by Chris Balish
(Ten Speed Press, 2006, 216pps; $12.95)

You’ve seen it in the news: greenhouse gases on the rise. You see it every time you drive: more cars filling the roads. You see it growing all around you: unwanted pounds around your waist. Ever wanted to do something about all this? Well here’s a book that might be the perfect solution. How To Live Well Without Owning a Car, by Chris Balish, goes through just about every situation you can think of for not wanting to give up your car, but the majority of the chapters list all the reasons you should. This book is filled with Chris’s own journey of going car-free, and the many benefits it has brought him.

Instead of repeating all his details, I thought I’d relate my own history of going car-free, and the rewards it has brought me.  Maybe after reading this review, and then Chris’s book, you’ll be motivated enough to make the changes suggested and you’ll breathe better, you’ll feel better, and maybe even look better.

I began my car-free journey ten years ago when I sold my car and moved from a suburban area to a metropolis that had a great mass-transit system, complete with bikeways, light rail systems, and a dependable bus system. I used them extensively. Eventually I moved back to the suburbs, but I didn’t buy another car. If I could get by all those years without a car; why not make it a lifestyle. The average American spends $8,410 per year to own a car (equal to $700 a month).  S/he also spends 443 hours behind the wheel every year; that’s equivalent to eleven 40-hour work weeks, or one-fifth of an entire year. That’s not how I want to spend my money, or my time. I don’t pay for car insurance or for parking, and I feel great pleasure knowing my mobility is not being supported by foreign oil dependency. I get around mostly by bike or walking. Occasionally I carpool or take a bus.  I think the main reason I don’t own a car is knowing that I am not adding any unnecessary carbon dioxide to the atmosphere through my travel habits.

Like Chris, I too am single, and this makes it a lot easier to live car-free. But this book is also directed to soccer moms and seniors, suburbanites and socialites. Alternative means of transportation exist if you really look for them. Cabs, carpools and car rentals are just a few of the suggestions Chris has to offer. The financial benefits are great, the personal rewards are many. Give it a try; the only thing you have to lose is your car.

— Barry Lewis