Thursday, July 8, 2010


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

wasn’t kosher.

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

ground. Nothing

is owed

the infidel.


notice how




importance on

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 have argued that the number of

No comments: