Freeways are synonymous with Los Angeles. Traffic is synonymous with Los Angeles. Freeways are synonymous with traffic. I don’t like freeways. I don’t like traffic. It is that simple. Given the option, however, sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Olympic Boulevard is preferable to driving in slow, yet moving 10 freeway traffic. Even though it trip will take longer, the experience will be more enjoyable. Freeways ruin L.A., yet they are also entirely optional, and when they are consciously avoided, the city takes on a new face.
There is no denying that freeways can be convenient. With speed limits upwards of 70 MPH, a trip from Santa Monica to Downtown L.A. takes only 15 minutes heeding no traffic. This is all freeways are good for, however, and do more bad than good. They disconnect the city, making the trip from point A to B dull and rushed. In the short term, this seems fine, but overtime it becomes harmful. Driving becomes associated with dread, and grumbling about traffic congests conversation. When freeways are ignored and avenues and boulevards are used, Los Angeles becomes arguably the greatest city in the world.
Before I began driving, “Fairfax”, “Melrose”, and “La Brea” were nothing more than street names to me. This makes sense. I got around driving with people who primarily took the freeway. While I knew the names of many streets, I didn’t know how they functioned or where they went. Over the past couple of months, however, I have learned that all of these streets relate to each other, and provide a foundation for the city, connecting each district and neighborhood. On top of this, they expose aspects of the city that are cannot be experienced taking the freeway. The wonderful Century City, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood transition on Santa Monica Boulevard. The noir nostalgia of driving through Miracle Mile, K-Town, Westlake, into Downtown L.A. on Wilshire Boulevard. The uniqueness of driving from Hollywood to the beach on Sunset Boulevard. Because it’s vast, L.A. one must literally open their eyes to fully appreciate it. When driving on the freeway, however, it becomes impossible to do so. All that is visible are cars, green exit signs, and grey concrete. A trip filled with Art Deco, intersections, and store fronts is personally more enjoyable.