Did You Know?
Volunteers eager to help out other people on bikes
Kicking off the event season at Active Trans means recruiting hundreds of talented people dedicated to volunteering. We are highlighting some of these great volunteers, beginning with a special sub-set, tandem volunteers! Ron and Marge Spears are star volunteers for Active Trans. The Chicago couple demonstrated their commitment by responding to our interview questions from France! So here are the Spears (told by Ron).
What was your first volunteer experience with Active Trans?
Our first experience was the Boulevard Lakefront Tour (now Four Star Bike & Chow) in 2011. Our friend Bob Hoel, an Active Trans board member and a member of our tandem bicycle club (Chicago Area Tandem Society), made us aware of the ride and the need for volunteers. We served as ride marshals.
What keeps you coming back?
We had so much fun helping make the ride a success, and helping the cyclists with mechanical problems that we just had to do it again.
Tell us why you love tandem riding and tandem volunteering.
Tandeming is a fantastic way to share a passion for a bicycling. It equalizes both riders, as each adds to the energy put into making the bike move in their own way and their own ability, even if there is one strong and one weak rider. Both get the chance to enjoy the ride.
As far as volunteering as a tandem ride marshal team, we can be very responsive, as one rider can handle the bike, and the other can handle both navigation and the radio to communicate with central, without stopping. We can also move quite fast when the need arises, and you never know what to expect with the variety of riders on the Four Star. Also, I am quite the bike mechanic and can usually change a flat in less than 4 minutes — and handle most simple repairs roadside.
What would you tell someone interested in volunteering with Active Trans?
That it's very rewarding to help bicyclists in need when they cannot handle repairs themselves. Also, everyone we have worked with in the volunteer group is very pleasant and takes their responsibilities seriously, while also having a fun time. That helps make the ride even better.
What is your favorite thing about using alternative transportation in Chicago?
We love taking both the train and bus in town to avoid the hassle of dealing with the car. I love running my local errands with my heavy and clunky city bike as I never have to worry where to park. As I don't have a regular place of work, I don't commute since my office is in my home. That certainly classifies for alternative transportation.
What is your first or your favorite bike memory?
Our first and funniest memory was before we bought our first tandem. I took Marge on a ride that should have been about 40 miles, but the road I wanted to take had been closed as part of the creation of a golf course. So, to go around, the mileage turned into a 60+ mile ride that Marge was not prepared for. So to help her along and forget the fatigue, I recited the entire story of Alice's Restaurant, in four part harmony. She laughed the rest of the way and we made it back to the start.
What do you do when you are not volunteering for Active Transportation Alliance?
Marge is presently retired and does a lot of volunteer work for a botanical garden in Michigan, sits on the board for the newly formed School of American Music in Three Oaks, Michigan, and works at an organic farm, as well. We are both avid gardeners, love to cook and try to source everything we eat as local as possible.
Ron is the owner of a French wine import company he founded in 1996. This follows a decade’s long career in biochemistry and biotechnology. So you might surmise that wine is an important part of our everyday life, as well as business.
Fun fact about yourselves
Ron: From New York City and moved to Chicago for a job in 1984; never left. Married Marge, a Chicago girl. Marge: Spent my entire career working for Wall Street in investments. Retirement is a wonderful time to spend more time bicycling, gardening and volunteering!
Thanks to Ron and Marge Spears for their photos included above.
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