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Holiday Express: A Chicago sustainable transportation gift guide

[This piece also appeared in Checkerboard City, John’s weekly transportation column in Newcity magazine, which hits the streets on Wednesday evenings. Although we’re running this on Grid Chicago a bit late for some of the winter holidays, we hope you’ll enjoy reading about some of the great products coming out of Chicago nowadays and consider them for future purchases.]

A true Chicago sustainable transportation blackbelt is never late, unless it’s the CTA’s fault. But if you’re running a little behind in your winter gift shopping, here are a few last-minute ideas for the walking, biking and transit enthusiasts in your life. Most of these nifty items are locally made and available at independent stores, which means a minimum of gasoline was burned getting the products to market, and by purchasing them you’ll be supporting the local economy. Plus, these presents will encourage your friends’ and family members’ healthy commuting habits. You can’t get much more politically correct than that.

Our city’s over-dependence on automobiles really makes you appreciate those rare spots where you can take a break from the sight, sound and smell of car traffic. Give the gift of tranquility with Peaceful Places Chicago by local journalist Anne Ford. Her book features over one-hundred serene locations, most of them accessible by transit, with many destinations for relaxing, strolling and biking. Some of my favorites include the Indiana Dunes, Bridgeport’s Stearns Quarry Park, The Magic Hedge bird sanctuary at Montrose Harbor, Rosehill Cemetery and the Osaka Japanese Garden in Jackson Park. $14.95 at Women and Children First, 5233 North Clark.


The Tuning Fork by Toynbee Carriage Co.

Columbia College sustainable design prof Carl Boyd recently launched his own company, Toynbee Carriage Co., producing handy accessories for urbanites on foot, bike and transit. The Spokebug is a clever little device that keeps your bike upright while you load and unload cargo. The Tuning Fork is an eating utensil that also incorporates a spoke wrench, earbud wrap and bottle opener. Boyd suggests you wipe off the spoke nipple lube before digging into your Pad Thai. Spokebug $42, Tuning Fork $22, shipping included, at

For the “cycle chic” fan on your list, you can’t go wrong with bags by Po Campo (a Grid Chicago Sponsor), currently made in Chicago and China. The brand’s stylish purses and handbags are designed to clip onto your handlebars or rear rack. The Windy City Gift Set includes Po Campo’s Six Corners Wristlet mini bag and a Portlandia-esque Reflective Bird Pin, plus Chicago-made treats: a bag of Intelligentsia Coffee and a Vosges Haute Chocolate candy bar. Gift set $60 at Po Campo’s headquarters, 700 North Carpenter, bags sold at bike stores citywide.

Chicago transit authority Greg Borzo (a Grid Chicago sponsor) explores a little-known but fascinating chapter in local transportation history in his new book “Chicago Cable Cars.” Surprisingly, it was the Windy City, not San Francisco that pioneered the cable car boom, which in turn paved the way for trolleys, subways and elevated trains. The most colorful chapters detail the exploits of the South Side Car Barn Bandits and the ridiculously corrupt cable car magnate Charles Tyson Yerkes. The book is chock full of terrific period photos, sure to please steampunks and mustache aficionados alike. $24.99 at The Book Cellar, 4736 North Lincoln.


Cap by Kozie Prery.

Bike Snob NYC joked that as soon as you get off a plane in Portland, Oregon, you’re presented with a handmade cycling cap, sometimes called a “Portland lei,” but Chicago’s no slouch in the headgear department either. Erin Rensink’s brand Kozie Prery makes unique bike caps and neckwarmers from recycled materials. Her cold-weather caps with generous earflaps are just the thing to keep your loved ones “Kozie” this winter. Caps $20-$40 at Roscoe Village Cycles, 2016 West Roscoe,

The Chicago Transit Authority’s online giftshop has tons of great ideas for the “foamers” (train enthusiasts) on your list. My CTA rail map shower curtain has been great for helping me memorize the system while I brush my teeth, and the website now offers more than one-hundred transit-themed products. New items include smartphone covers inspired by the Sox/35th and Addison stops for baseball fans, toy trains based on the new 5000-series railcars and blown glass Ornament ‘L’ (get it?) cars for Christmas trees. Various prices,


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