I used to have trouble understanding
the often-manic behavior of Portland
bicyclists, but lately my eyes have been
opened. Bikes here are not merely a mode
of transportation; they’re a religion.
I should have picked up the clue three
years ago when they began an annual
Blessing of the Bikes ceremony at St.
Mary’s Cathedral. I thought it was cute,
so I ran a picture in the paper. I may have
badly underestimated the situation. All I
can say is, from about that time onward,
the Portland Church of the All Mighty
Bicycle has been gaining adherents at
every turn, and I don’t think they’re all
The converts love to
ride bikes down steep
mountain trails at high speed
on Sunday mornings. Forest
Park, it seems, is something
like their church. They come
out all black and muddy but smiling
nevertheless. It’s almost as if
they’ve just been baptized.
It makes sense that, if the park is
sacred ground, they would want to
liberate it for the work of their lord.
That’s why they plot and congregate in
great numbers in hopes that one fine day
they can ride all over the park on paths
paved with mud.
They are willing to sacrifice for their
cause. Last year, one of the faithful offered
$500 if 100 cyclists would join the Forest
Park Conservancy, the organization trying
to preserve the park and the wildlife in it
for secular purposes. The plan was apparently
to get so many bike advocates on the
organization’s rolls that they could turn its
policies toward their righteous mission.
I know members of the Portland
Bicycle Church thought this was pretty
clever and nothing to be ashamed of, but
true believers have a way of being insensitive
to the complaints of the unconverted.
If, however, members of the Forest Park
Conservancy had launched a campaign to
take over the leadership of their church,
they would figure out in a minute that it
Religious zealots sometimes say things
that make no sense to the nonbelievers.
Sobicyclists using the park would multiply
if more trails and facilities were built for
them, as if all would see that as an unalloyed
blessing. They have equated more
bicycle commuters with fewer cars on our
streets, less petroleum consumption and
fewer greenhouse gases. Amen to that, but
in their evangelistic fervor, they assume
that more bike riding anywhere—even in
a fragile, over-used wilderness park—is
a benefit to all. When you’re holier than
thou, you assume your excrement doesn’t
stink, I guess.
Bicycle zealots adhere to a higher law
than mere ordinances of the city or state.
A Northwest District Association board
member, not knowing this, questioned
a cyclist for riding recklessly
through a sidewalk
café last month. The rider
slugged him in the
face, knocking his
glasses to the
slight differences in doctrine? The current
target of their rage is people who deign to
ride bicycles boosted by electric motors.
Would be better for these people to have
millstones tied around their necks and be
cast into the sea (or perhaps to be driving
Hummers) than to be corrupted by
electric power. They’re called cheaters and
are scorned for riding in bike lanes. They
are not true believers in the one and only,
true, holy, sanctified church of the bicycle,
and they must be shunned.
If you’ve ever been flipped off, sworn at
or physically attacked by a bicyclist who
didn’t like the way you drive or walk on
the sidewalk, keep in mind that these are
not ordinary people. They live on another
plane. They believe that danger, disdain
and ridicule may follow them all their
days on the earth, but one day they will sit
in glory at the right handlebar of God.me have argued that the number of