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Hundreds of cyclists received blessings from Rev. Jerry Anderson, chaplain at Good Samaritan Hospital, during the annual “Blessing of the Bicycles” event held at the hospital on Tuesday.
The event was part of Los Angeles Bike Week, which features activities designed to encourage people to use bicycles for transportation. The Blessing of the Bicycles has been held since 2004, and the event gets more popular each year, according to Andy Leeka, president and CEO for Good Samaritan Hospital.
“Our purpose is to create a safe environment where everyone can enjoy the fun of bicycling,” said Leeka, and avid cyclist. “It’s a collaborative event, and the goal is to get as many people as possible to ride their bikes.”
Jeremy Stacy, environmental services director for Good Samaritan Hospital, said he rides his bike to work from Pasadena three times a week, and added that there are numerous benefits, including stress reduction and exercise.
“I’ve been doing it for about a year. It is about fifteen miles and it takes about an hour, but you don’t have to worry about the stress of sitting in traffic and it is a lot of fun,” Stacy said. “When you bike to work, you have already made a significant accomplishment before you even walk through the door. You feel like you can accomplish anything.”
Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge, 4th District, also rode a bicycle to the Blessing of the Bicycles, and said he is strongly encourages bicycle riding as alternative transportation.
“Bike Week is important because it encourage people to bicycle and it takes people out of their cars,” LaBonge said. “It’s a great way to reduce traffic congestion, and it is good for your health.”
Both the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation are participating in Los Angeles Bike Week by providing incentives for people to ride. Thursday, May 20 is “Bike to Work Day”, and Metro is offering free rides on all busses, trains and subway lines for people with bicycles or bicycle helmets. Riders can bring their bikes on the trains or subways and can place their bicycles on racks on the front of busses. There is an exception on the Red Line/Purple Line between Union Station and Wilshire/Vermont station during rush hours from 6:30 to 8:30am and 4:30 to 6:30pm, when bicycles will not be permitted.
In addition, the LADOT is offering free rides on DASH buses and the Commuter Express lines for anyone with a bike or helmet. The Commuter Express buses can accommodate two bikes, but DASH buses can only hold folding bikes, so the idea is for cyclists to leave their bikes at one location, and use the DASH line to connect to their final destinations. Chris Kidd, who writes a blog for the LADOT’s Bike Program, said bicycle commuting is growing in popularity. Kidd added that Friday, May 21 is “Bike to School Day”, and the LADOT is working with the Los Angeles Unified School District to encourage students to use bicycles for transportation.
“Cycling is growing as a culture, and it is growing as a mode of transportation,” Kidd said. “As the city grows, it become more important to get more bicycles on the road. There is no reason for L.A. not to be a great bicycling city, but there is still a lot of work to do, and Los Angeles Bike Week is raising the profile of bicycling.”
Jose Ubaldo, a senior communications officer for Metro, said the agency is offering more than just free rides to cyclists on May 20. There will be more than 60 “pit stops” set up throughout the city for cyclists to get refreshments and bicycling information.
“Our number one goal is to reduce traffic congestion and improve the quality of our air,” Ubaldo said. “People will be healthier too because they are doing exercise.”
For information and a list of pit stop locations, call (213)922-2811, or visit www.metro.net/biketowork.
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