Author: Arlingtonians Can Do Without Their Cars


(Monday, February 11, 2008 6:54 AM EST)

Chris Balish is an award-winning feature writer, reporter and seven-time Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist. It seems like he's got everything going for him, but there's one thing he doesn't have: a car.

Balish, who was a speaker at Arlington's Car-Free Diet Expo on Jan. 29, is proud to be car-less and writes about the benefits of a car-free lifestyle in his book “How To Live Well Without Owning a Car.” The newest edition of the book includes a special section dedicated to going car-free in Arlington.

A former “driving addict,” Balish became car-free by accident. He sold his pride and joy, a $36,000 Toyota Sequoia SUV, with the intent of buying a new vehicle, but after a month taking public transit and making do without a car, he realized the benefits of being car-free.

“At the end of the month, I had an extra $800 in the bank,” Balish said. “I saved money, lost weight, my cholesterol went down, I was sleeping better, I had less stress, there was no traffic. It was win-win.”

These are the benefits Arlington's Car-Free Diet initiative is trying to highlight. And proponents of the initiative want to stress that going car-free doesn't have to be too difficult.

“You should look at all the transit options,” said environmental planner Aileen Winquist, who was at the expo. “We've tried to improve maps, routes and frequency. You just have to get out a map.”

But what will friends and co-workers say if you go car-free?

Balish, who sometimes is teased with questions like, “Are you picking your date up on your bike?” doesn't let these jokes bother him.

(His answer usually is, “I'm saving so much money, my date and I are going to Cancún. Enjoy the traffic!”)

Balish said the teasing usually is in good fun, and most people realize that people going car-free results in less traffic and less wear and tear on the roads.

“Every time someone goes car-free, it benefits everyone,” he said.

Although Balish lives in Los Angeles, he became familiar with Arlington's car-free options for his book, and he said he was impressed with the information available online on car-free options.

The Car-Free Diet initiatives' Web site ( has information on biking and walking in Arlington, as well as links to public transportation and local carpooling.

For more information on Balish and his book, see the Web site at

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