City Hall aficionados recognize Mayor Ted Winterer from his central position on the Council dais, but biking enthusiasts have gotten to know the mayor over the past year on a series of community bike rides. This weekend, Mayor Winterer is mixing up the process with walk organized by the Santa Monica based nonprofit Adopt A Walk.
The one mile loop will start and finish at Reed Park near the corner of California Ave. and Lincoln Blvd. Dogs are welcome as are children and strollers as long as they can walk the mile loop.
Local resident Malin Svensson founded Adopt a Walk last year to encourage walkable communities throughout Los Angeles. She said that she grew up walking or riding a bicycle in her native Sweden and didn’t own a car until she moved to Los Angeles at age 28.
“I chose Santa Monica because it was very much like the active lifestyle I was able to maintain in Sweden,” she said. “But not everyone is as lucky as I am to live in that kind of neighborhood with walking communities.”
Her goal is to develop formal walking loops throughout Los Angeles communities. Each loop would be exactly one mile in length and would include inspirational quotes along the route plus a few rest points to encourage anyone, regardless of their fitness level, to start walking.
Saturday’s walk will be a live test of her concept. She said her organization has been working with five different city departments to develop a path that can become a permanently marked walking loop. In addition to safety and infrastructure concerns, she said she wants the loops to contain items of interest that could highlight the ease of walking to nearby destinations.
“The walk includes a little part of Wilshire Blvd. so you can say ‘ah, next time I want to see a movie on The Promenade I can walk there instead of getting in the car and driving,’” she said.
The walk and bike efforts come as residents are actually getting less exercise. Only 38 percent of residents are active for at least 20 minutes a day, down from 48% in 2015 according to the City’s Wellbeing Index.
“Two in five Santa Monica residents (40 per cent) say they do not engage in daily physical activity even though the city has wonderful weather, many parks, recreational facilities, special lanes and even paths for bicycles, and a state beach that is known around the world,” said the Index report. “When students in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District takes annual physical fitness exams in the 5th, 7th, and 9th grades, three in ten (30 per cent) are able to pass them.”
Svensson said she wants the walks to be a gateway for individuals who want to increase their exercise levels but there are social, emotional and environmental benefits to walking.
“This organization is to create more walking friendly communities but also, it’s built a lot of synergy,” she said. “You get to use it as a meeting point in your immediate community, you can meet new neighbors and new friends.”
She said the reliance on cars has normalized driving very short distances and it sometimes takes a special effort to break a bad habit. She hopes establishing a walking loop locally can prompt locals to think about walking or biking to their destinations and that she plans to expand the system eastward.
“In American culture, we love our cars and Los Angeles especially is built for cars,” she said. “The people in Santa Monica live here very much because of the walkability but you get used to driving. Sometimes you have to meet someone that is doing something new before you do it.”
The walk with the Mayor will be held on Saturday, Feb. 24 at 10 – 11 a.m. at 725 California Ave.