I live in Los Angeles. When I decided that I would forego a car, here, in the car capital of the Western world, I met a lot of skepticism. It was hard enough to go carless in my college town (dear old State College, PA) and even tougher to go car-free in my hometown, West Chester, PA. Getting around in a major city, one without a major/fantastic public transportation system, sounded almost impossible.
Walking and biking in Los Angeles is not only possible but, sometimes, fun and entertaining. First up, the weather is always great. You're almost never going to be walking in the rain, and you'll nevernever be walking through snow. I've got a great tan (well, I'm a little less pale than usual for December) from my morning walks. Of course, when it does rain, watch out! The people around here drive like maniacs when the rain falls. If you can imagine how east-coasters drive in 3-4 feet of snow, then you can perfectly picture how L.A. drivers handle rain.
Seeing people on the street is always an interesting treat for me -- it isn't usually the fancy, Hummer-drivers walking around, it's the pepole with real issues and real interests. (Who am I to judge, of course, but I'll take a walker over a wanton polluter any day). Unfortunately, many of the people you see on the street are homeless people, wandering around, pushing their grocery carts full of cast-offs. Occasionally, I have the chance to help someone out, even if it's only in a small way, by picking up that bag they dropped, or just smiling out from the smog.
Before I started working so close to home, I worked pretty far away -- a 45 minute-by-car commute. Instead of caving and buying a car, I combined biking and a Metro ride to give myself some great exercise and some time to quiet down on the bus. I biked to the bus stop, slung my bike onto the front of the bus, and then biked from the bus stop near my destination to my employer. I biked for less than a mile and the bus ride + biking only took about 1 hour. Instead of slapping myself into an expensive machine, wasting precious resources (oil and freetime), I got some healthy sunshine and fresh air and some time to work on my knitting and reading.
I am really pleased that I'm in a situation to walk or bike to work, but what about other people who don't live 1 mile from their employers? They shouldn't despair! Even L.A.'s famously awful Metro system isn't all that bad. They have a really handy website with a trip-planner and information about how to purchase fare pass cards. Considering traffic, the buses are sometimes faster than driving because people give them a wide berth, preventing them from getting stuck behind any grandmas or smart pedestrians (the occasional extra-dumb person will dart in front of a bus, but most have a little more sense than that). The rail lines, though I haven't actually used them, are supposed to be pretty awesome, too. If nothing else, they're super clean because not that many people really use them. In fact, the station at Hollywood and Argyle, right outside the Pantages theatre, is really cool looking. I want to ride the rails just to see that station again.
I like to take advantage of my Metro time to knit, read, or just think and observe.