There Are No Atheists or Agnostics In The ‘Urban Cycling Movement’

Background Reading


An interesting exchange occurred on the ChainLink today. In my estimation the “adults” were the winners. It went this way:

The Blessing of the Bicycles & Bicyclists May 12, 2013
Posted by David Barish on May 12, 2013 at 12:28pm

A special service will include a procession of the animals for blessing by Senior Minister Stephen Bauman and Senior Rabbi Peter J. Rubinstein and music by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy

A special service will include a procession of the animals for blessing by Senior Minister Stephen Bauman and Senior Rabbi Peter J. Rubinstein and music by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus Academy

Present in a world groaning under the excesses of consumption, we give thanks for the simple beauty of the bicycle. God of Life, hear our prayer.

Present in a community with bicyclists of all ages, Keep them smart, safe, and visible on their neighborhood streets. God of Life, hear our prayer.

Present in a global workforce of making things, we give thanks for those who build, repair and clean our bicycles, and who rely on bicycles to earn their living. Bless those who choose not to drive to work and those for whom driving isn’t even an option. God of Life, hear our prayer.

Present in diverse and beautiful communities, we ask for Your protection and blessing on all who ride. God of Life, hear our prayer.

We now observe a moment of silence for all who have perished while riding…

We also ask You to provide consolation and foregiveness to motorists who may have unwittingly caused the injury or death of a bicyclist. God of Life, hear our prayer.

The verses above were from the Blessing of the Bicycles & Bicyclists at St. Luke’s Church on Mother’s Day, May 12, 2013. I led a group of eight riders from Evanston Bicycle Club to St. Lukes for the blessing. Our group was of mixed religious backgrounds, some Episcopal (as is St. Lukes), some Catholic, some Jewish and some non-affiliated. We were all touched not only by the blessing but the entire service at this beautiful church on a residential street in Evanston. The clergy and the flock were open, welcoming and inspiring. We came up to the church on our bikes after the service had started. We expected to lock up outside. Volunteers guided us into the church where our bikes were hung from the seat on racks in an area in the front of the pews. About 40-bikes of all sizes, vintages and states of repair were there when we arrived. Shortly before the communion two ghost bikes, one an adult bike and one a children’s bike were brought up to the front where the blessings were given. I do not know if they represented specific riders or if they were more general symbols of those lost on the road.

I will admit I was not entirely looking forward to this ride. I had scheduled it after an exchange of e-mail with Elizabeth Adamczyk of the Ride of Silence. We had the idea of bringing Evanston and Chicago riders together to ride to the Blessing. I posted the ride on Evanston Bike Club’s board and Elizabeth soon realized that Mother’s Day was not a good day for her to ride. She and I had a laugh over this the other day at the ROS event at Heritage General Store. I figured I had already scheduled the ride and would not take it down. However, I had an open Sunday and was half craving a longer, faster, more challenging ride. This was essentially a preview of the Evanston ROS and was only 11 miles at a casual pace. I didn’t know if anybody would show up. I had done about 10 miles before getting to the start and figured I could ride wherever I wanted if nobody showed up.

I found club members waiting for the start of the ride and my mood brightened. We had a nice easy ride to the church. Within minutes of our arrival we were all very happy that we had made the commitment to do this ride and felt the spiritual uplift these kinds of things bring regardless of our affiliation or inherent sense of cynicism.

I have also found that today’s ride and the blessing have me in a good frame of mind as the Ride of Silence approaches. I hope all had a good, and safe, ride today.

What is interesting is the set of responses that emanated from this thread:

Reply by Zoetrope on Sunday

Clearly his or her mother never taught them the rule about “saying nothing if you cannot say something nice“. But the world is full of jerks and they love to hide behind internet firewalls.

Reply by Anne Alt yesterday
Very cool. I liked St. Luke’s back in the day. Thanks for posting this.

Reply by mike w. yesterday
Thank you for posting this. Wish more congregations would do this sort of thing.

i also wish to apologise on behalf of any fellow agnostics who might feel a necessity to make snarky comments. i hope that they will be grown up enough to show more respect and keep such comments to themselves.

Reply by Chicago Ride of Silence 2 hours ago
Great post. I hope a place of worship in Chicago adopts this practice … maybe next year?

Reply by Serge Lubomudrov 1 hour ago
Preemptive apology. Interesting.
Probably because I’m an atheist, not an “agnostic,” but I didn’t even want to answer to this until I saw your comment.

Serge is trying to “bridge the gap” between himself and someone else who has taken the time to offer up some graciousness in a world sadly in need of more.

Reply by Adam Herstein (5.5 mi) 1 hour ago
God doesn’t keep cyclists safe, good infrastructure does.
And I’m sorry, but a person who kills a cyclist with their car through their own negligence doesn’t deserve forgiveness, from your God nor anyone else.
My bike doesn’t need to be blessed, thank you very much.

One truly wishes that Adamwhiner-in-chief” for this site would have shied away from having said this, but there it is. This first sentence is a religious statement whether he realizes it or not. It is a statement of faith as clearly enunciated as the Apostle’s Creed. None of these folks who claim to be either agnostics or atheists is without some sense of religion. What they reject is the variation on certainty that their least favorite Church offers. And instead they have taken up the cause of the Urban Church of Cycling and cloaked themselves in the teachings of its High Priest. For these folks a brick and mortar structure or even the Holy of Holies has been supplanted by “good infrastructure“, whatever that is supposed to mean.

