events shut down Venice Blvd, all the way from the beach into downtown LA. Thousands of Angelenos took to the streets on their bikes, some just tooling around the areas where they live, and others making the entire trek from one end of the route to the other.


CicLAvia is modeled after the ciclovias that started in Bogota, Colombia “as a response to the congestion and pollution of city streets.” Here in LA  the purpose is “connecting communities and giving people a break from the stress of car traffic.” We don’t have bicycles, but we met friends for lunch who were riding inland from the beach, and popped down to the route on foot to check it out. It was a sea of bicycles!


So could we do it? Give up our cars in exchange for bicycles as our primary means of transportation? Here are some of my thoughts on the matter.

 Some Pros

  • less pollution from car exhaust

  • bicycles take up way less space than cars, presumably meaning less crowded roads

  • all the things that come with reducing reliance on foreign oil

  • people get more exercise; this also means people burning more calories, effectively utilizing more of the calories they put into their systems so that the energy that went into getting that food to them is more valued

  • people would likely live closer to work, and soon communities would become more socially and economically self sufficient

Some Cons

  • your work and play options may be more limited as travelling very long distances would be pretty much out of the question

  • we would still need to allow for space for emergency vehicles to make their way through in emergency situations

  • transporting babies, small children, or people with disabilities would be considerably more difficult

  • the environmental impact of suddenly disposing of hundreds of thousands of cars… well, that would be a bummer, to say the very least

  • rainy days would be pretty unpleasant… maybe we could also institute “rain days” at work…?

Ok, so realistically it would probably not work. But it’s an interesting thought, isn’t it? I’m reading a book right now called The Philosophy of Sustainable Design, in which the author Jason F McLennan sites a quote from Natural Capitalism that explains that of all the energy consumed by a car, only 1% of it actually goes toward moving the person it’s transporting. Baby steps are happening in the car industry to improve on this, to be sure! But McLellan goes on to say, “Our greatest people-moving invention is actually the bicycle, which moves people farther per calorie of energy than anything we’ve come up with. Forty times more efficient than the car and three times more efficient than a person walking!”


What are your thoughts? Do you have a bicycle at home, and would you be able to replace your car with it?

One thought on “If Los Angeles Ran Entirely on Bicycles

  1. Pingback: Inspiration and Discovery at the L.A. Brewery Art Walk | The Anecdotal Goat

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