Bicycles can go faster than the average speed of cars in congested downtown areas, and their popularity and movement to advance them is growing around the United States. Andlike the days of yore when clergy blessed the nautical fleet, cities are now holding 'Blessing of the Bicycle' events to enhance divine protection for urban cyclists. Living on Earth’s Ingrid Lobet reports from the recent Los Angeles gathering.
GELLERMAN: Bicycle ridership is booming across the country - and no wonder. Bikes are a fast, pollution-free way to get around and a fabulous way to get exercise. For many, bikes are heaven sent, but safety is a concern, so they’re looking to a higher power than legs and gears can provide. Living on Earth’s Ingrid Lobet has this from the eighth annual Blessing of the Bicycles in Los Angeles.
[SOUND OF BLESSING OF THE BIKES GATHERING]
LOBET: Despite unseasonable cold and rain and the fact that it was eight o’clock in the morning before a school day, a handful of kids mixed among the older bike riders as the clergy assembled. The Venerable Suhita Dharma had a particularly Buddhist message ready for the youngest riders.
VENERABLE SUHITA DHARMA: When you’re riding your bikes, mindfulness and awareness is the key. Don’t try to do too many tricks on your bikes in the public roads. I do see you do it sometimes. And if this keeps up, I am going call the Kung Fu Panda to come and talk to you.
LOBET: One middle schooler who heard the message had already had a serious brush with cars.
DENNIS ESPAÑA: I was on Olympic and Alvarado crossing Alvarado and the car was going on Olympic and as soon as I was crossing the street, it hit me - it dragged me to the middle of the street. (Crowd reacts). And like I had to pick up my bike and walk across the street and the lady tried to run away but my friends chased them on the bike. (Applause and laughter).
LOBET: Urban riders everywhere are vulnerable - part of the reason the bicycle blessing event in Los Angeles is held in front of a hospital. A reason riders look for all the help they can get.
BRUNO: Keep safe our brothers and sisters who ride these bicycles.
LOBET: Episcopal Bishop Joseph Jon Bruno presided, followed by Khaled Ibdah representing Islam.
BISHOP J. JON BRUNO: Protect us dear God and protect all these people who are trying to improve the environment in which we live.
KHALED IBDAH: (in Arabic first) In the name of God, most gracious, most merciful, may God bless our bikes, our riders, and help us make Earth a cleaner and safer place for all. (Applause).
MAN’S VOICE: With that, Bishop, we’ll start the blessing.
LOBET: And so the riders - in sweats, suits, spandex or bicycle police blue - lined up and rode past the Bishop to receive their actual blessing.
BISHOP J. JON BRUNO: Come on guys! May you have no more crashes and be blessed.
Be blessed in the name of God, creator, redeemer, and sustainer. Amen. God is blessing you and your bike for safety in travel. God bless you in the name of God, creator, redeemer, and sustainer…
LOBET: That much more protected, they headed off to work and schooldays into morning traffic on Wilshire Boulevard. For Living on Earth, I’m Ingrid Lobet in Los Angeles.
[SOUND OF PEOPLE MILLING, BLESSING OF THE BICYCLES, MUSIC]
GELLERMAN: You can see a slide show of the Blessing of the Bicycles at our website, L-O-E dot org. And while you're tooling around online, check out our sister program, Planet Harmony. Planet Harmony welcomes all and pays special attention to stories affecting communities of color. Log on and join the discussion at my planet harmony dot com.
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