Housing Complex

The Bad Precedent of Bike-Lane NIMBYism

The Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, the parking garage next door, and the space where the cycletrack would have gone.

The Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, the parking garage next door, and the street where the cycletrack would have gone.

The next big thing in D.C. bike lanes just got a little bit smaller. Amid opposition from a local church, which didn't want to lose its curbside parking spaces, the planned M Street cycletrack will lose a block of its protected bike lane, as first reported today by Martin Di Caro.

The plan had been for the cycletrack to be separated from auto traffic by bollards between 14th and 28th streets NW, as on the companion L Street cycletrack. (L Street runs eastbound, M Street westbound.) Now, District Department of Transportation spokesman Reggie Sanders says he believes the bike traffic will simply merge with car traffic for the block of M Street between 15th and 16th streets.

"We’re trying to achieve a win-win between the biking community and the people who attend the church there," says Sanders, referring to the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church. "The church has been around of a long time. There are a lot of people who are elderly, who, you know, it helps them to park in front of the church."

"I think we’re talking about more than holding onto parking spaces," says Rev. Ronald Braxton of his church's opposition to the cycletrack. "We also talked about the flow of traffic, the speed of traffic. We talked about pedestrian safety, reducing the lanes of travel. We talked about the narrowness of the street itself."

The elimination of the protected bike lane on that block is problematic for two reasons. First, undermines the purpose of the cycletrack. DDOT has found in surveys that many people who don't bike avoid it because they don't feel safe. Protected bike lanes reduce the chance of a collision with a car—and, just as important, reduce the perception of danger. The more people bike, the more aware drivers will be, and the safer biking becomes for everyone. Lots of people use the L Street cycletrack to get to work downtown from Dupont or Adams Morgan or Woodley Park. But in the absence of the M Street cycletrack, they lack a protected bike lane to take them home. Cutting out a piece of the protected lane effectively eliminates it for people who don't feel safe biking on busy downtown roads without a physical separation from cars.

We're also only talking about a small number of curbside parking spaces across the street from the church. According to Braxton, the church already pays $60,000 a year to park in two nearby garages. Surely, the loss of a handful of street parking spaces wouldn't get in the way of Sunday mass—particularly when there's a parking garage right next door to the church.

But more than the practical drawbacks of the loss of the stretch of cycletrack, it sets a terrible precedent. If every business owner who fears an inconvenience to his customers, and every homeowner who worries her guests will have a hard time parking, gets to veto a stretch of cycletrack in favor of preserving curbside parking, the city won't get a very effective network of cycletracks. And with bike commuting on the rise, that means a more inconvenient and dangerous ride for hundreds or thousands of people.

"When slaves built our church, they were not thinking about bike lanes," said one churchgoer at a neighborhood meeting on the cycletrack, according to the WashCycle blog. Assuredly so. But neither were the shopowners who set up downtown in the past few decades, or companies that moved to downtown D.C., or the developers who erected the office buildings. That shouldn't mean that each of them gets to nix a stretch of bike lane that they perceive as inconvenient, at the expense of the city's transportation plans.

Clarification: Apparently my line about this being "a small number of curbside parking spaces across the street from the church" has confused some readers. Allow me to clarify: This is a small number of curbside parking spaces across the street from the church. Not on the same side.

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  • DC Guy

    Fail.

  • Eric

    This is absolutely terrible precedent. Aaron, how can we respond? How can a church win a private meeting with DDOT managers without opening it to public appeal?

  • NE John

    Those god-freak bastards don't even pay taxes for OUR roads!

  • glebe

    Maybe the lane can be for bikes only (no moving vehicles) and parking only allowed on Sunday? Traffic should be light on Sundays.

  • tntdc

    Outrageous.

    I live next to the 15th St cycle track and we didn't worry about losing a very few parking spots (although we did express concern for and got left-turn signals for bikers' safety).

    And we live here.

  • not telling

    "we're talking about the narrowness of the street itself'...?!?!?!

    What is the church wanting DDOT to do? Tear down all of the commercial office buildings and put up a parking lot for the exclusive use of the church?? They really are getting a big head now.

