The Dean of the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Theological in Northwest Manhattan, Rev. Patrick Malloy, addressed the cyclists gathered in this church, which is considered one of the largest in the world, saying, “May the paths be open before you, may the air always be behind you, and may your rides always be a joy. May God bless you and your bikes.”
Hundreds of cyclists, both professional and amateur, lined up in the nave of the Anglican Cathedral in New York on Saturday to receive the “blessing” that is supposed to secure them protection from accidents, a tradition that began 25 years ago.
The Dean of the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Theological in Northwest Manhattan, Rev. Patrick Malloy, addressed the riders gathered in this church, which is considered one of the largest in the world, saying: “May the paths be open before you, may the air always be behind you, and may your rides always be a joy. May God protect you and your bikes.”
And after Reverend Malloy read a chapter from the Bible and delivered a sermon, he moved around the nave of the church, sprinkling holy water on the riders, whose number this year exceeded the usual attendance, given that the occasion comes after the Covid pandemic.
“May the Lord be with you”
“Nothing will happen to your bike today, may the God of the universe always be with you,” added the Protestant priest in charge of the Episcopal Church, a branch of Anglicanism in the United States.
Immediately after receiving the “blessing”, the riders clapped and rang the bells of their bikes, then they toured the nave and transept of the church, which was built at the end of the nineteenth century according to the architecture of French cathedrals, and the last construction work in which dates back to the nineties.
The “Blessing of Bicycles” tradition has been held for 25 years at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Theologian in Morningside Heights, where Columbia University is located, and participation in it is open to cyclists of all denominations and non-believers.
These religious, community and ecumenical rituals that reflect New York’s unique multiculturalism are gaining increasing attention with the expansion of bicycles as a “soft” sport and means of transportation in American cities and their residential and green suburbs.
Encourage the use of bicycles
As is the case in Europe, the municipal authorities in New York are keen to encourage cycling for environmental and public health reasons. But there are many dangers for cyclists and scooters in the sprawling city of 8.5 million, crowded with cars and trucks, especially since there are very few bike lanes and often not enough protection.
New York Transportation Authority statistics showed that 17 people spent the year 2022 in the city’s five neighborhoods while using bicycles. In the blessing ceremony on Saturday, the worshipers mentioned the names of 13 killed this year on their bikes in the streets of the city.
They also prayed for the comfort of the souls of 132 infantrymen who died in accidents in the city last year.
“It’s very dangerous to ride a bicycle in New York!” environmental activist Alison Considine, 28, told AFP as she left the church. The young woman noticed an increase in “the number of drivers who drive their cars in a more aggressive, fast and dangerous way”, especially since the end of the pandemic.
She even considered that New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York State Governor Kathy Hochul had “blood on their hands” as they were “supposed to ensure our safety” with “protected bike paths” or “open streets” exclusively for bikes.
New York’s five boroughs – Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island – Sunday will be a one-day event for 32,000 “cyclists of all levels and from all over the world” and its streets will be “completely car-free,” according to a statement from the Five Borough Bike Tour. It is a sporting and charitable activity that is being held this year for the forty-fifth time.