Cyclist asks church members to ride bikes to worship

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Linda and Rob Bollendorf, avid bicyclists, are the inspiration for St. Margaret Mary Parish’s third annual Bike/Walk to Church Weekend. | Submitted by Rob Bollendorf

Rob Bollendorf’s dream is for an empty church parking lot every Sunday morning. It’s not that he wants people to stay home from St. Margaret Mary Parish in Naperville — nothing could be further from the truth. The parishioner, however, is wishing that congregants would consider alternative and fuel-efficient modes of getting there.

Bollendorf is the inspiration behind the church’s third annual Bike/Walk to Church Weekend that will take place Saturday and Sunday.

“Our hope is that more people will see biking and walking as real options, not just for Bike/Walk to Church Weekend but all summer long,” said Tom Cordaro, justice/outreach minister for the church.

Bollendorf is an avid bicyclist who logs as many as 2,000 miles a year. After becoming involved with the Lisle Bike to Metra program, he read about a bike-to-church event in Florida.

“I thought that was a great idea. People often live within a couple of miles of their church,” he said.

Bollendorf suggested bringing the Bike to Church day to his parish. Members are encouraged to ride their bikes to Saturday evening and Sunday morning services. Mass will be indoors. Afterwards a blessing of the bikes will take place in the parking lot. Those who ride their bikes or walk will be rewarded with refreshments provided by Safari Café.

Cordaro recalled Bollendorf pitching his idea.

“We had already begun to do some environmental education events and activities for the parish, and Rob thought we could take an additional step in educating parishioners while making a difference for the environment,” Cordaro said. “The idea seemed like a natural fit with what we were trying to do, and with Rob’s encouragement and hard work, we made it happen.”

Bollendorf believes that biking to church is a great idea on several levels.

“First of all, it’s really wonderful exercise,” he said. “There’s a tremendous obesity problem in America, and we know we need to get people moving and exercising.”

Biking to church is also an excellent way to conserve energy and reduce pollution.

“Fifty percent of the trips that Americans take are within 3 miles. That is the most energy-consuming amount of travel,” he said. “I drive a hybrid, and for the first 2 or 3 miles, I get less than 20 miles per gallon, even though my car averages over 30.”

Consequently, he said, driving to church is likely more of a gas guzzler than people would assume.

“Riding the bike is just so much more peaceful,” Bollendorf said. “It seems that going to church and getting in touch with nature and the things that God has provided us is a wonderful way to prepare for what you’re about to experience inside the church.”

Cordaro agreed.

“It provides families with an activity they can do together that turns a normal 10-minute drive in the car into a 20-minute family biking adventure,” Cordaro added.

Bollendorf said he’s considered just about every plausible excuse for not participating in the riding to church event and most of them don’t hold up.

“A lot of people are concerned about looking their best in church. I don’t believe that God would care,” he said. Furthermore, “women have been biking for years in dresses and men in suits.”

In Europe, he added, this is commonplace. While some people say they haven’t ridden in years, he’s quick to point out that one never forgets how to ride a bike.

The goal is to ultimately change the general mindset of people in the community.

“People get so accustomed to walking out their front door and getting into the car,” Bollendorf said. “Americans don’t even think of the alternative. Things like this remind people that they don’t have to take their car everywhere they go.”