July 25, 2011

In the Aftermath of Carmageddon

A big thanks for enduring our month of "summer vacation," bene-fitters!  We are back in business and ready to keep you informed and excited about the latest health and fitness news.

That said, one of the biggest news stories of the past month was the arrival - and consequent non-event - of "Carmageddon." 

For those not local to L.A., this was a weekend-long (July 16-17) closure of one of the major north-south thoroughfares of the county, the 405 Freeway.  For weeks, the media and general public alike had this buzzword on their lips - what would we do?  How would we survive a weekend off the road?  What options did we have?

In the end, Carmaggedon was exactly the opposite of what it was predicted to be.  Instead of congested side streets and immovable traffic jams, Angelenos actually heeded the CalTrans advice to stay off the road.  And then something even more wonderful happened:

The Westside went outside.

As an avid outdoor exerciser and commuter in Los Angeles, I am often met with confused stares.  So many folks will endure traffic, paid parking, and hassle to avoid a one-mile walk to the nearby grocery store.  I am personally baffled by those that would drive to a gym and run on a treadmill rather than leave the car at home and work out in the sunshine. 

The amount of money that could be saved if short-distance commuters swapped the car for a bicycle, rollerblades, or scooter is astounding - and yet L.A. residents continually fall back on the car, whether out of habit, laziness, fear, or a combination of the three.

This is precisely why L.A. gets a bad rap among cities for its perceived lack of "walkability."  Most of us would rather fire up a car engine than lace up our walking shoes - even for simple errands.  For those who grew up in other comparably big cities - New York, Chicago, and Washington D.C. come to mind - cars are often a non-option.  The walking/public transit/Zipcar cultures of these other metropolitan areas is not only good for the waistline, but is more friendly - and environmentally friendly - to boot.

This week, I challenge you to "play pretend" as if it was another Carmageddon (which, Angelenos, it will be in 11 months, so they can get the other half of the bridge down) and go outdoors for at least one errand, workout, or other car-dependent event.  For the truly ambitious, try to get through an entire 48-hour period without turning your key in the ignition - make plans closer to home, stay in and cook for dinner, or invite friends to walk on over for a movie or game night.

With just a few small changes, it can be done - we saw it happen a couple of weekends ago, and with minimal effort we can make that wonderful experience last all summer long.

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