An annual “Blessing of the Bikes” (or “Blessing of the Bicycles") has been held in the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine since 1999. The blessing is to promote bicycle safety for that year; there is also a moment of silence in remembrance of those who died in cycling accidents during the past year.
Baldwin, Michigan, had held a “Blessing of the Bikes” (motorcycles) since 1974. According to the blog Blessing of the Bikes—History, the bicycle traditional blessing followed this motorcycle tradition. Many other cities now hold similar bicycle blessings.
Wikipedia: Blessing of the Bikes
>i>The Blessing of the Bikes, also The Blessing of the Bicycles, is an annual tradition in which riders of motorcycles or bicycles are blessed by a priest in the hope that it will bring safety for the coming season. Many towns hold annual ceremonies to bless motorcycles at the start of the summer.
The first mass blessing of bicycles was held in 1999 at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City. Since its beginning the ceremony has been ostensibly non-denominational, focusing more on rider safety than religion. However, the service does include prayers and reading of biblical passages, and bicycles are sprinkled with holy water. A brief memorial service is held to acknowledge riders who have died in the previous year. The Blessing of the Bicycles is one of only three annual occasions—the others being Easter and the Feast of Saint Francis—on which the cathedral opens its 3-ton bronze portal to allow for larger crowds.
Blessing of the Bikes—History
There are several bicycle blessing events across the country; all wonderful, and none of them connected to each other, as far as I know. Here’s how THIS one came about:
A long time ago my nice Jewish mother mailed me a very small newspaper article about a motorcycle club in Connecticut that does a ride every year to a shrine for a Blessing of the Motorcycles. And like all good Jewish sons everywhere, I rolled my eyes when I saw yet another newspaper clip coming in from my MOM, threw it away, and promptly forgot all about it.
Years later the idea came back to me for some reason, and I decided to approach the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in NY, because it’s the most beautiful cathedral around in my opinion, and because it has a good reputation for being open-minded and for supporting the community.
So I made some phone calls and set up an appointment. I sat down with Herb Katz, the cathedral’s PR guy, and the The Rev. Canon Jay Wegman in one of the offices next to the cathedral.
After some pleasantries the Reverend asked me exactly I had in mind. I was VERY nervous—was I about to insult these two nice guys? I mumbled a lot until the Reverend finally said, “Would you like us to sprinkle Holy Water on the bikes?”
“CAN WE DO THAT?” This is exactly what I wanted, and exactly what I was scared to ask for. What do I know about the intricacies of the church? What if they were terribly offended?
“Sure,” said the Reverend.
glen @ bicycle shows. us
Google News Archive
20 May 1982, The Ledger (Lakeland, FL), pg. 18E, col. 1:
Holy spokes! Reverend blesses bikes
The Associated Press
Baldwin, Mich.—Some 2,500 motorcyclists gathered in this small com munity for the annual “ blessing of the bikes,” a rite of spring first held in 1974 with a crowd of about a dozen.
Riders roared in from Alabama, Indiana, Ohio and from all over Michigan on Sunday to have the Rev. Raymond Bruck bless their cycles.
New York (NY) Times
Blessing Wheels and the Spirit for Perilous Travels
By PAUL ZIELBAUER
Published: May 16, 1999
As the holy water, hurled by a white-robed church elder, fell upon their heads and on the handlebars of their 1962 Schwinn Twin tandem yesterday, Harris Silver and his wife, Roz Makarechi, exhaled and exchanged a relieved glance.
Such was the tone of the Blessing of the Bicycles inside the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine on the Upper West Side, where more than 100 cyclists gathered with their bikes to indemnify themselves from harm on New York’s inhospitable streets.
The 20-minute bike blessing was performed by the Very Rev. Harry H. Pritchett, who read from the book of Ezekiel and from Psalms, hurled holy water on cyclists—of both the neon Lycra and sweatpants-and-sneakers varieties—and administered a moment of silence to remember riders killed in accidents with motorists.
New York (NY) Times
Published: April 14, 2000
SECOND ANNUAL BLESSING OF THE BICYCLES. Cathedral of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue, at 112th Street, Morningside Heights. The Very Rev. Harry H. Pritchett Jr. will offer a blessing for a safe cycling season and sprinkle holy water on the bicycles. Tomorrow at 2 p.m. Free.
04/10/2010 03:48 PM
Bikes Receive Annual Blessings In Manhattan Cathedral
By: NY1 News
Hundreds of bikers brought their two-wheelers to be blessed at the 12th Annual Blessing of the Bicycles at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in Morningside Heights on Saturday.
The Reverend Canon Thomas Miller sprinkled holy water on the bicycles and offered a blessing for a safe season of riding.
A bagpiper also played as riderless bicycles were brought forward for a moment of silence in remembrance of cyclists who died in accidents this past year.
April 23, 2013 at 9:00 am
Cyclists Seek Help from on High at the Blessing of the Bicycles
The annual Blessing of the Bicycles is as much about community as it is about religion.
By Chris Dart• Photo by Martin Reis
Dozens of cyclists came to Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church in the Annex on Sunday hoping for a little divine protection.
The Blessing of the Bicycles, as the event is known, started fifteen years ago at New York City’s Cathedral of St. John of the Divine. Trinity-St. Paul’s picked up the tradition four years ago at the urging of Martin Reis, a cycling advocate and box-office manager for Tafelmusik, a baroque orchestra and choir that has its offices inside the church.