Reply by Zoetrope 1 hour ago
Now that the real snarkiness has arrived (which I actually refrained from in my initial post), I don’t feel so bad for “hurting” someone’s feelings here. If I may, I think one reason atheists or agnostics get so frustrated sometimes with things like this is because the way the whole God thing is thrown around as fact, when it is merely faith, at best. It can be insulting when you are exposed to it often. If you’re going to talk about religion at all these days (which some people refrain from all together because they know what can ensue) you have to expect some blow back.
Don’t mean to harass the OP or molest anyone else’s fragile psyche or anything, but if I can speak from experience and maybe for other atheists or agnostics while we’re at it, I think we’re well past the point of Christianity or organized religion in general being the sacred cow that must not ever be questioned. Aren’t we all adults here?

Once again we have a person working behind the scenes at the ChainLink to pull the strings of the caricatures he has created to argue various positions. Today he has rolled out Zoetrope, and Adam Herstein to be his voice. What he fails to do sometimes is leave enough “real time” between voicings to make it seem as if there is actually more than one human speaking. Some days he does better than others.

Reply by Anne Alt 1 hour ago
Sometimes it’s not about questioning religion or treating it as a sacred cow. I’m not a church person. I just appreciate the essential kindness of what was offered at St. Luke’s.

If you don’t want your bike blessed, that’s your free choice.

Reply by Zoetrope 1 hour ago
You’re right, it is a kind thing to offer and I don’t question that the blessing was offered in good intentions. But that is the point that I think Adam was getting at. If we had to to choose between a helmet/safe riding practices/non-aggressive motorists and prayer, I know what I’d be counting on to keep me safe.

Once again a “profession of faith” from someone who believes himself to be above religious beliefs.

Reply by David Barish 1 hour ago
Adam, understood. Faith is a whole other matter for another forum and another thread. I believe that all who have faith or reject it have sincere beliefs that deserve respect. Setting that aside, I chose to lead the ride because I thought it would be a good lead to the Ride of Silence and thought that any group that wanted to promote cycling safety is doing the right thing. Reading the prayer above it is clear that the host church was aware of the conduct of actors on the roads being a primary issue at the same time they asked for God’s blessing. I certainly understand your comment that your bike does not need to be blessed. I have posted often on this forum that the most important thing is what I do, how I act, how aware I am. to Paraphrase Smokey the Bear, “Only you can prevent accidents.” I don’t look for anybody’s protection including a deity. That being said, all my riders were struck by the genuine sense of caring and spirit in the building this past Sunday.

I do take exception with two of your comments. 1) Although I love the pithy retort about good infrastructure (I’m a sucker for a good phrase), you have omitted aware drivers, alert cyclists, weather, luck etc. There are a host of factors out there. No doubt good infrastructure helps make roads safe but there are a host of other significant factors. 2)Although I will agree that transgressors should be prosecuted and sued (after all I am an attorney who represents injured people) I cannot accept your comment that a person does not deserve forgiveness from God or anybody else. A person who opens a door, misses a light etc, is wrong, but is not damned to Cyclist’s Hell. That person made a horrible mistake and should pay for it but not with his/her soul. None of us are perfect. We have all done some haairbrained thing in our life if not in the past five minutes. We usually live to talk about it. Every once in a while bad things ensue. I hate to put a deity into a phrase but “there but for the grace of God go I” seems very appropriate here. Did you ever say to yourself, “Crap, I just blew through that light” or “I never saw that guy.”I want that person to go to jail or pay compensation. However, that human being still deserves forgiveness.

On the Evanston Ride of Silence tomorrow we will ride by a site where a 21 year old woman killed a boy who had his bike on a sidewalk. She has been convicted of a crime. She was intoxicated at the time and deserves all she got. However, we have long grown from (sorry to use another religious term) “an eye for an eye.” This young woman may have a chance to do something with her life. She is already forever haunted unless she is one of the truly evil. I will not ride by that location thinking ill of her. I will ride by feeling compassion for the family of the poor boy who was killed.

I disagree with Dave Barish in this instance. There is no other place to discuss religion than on the ChainLink Forum. The Urban Cycling Movement is in itself a religion. Its message is Social Engineering and its current High Priest is Mikael Colville-Andersen. Its God is Money. If there are no funds to be spent on creating the basic cycling infrastructure then little else matters.

Reply by Anne Alt 49 minutes ago
Well said, Dave. Thank you.

Like many Hard Right Evangelicals and Catholics, Adam has decided that those who decided that people who kill with their cars are as far beyond redemption as homosexuals who want to be married and or raise a family. I wonder if he understands the strong resemblance to that position in his own mind?

Reply by Lisa Curcio 4.0 mi 1 hour ago
The original post was intended to convey a satisfaction with the sense of caring conveyed by St. Luke’s when David actually expected to not enjoy the experience. No one suggested going to get a bike blessed in order for this to happen. One does not need to be religious to care–I have the sense that Serge cares about others although he is an atheist. There was no choice to be made between having one’s bike blessed or having infrastructure. Really, sometimes members of this community seem to make comments for the sake of seeing one’s name on a post. Why else turn this into a fight about anything?

Most of what passes as discussion on the ChainLink Forum is on the same level as a Westboro Church demonstration at a funeral for a veteran. Adam and Zoetrope might as well be shouting “God hates fags” as trying to convey their sense of outrage at someone posting a prayer. I’ll end the discussion here. There really is nothing further to delve into.

The ChainLink Forum would be wise to consider changing its name to the Westboro East Bicycle Church Forum. That would probably be more accurate. And while they are at it please, please kill the duplicate registrations and attempts at steering a conversation by having different voicings from the same individual. It gets tiresome. I realize he is paying for most of the cost of running this site, but really, it is necessary to be so domineering?