    "We're also only talking about a small number of curbside parking spaces across the street from the church. "

    Plus all of the roadway on which the church double parks its parishoners cars on Sundays. If the church wants a concession from DDOT and cyclists, it needs to belly up to the bar and stop breaking the parking laws already on the books.

  • Corky

    Fuck you damn bikers! The world does not revolve around you. How is this church supposed to have funerals with a freakin bike lane in front of it? For you morons who don't know, funerals often take place during the week and this church and churches all over town get temporary no parking zones in front of the church set up for the hearse and other mourners. This church functions every day, not just on Sunday morning. How would you feel if a your loved one's funeral was interrupted by some dickhead on a bike? It's not as if these silly bikers aren't riding on the sidewalks anyway, even with the bike lanes!

  • DC Guy

    Bikes are not allowed to operate on sidewalks in that part of town.

    Maybe the solution is to put temporary bollard up that DDOT can remove when notified of an event (such as a funeral) byt the church.

    There are always solutions, but what is currently on the table is not appropriate.

  • Actually

    Much ado about not much.

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  • ACyclistInTheSuburbs

    "Maybe the solution is to put temporary bollard up that DDOT can remove when notified of an event (such as a funeral) byt the church."

    That would work, if this were really about funerals.

    A. this is not a precedent. Black churches have clout in DC that businesses generally do not

    B.This is not over. Many ways to protest have been suggested. Ultimately lets just flood the lane with cyclists.

  • ACyclistInTheSuburbs

    "When slaves built our church, they were not thinking about bike lanes," said one churchgoer at a neighborhood meeting on the cycletrack, according to the WashCycle blog. Assuredly so"

    they probably weren't thinking about where to park their cars either.

  • name

    I can't wait for Critical Mass to show up for Sunday morning Mass.

    Man that would be an epic service.

  • SEis4ME

    If I'm reading correctly, we're talking about one block? Will riders not bike because of ONE block.

    This is the perfect example of the cycling community's myopia and usual over the top reaction to not getting any and everything they want.

    This foolishness should be discouraged.

  • Kevin

    Corky, fuck you, too.

  • Milton

    we could just get rid of one lane of traffic for one block..damn car drivers thinkin' they own everything!

  • Corky

    Exactly, SEis4ME! These entitled cry babies likely commute most of their way on the city streets and act like they can't ride on this one block without a bike lane. BTW, there are two sides to the street. If these cry babies MUST have a bike lane, the bike lane could just as easily be placed on the north side of M Street without disturbing the church's daily activities. Duh!

  • name2

    Still waiting for the "April Fools" on this one.

  • Mike not Madden

    While I am sure there is a healthy compromise that can protect the Church's parking, the opposition to the Church's opposition seems part of a growing antipathy to Black Churches in this community.

  • DC Guy

    @corky

    Can someone clarify, is the bike lane going ACROSS the street from the church or in front of the church? It makes a difference.

    If it is on the same side, then I stand by my earlier comment. If it is across from the church, then why is this happening?

  • Why?

    Why does nobody realize that the the church is on the other side of the road from the bike lane? It won't affect funerals at all. This is simply for Sunday morning parking. So sacrifice the other 167 hours for one lightly-trafficked hour on Sunday?

  • Corky

    If the bike lane is across the street and not directly in front of it, then the church's position is weaker. I disagree with the concept of bike lanes in general, but if this one is not directly in front of the church where the elderly and disabled would dismebark or funerals would require parking, then they don't have a strong basis for opposing it.

  • eastof9

    Outrageous. The city should work toward a more acceptable solution. This is embarrassing for Gray and DDOT.

  • Barry Morase

    Many of Metropolitan AME Church members live in the state of Maryland and they pay no property taxes and they aren't D.C. voters. Maryland or Virginia residents shouldn't have a say in D.C. policies or local D.C. politics. Unfortunately, many of the black churches are being displaced because many of their members have moved out of the city. These so called hipsters pay a thousands of dollars in property taxes as homeowners. They should have a say in this matter, not church members living in another state. Many churches are losing mememberships because churches are constantly begging for money and the Preachers/Ministers are living like Kings, Queens, and Pimps.

