(New York) Lined up with their bikes in the nave of the Anglican Cathedral in New York, harnessed like professional cyclists or simple walkers, hundreds of followers of the little queen were “blessed” on Saturday during an age-old ritual. 25 years old, supposed to protect them from accidents in the city.

“Let the paths come your way. May the wind always be at your back. May your journeys always be joyful. May the Lord protect you and your bikes in the palm of his hand,” proclaimed the Reverend Patrick Malloy, dean of the Episcopalian Cathedral of St. John the Theologian in northwest Manhattan, one of the largest churches in the world.

Greeting a particularly large crowd this year, after the COVID-19 pandemic, the Reverend Malloy crossed the entire nave, sprinkling holy water on his faithful on bicycles, after reading an extract from the Gospel and delivering a homily.

“Nothing will happen to your bike today […] May the God of the Universe be with you and be with you always,” assured the senior Protestant dignitary of the Episcopalian Church, a branch of Anglicanism in the United States. UNITED STATES.

Reverend Malloy even mentioned with a word the coronation of King Charles III a few hours earlier in London.

Once “blessed”, the cyclists applauded and rang their bells, then toured the nave and transept of this neo-Gothic building from the end of the 19th century, copied from the architecture of French cathedrals, and whose last works date from the 1990s.

Open to all cults and non-believers alike, “The Blessing of the Bikes” has existed for 25 years at this Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, which sits in the breezy Morningside Heights neighborhood known for being home to Columbia University.

This religious, community, and ecumenical ritual—typical of the unique multicultural mosaic that is New York City—has gained momentum as cycling and bicycling, a “soft” sport and mode of transportation, have developed in the American cities and their residential and green suburbs.

As in Europe, cycling is encouraged by the Democratic municipal authorities of New York, for environmental and public health reasons.

But the city of 8.5 million souls, sprawling and chaotic, urban monster and kingdom of cars and trucks, is ultra dangerous for bikes and scooters. Its cycle paths are too few and poorly protected.

According to the New York Department of Transportation, 17 people died on bicycles in 2022 in the five boroughs of the city and, during the ceremony on Saturday, worshipers listed the names of 13 killed already this year in the streets.

They also remembered the 132 pedestrians killed in city crashes last year.

“It’s so dangerous to be a cyclist in New York!” “, reacted to AFP, at the exit of the church, Allison Considine, environmental activist of 28 years.

The young woman also denounced, especially since the end of the pandemic, the “number of motorists who drive more aggressively, faster and really dangerous”.

She even accused “the mayor (of New York City, Eric Adams), the governor (of New York State, Kathy Hochul) of having blood on their hands” when “they are supposed to ensure our safety” through “protected bike lanes” or “opening streets” to bikes only.

Precisely, on Sunday, the five boroughs of the megalopolis (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and Staten Island) will be for a day reserved only for 32,000 “cyclists of all levels and from all over the world in streets completely without cars”, according to a press release from the Five Boro Bike Tour, a sporting and charitable event celebrating its 45th anniversary this year.