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5_12_09_rev_jerry.jpgA multi-faith approach to bike blessings

This morning Good Samaritan Hospital held one of the most popular events of Bike to Work Week, the Blessing of the Bicycles.  This marks the sixth year that Good Sam's has held this event to celebrate cycling, mourn the cyclists lost since last year's blessing and bring together some communities that don't often interact, communities of faith and the cycling community, at least once a year.  The event was co-sponsored by the LADOT, Los Angeles County Bike Coalition, Metro, REI and the Bike Kitchen.

The Chair of Good Samaritan's Board of Directors, Andrew Leeka served as master of ceremonies for the event and invited up a slew of speakers including Officer Gordon Helper, the head bike cop for the Olympic Division, "Junior and Armando" from John Liecthy Middle School, the officiants for this morning's ceremony and Carlos Morales from the East Side Bike Club.

Before introducing the speakers, Leeka handed out the Hospital's second "Golden Spoke" award for "innovation, commitment and contribution towards promoting bicycle safety throughout Los Angeles" to Councilman Tom LaBonge.  Leeka noted that LaBonge is an avid cyclist himself, has traveled through various European Citites by bike, and organizes "Tour LaBonge" every summer to promote safe cycling.

However, LaBonge has drawn fire for some of the positions he takes on cycling, including his support for licensing cyclists and for the bike ban at the Griffith Park Festival of Lights.  Let's hope LaBonge looks at this award as a challenge to become the cycling champion we need in the City Council over the next year and beyond.  A good place to start would be tomorrow's Transportation Committee Meeting.  For example, he could call for the release of the city's Bike Master Plan.  For first time Streetsblog readers, the city is eight months behind schedule for public release of the draft BMP for public review.

The blessing itself was done by the Reverend Jerry Anderson and Rabbi Ramin Sadeghi.  Sister Marie Quinn from the Daughters of Charity and the Venerable Suhita Dharma from the Dieu Phap Temple were scheduled to join the blessing but didn't make it.  After the prayer blessings, the cyclists were led in a brief ride around the block to remember those cyclists that were lost in the past year.  Since this was an "official city event," the ride included intersections corked by the LAPD.

For me personally, the highlight of the presentation was the speech given by Carlos Morales.  Morales spoke movingly about how cycling saved his life through exercise and the power and compassion shown by the cycling community at the Ghost Bike ceremony a couple of weeks ago.  Morales is also the publisher of The Voice Newspapers, which regularly covers cycling issues in East L.A., including the death and memorial for Jesus Castillo.

(As I write this I'm sitting next to the writers for Blogdowntown at a Starbucks a couple of blocks from the Blessing site.  So, if you want more coverage, head over to that site or for more images check out Streetsblog's Flickr feed.)

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