  • ACyclistInTheSuburbs

    SE

    Bike infrastructure, like road infrastructure, works best when there is continuity. And while many existing cyclists are fine riding a busy downtown street without a protected lane, the goal is both to increase safety and to attract new cyclists.

    Its certainly fine to discuss the costs and benefits of different alternatives. However in the years this was in planning, the church was silent, and now all of a sudden they object and get their way.

    It might be appropriate to examine exactly how influence was exerted to obtain this change.

  • SEis4ME

    ACITS, although I'm not a cyclist I get that continuity is an important function of infrastructure. But I'm also aware that there is an uproar from this community anytime they don't get whatever they want and this same group of people are primed to castrate anyone who might disagree w/them...on merits or not.

    It's a particular entitlement mentality that lumps them right on in w/drivers. Two sides of the same coin...

  • no name

    From the washcyclist in May describing the DDOT briefing on L and M street cycle tracks (http://www.thewashcycle.com/2013/05/ddot-presents-the-m-street-cycle-track.html):

    "But the biggest issues were that the church would lose its angled parking on Sundays (which took them 3 years to get) and that no one talked to them about it until the day before.

    A pastor for the church, after talking about the church's 175 year history, 87 of those years at this location, noted that this church is tied to the struggles of the African American people so to not be talked to about something like this until after it was a "done deal" was very disturbing and insulting. The church had been offered $1M to move out of the city, but they had made a commitment to stay. Many of their members had moved to the counties but still made an effort to come to church here. "Is DC becoming a church-unfriendly place?" she asked.

    On the first issue, DDOT created several alternatives for Sundays that would still allow 30-50 parking spaces, even one with angled parking and several that allowed parking in the cycletrack (which would shift in between two lanes of car parking) and promised to work on it with the church.

    On the second issue, Jim Sebastian apologized and noted that he had met with church staff at the church in 2011. At least one person accused him of lying and Sebastian said he could pull the phone and email logs if needed. He also noted that they had started this process in 2009 with public meetings, and that DDOT staff have met with ANC's, BIDs, groups and individuals. He said they tried to reach the church, a comment that resulted in scoffing from the church's members.

    I'll add that anyone on M Street who didn't know about this has not been paying attention..."

  • no name

    And the DDOT presentation at washcycle has pictures of the alternative parking that could be used on Sunday. Take a look... then write your councilmember.

  • Barry Morase

    Somebody wrote this funny comment in the Washington Post.

    JESabol3 responds:

    11:00 AM EDT

    Okay, do you REALLY want “the church ladies” biking to all these DC churches, in their little wool suits with their “say-something” hats flapping in the wind, their stocking garter and girdles exposed as they pedal feverishly to not miss the pancake breakfast? And let’s not forget how “Rubenesque” some of these church ladies are; the strain on the bicycles and their tires might be too much. Oh sweet Jesus, just the visuals……this is a Tyler Perry or Wayans Brothers movie in the making, if ever I visualized one.

  • dcgovcorruption

    The lord has spoken let the church say amen.

  • Corky

    Racists like Barry do not help the cause of the bikers. For one, a lot of Metropolitan AME members do live in DC and have lived here much longer than 90% of these newcomer bikers. Secondly, this is not a "Black" church issue. Any church that has parking issues would be concerned about the ability of its members to attend their church and a drastic move by the city to alter existing parking regulations. Third, if you think that the only people who matter in this town are the "livable walkable" types, then I might point you in the direction of Adrian Fenty, the loser past Mayor who made that same mistake--ignoring the needs of residents of the District outside of Wards 1,2 and 3 to placate a bunch of newcomers, many of whom couldn't even vote in the Democratic primary.

  • ACyclistInTheSuburbs

    "For one, a lot of Metropolitan AME members do live in DC and have lived here much longer than 90% of these newcomer bikers."

    do you think votes should be weighted by length of residence? Would that have been fair in the 1950s when it would have minimized black influence? Would it be fair to day in Charles Co, or MoCo, of PWC where it would minimize black influence?

