'Blessing of the Bicycles' Sends Angels to L.A. Bike Lanes
Water from the L.A. River, blessed and sprinkled freely by an Episcopal priest, blessed some 40 cyclists at Good Samaritan Hospital's 10th annual Blessing of the Bicycles Tuesday morning.
Rev. Jerry Anderson, a hospital chaplain, and Sr. Alice Marie, who founded the Meals on Wheels program at St. Vincent Medical Center more than 30 years ago, officiated. Bikers— most of them experienced, based on the prevalence of bike shorts and light-as-a-feather road bikes—joined them in a prayer, then rode past Anderson for a sprinkling of holy water.
Their goal? "The culture of the car is going to end now," said Paul Backstrom, planning deputy to Councilmember Bill Rosendhal. Rosendhal, who chairs the Council Transportation Committee, received this year's Golden Spoke award at the ceremony.
"There's no question that we've got a long way to go, but what a road we've travelled," Backstrom said, accepting the award on his behalf.
The first blessing took place ten years ago, sponsored by Good Samaritan Hospital. Past years have featured blessings from Buddhist monks, Rabbis, and Imams.
"In the last ten years, so much has happened," said Sammy Feuerlicht, a V.P. at Good Samaritan and ten-time blessed biker. "People thought, there's no way you can create safe bike lanes downtown. Look at Spring Street," he said.
The downtown corridor opened green-painted bike lanes in late 2011, and supplemented them with parklets in February. A recent New York DOT study found that bike lanes increased business activity by nearly 50 percent on streets like Spring.
"We're not just creating better conditions for cyclists, we're actually creating better communities," Feuerlicht said.
The blessing marks day two of Bike Week 2013, a Metro-organized celebration encouraging Angelenos to strap on helmets rather than seat belts. Yesterday was Fix Your Bike Day, and pro-bike organizations citywide sponsored workshops and demonstrations. Wednesday, guided rides depart from destinations citywide—including a seven-mile Ride of Silence for cyclists killed on the road.
Safety is still a huge concern for riders, and for good reason. 24 cyclists were killed in L.A. County in 2011. When Anderson asked attendees to pray for their loved ones killed or injured on bikes; three offered names. Still, according to L.A. County Bicycle Coalition data, ridership increased 32 percent from 2009 to 2011.
"The more people, the more safety, because it creates more awareness among motorists," Feuerlicht said. He bikes to work at least a few times a year, and this week, every day. And LADOT hopes to open 150 bike lanes over the course of this year.
But let's start this week. Try a guided ride tomorrow. Celebrate Bike to Work Day on Friday, and get free rides on most public transit when you carry your bike or helmet. This weekend, take your bike shopping and get discounts at these local businesses. And if you're nervous, bring a friend—and Sister Alice's prayer to your guardian angel:
Angel of God, my guardian dear,
to whom God's love commits me here,
ever this day be at my side
to light and guard and rule and guide.
This post is part of the GOOD community's 50 Building Blocks of Citizenship—weekly steps to being an active, engaged global citizen. This week: Try Biking to Work. Follow along and join the conversation at good.is/citizenship and on Twitter at #goodcitizen.