City officials are at long last moving forward with plans to make street vending lawful in Los Angeles. It’s simply perverse to make criminals out of the entrepreneurial poor, so this advance in economic liberty is worthwhile as an end in itself. But there’s a side benefit for all of us: More vendors could make L.A. a better walking city. Almost 35 years after Missing Persons sang that “nobody walks in L.A.,” then qualified, “only a nobody walks in L.A.,” public transit has expanded, and city dwellers pay top dollar to live in walkable neighborhoods. Globetrotting economist Tyler Cowen even declared Los Angeles the best walking city in America. “First, in Los Angeles the weather is almost always very good for walking,” he wrote, adding, “How many cities have great walks where you can be on the beach and/or see the mountains? Or where you can stop for first-rate ethnic food almost anywhere?” But – and I say this as someone who regularly travels miles on foot – walking in L.A. still has a serious shortcoming. In “Walkable City,” Jeff Speck argues that a good walk “has to satisfy four main conditions. It must be useful, safe, comfortable, and interesting.” Walks in L.A. are certainly useful in the sense that they’re healthy. In most neighborhoods, they are safer than driving, though infrastructure improvements and additional painted crosswalks could make them more so. The aforementioned climate makes them comfortable in all seasons. But is walking here interesting? Not uniformly. We’ve got the Venice boardwalk, plus lively parts of Hollywood and downtown, where certain bits are too interesting for my taste. We also have many stretches – Santa Monica Boulevard comes to mind – of long blocks with empty sidewalks. They’re the pedestrian’s analog to driving on an arrow-straight highway across a desert, utterly lacking in what Jane Jacobs identified as core to thriving cityscapes. “The ballet of the good city sidewalk never repeats itself from place to place,” she wrote, “and in any one place is always replete with new improvisations. … Lowly, unpurposeful, and random as they appear, sidewalk contacts are the small change from which a city’s wealth of public life must grow.” Street vendors already have added visual novelty and “contacts” to otherwise monotonous avenues. On Venice Boulevard, for example, the walk between the 405 Freeway and Lincoln Boulevard would be desolate after nightfall if not for several taco trucks that are parked at irregular intervals, each with a small constellation of people standing around chatting and waiting. My favorite of the bunch is an informal gathering place for busboys and CD vendors, who intermingle with patrons of a nearby yoga studio and assorted al pastor lovers. Street vendors could similarly enliven boring stretches in Pico-Robertson, Mid-City and Mid-Wilshire. Eastsiders surely can conjure their own list of walking routes that lack diversion. For now, we lack details on how decriminalized street-vending will play out. Policymakers charged with writing rules for what legality looks like are trying to accommodate competing interest groups: existing vendors, brick-and-mortar store owners, neighborhood groups. New entrants will be in competition for spots in already crowded areas with the most foot traffic. Perhaps regulators could simultaneously reduce conflict and improve the cityscape by charging a fee for vendor permits in highly trafficked areas, and no fee for entrepreneurs who sell their wares on sidewalks, where their presence itself is a kind of urban renewal. Most of Los Angeles will never resemble the West Village or the Latin Quarter. But encouraging commerce in the form of street vendors is a cheap way to make walks here not only useful, safe and comfortable, but also interesting.