Pumping Past Gas Prices

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Lately, it’s almost painful to fill up a car with a tank of gas. But rising gas prices don’t have to hurt.  Several years ago, one very energetic woman replaced pumping gas with pumping pedals. As Reed Galin reports, there’s no pain…and lots to gain.

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(Locator: Pasadena, CA)

As the rest of the nation feels the sting of high gas prices, she pedals right on by.

Bishop Mary Ann Swenson/United Methodist Church, Los Angeles Area: “30 years or so, I’ve been riding my bicycle to work.”

Mary Ann Swenson is the “bicycling bishop” – top executive of the United Methodist Church in the Los Angeles area.

On phone: “Hello, this is Mary Ann Swenson…”

And an avid cyclist.

Bishop Mary Ann Swenson:  “I see the world differently from how you would see the world on the freeway. I see the communities, I see where people live, I see how people live. I see what life is like in the neighborhoods where the people live that I serve.”

She doesn’t even own a car…doesn’t have a clue what it costs to fill up a tank of gas.

Bishop Mary Ann Swenson:  “Most of the time I don’t even notice gas stations. I have begun to look for gas stations as a place to get a bottle of water.”

Swenson’s husband, Jeff, often rides tandem with her. They pedal nearly everywhere they go. She’s been known to pedal a hundred miles to deliver a sermon.

Bishop Mary Ann Swenson:  “Sometimes people worry about me. I have had a pastor who said, ‘Oh I don’t think you should ride your bicycle in my community.  We’ll send somebody to pick you up and give you a ride.’”

But fear has never been a factor – because this is how the bishop fills up her tank, so to speak.

Bishop Mary Ann Swenson:  “I pray when I pedal. It’s my time to be in prayer, to experience God’s creation. The amazing thing is that something interesting and unusual happens all the time.”

For Bishop Swenson, life’s a gas…and it doesn’t cost her a cent at the pump.


The bishop and her husband have even attended formal events on their bike, arriving completely outfitted in tuxedo and evening gown.

For more information contact: The California-Pacific Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.