My Green Chicago | Super-cyclist Ethan Spotts
If it can be done without a car, this green go-getter is doing it.
As marketing and communications director at the Active Transportation Alliance, Ethan Spotts speaks for the bikes and the safety of the people who ride them. Spotts, 40, bikes to work daily and encourages cycling for its massive health, endorphin and environmental benefits. “A third of all greenhouse emissions come from transportation, so anytime you can choose to bike, walk or to take transit, you're helping out,” he explains. "Forty percent of all trips taken are under two miles, and 90 percent of those trips are done by car. We're hoping people [will] think differently about getting around." Spotts and his wife don’t own a car, instead navigating the city with their three-month-old on foot, bicycle or their favorite bus route, the #22 Clark. On a big shopping day, the couple will rent an I-GO, but Spotts’s mini trailer and pannier combo can haul an impressive 160 pounds of goods on other occasions. ”To me the joy of getting around is connection, whether I get to make eye contact and wave at crossing guards and people or signaling [on my bike], we're all working together.” Spotts doesn’t consider himself an "eco-superstar"; instead he focuses on simple, practical changes to tread lighter on the earth. Check out his favorite local picks below:
Spotts’s wife loves these stylish, locally made bags for urban bike riders. “These bags look great,” he says. “They attach to your bike, to your handlebars or to a rack in the back, but then when you pull them off they’re a clutch or [purse.]”
Po Campo (312-834-4741, pocampo.com). Sold at many stores in Chicago, including Boulevard Bikes (2535 N Kedzie Blvd, 773-235-9109, boulevardbikeshop.com). Mon–Wed 10am–7pm; Thu 10am–8pm; Fri, Sat 10am–6pm; Sun noon–5pm.
West Town Bikes
Spotts credits West Town with giving him the skills to perform routine bike maintenance on his own—and the savvy to know when it needs professional help. “I learned a lot from taking classes [here],” Spotts says of the community bicycle learning workshop. “We took an old, cheap bike from Working Bikes co-op and over an eight-week-period, we took it apart and put it back together.”
West Town Bikes (2459 W Division St, 773-772-6523, westtownbikes.org). Tue–Thu noon–7pm; Fri, Sat noon–6pm; Sun noon–5pm.
If it's eco-entertainment you want, how about the bicycle equivalent of a monster truck rally? Cyclocross originated in the 1900s when professional racers wanted to stay in shape during the off-season (i.e. when there’s cold, mud and slush). “It’s kind of mountain biking on a circuit. There’s these sections where you have to pick up your bike and run with it,” Spotts says. ”It’s a blast. I haven’t done it, but I’ve attended.”
Chicago Cross Cup (chicrosscup.com, ChicagoCrossCup@gmail.com). Sept–Dec, Sundays. Various locations.
Reusable lunch bags
Spotts and his family get reusable bags and bottles from Reuseit.com, based on the South Side. Among their favorites are snackTAXI’s cute, printed lunch bags. “They are these really cool handsewn little sandwich bags that you can wash and reuse,” Spotts says. “We feel these are a simple, affordable step that we can do to help the planet.”
SnackTAXIs are sold on Reuseit.com and at various Chicago stores, including Green Genes (5111 N Clark St, 773-944-9250, green-genes.com). Tue–Thu, Fri, Sat 10am–6pm; Wed 10am–7pm, Sun noon–5pm.
Goose Island, local beer
Though Spotts nixed alcohol for himself a good five years ago, he’s spent a lot time with local beer-sipping colleagues at this Lincoln Park brewpub. Because liquids are so heavy, their transportation is a fossil-fuel glutton; as such, drinking locally is one way to reduce your carbon footprint. Spotts has only one beef with Goose Island: “As much as I keep pestering them, they won’t make a nonalcoholic beer for me.”
Goose Island (1800 N Clybourn Ave, 312-915-0071, gooseisland.com). Mon–Thu 11am–1am; Fri, Sat 11am–2am; Sun 11am–midnight.