    " Secondly, this is not a "Black" church issue. Any church that has parking issues would be concerned about the ability of its members to attend their church and a drastic move by the city to alter existing parking regulations."

    except this is not drastic, there are plenty of garages in the area, and DDOT proposed actual compromises.

    " Third, if you think that the only people who matter in this town are the "livable walkable" types,"

    People all across the city can benefit from it being more walkable and liveable.

    " then I might point you in the direction of Adrian Fenty, the loser past Mayor who made that same mistake--ignoring the needs of residents of the District outside of Wards 1,2 and 3 to placate a bunch of newcomers, many of whom couldn't even vote in the Democratic primary."

    Mayor Fenty lost in large part because of his policies on education. Policies which have been largely continued by Mayor Grey. as for ignoring needs, the M Street Cycle track will of course be open to cyclists from all parts of the city.

  • Barry Morase

    Corky, what percentage of Metropolitan AME members live in the District? I'm sure, the majority of their members don't live in D.C., vote here, and pay property taxes. For the record, I'm a native Washingtonian. We are all U.S. citizens and someone being born in D.C. or living here a long time should give them special privilege over those that have lived here a long time or born here. What about native born Washingtonians living in PG County, Montgomery County, Los Angeles, Raleigh, North Carolina, Atlanta, Savannah, Ga. for many years? Should natives of those cities be given special privilege over native Washingtonians living there for 20, 30, 40, and 50 years. A recent study showed, a large percentage of people in the U.S. no don't believe in God. Churches are an institution that doesn't pay any taxes. For those that believe in God can worship him in their hearts and pray to him in the privacy of their homes. Many of the new white hipsters moving into the District don't believe in God or have any faith. They like partying and going to the bars and clubs on H Street, NE, U Street, NW, Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant, Downtown, Shaw, etc.

  • Barry Morase

    Correction:

    Corky, what percentage of Metropolitan AME members live in the District? I'm sure, the majority of their members don't live in D.C., vote here, and pay property taxes. For the record, I'm a native Washingtonian. We are all U.S. citizens and someone being born in D.C. or living here a long time shouldn't give them special privilege over those that have lived here a short time. What about native born Washingtonians currently living in PG County, Montgomery County, Los Angeles, Chicago, Raleigh, North Carolina, Atlanta, Savannah, Ga. for many years? Should natives of those cities be given special privilege over native Washingtonians living there for 20, 30, 40, and 50 years? In a recent U.S. poll, a large percentage of people in the U.S. don't believe in God. Churches are an institution that doesn't pay taxes. For those that believe in God can worship him in their hearts and pray to him in the privacy of their homes. Many of the new white hipsters moving into the District don't believe in God nor do they have any faith. They enjoy partying, having a good time, and going to the bars and clubs on H Street, NE, U Street, NW, Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant, Downtown, Shaw, etc. Let's face it, cities are now attracting young educated individuals and D.C. is an international city, not the sleepy southern town it use to be. Many older residents in the big cities are dying, selling their homes, and moving to the suburbs or back down South to their native states. Churches should be given special parking privileges because they pay no taxes. D.C. black population is not less than 50 percent and the voting apathy in this city is very high. Many upper middle class whites and gay whites vote and within 5 years, D.C. will have a majority Council of the District of Columbia and a white Mayor.

  • Myron

    Confirmation: The proposed bike lane is on the OPPOSITE side of the street as the church.

  • DC Native

    Amazing to read. The issue here is with the hipster's, bikers and walkable city folks who assume that they are the only citizens that matter. Not everyone is 20 or 30 something and rides a bike for transporation. There are people with families, elderly and non-cyclist that live in the city. They need to drive. I am a 5 generation Washingtonian, well educated African American well entrenched in my community and city affairs. I don't have one person, friend, or assoicate that rides a bike to work, with the exception of one of my neighbors who is new to the city. The city is not for your entertainment and recreation. When I was growing up, we cycled in Rock Creek Park. You can virtually get anywhere in NW from there and its paved for cycling. The new comers want that and the streets? Please! You need to check your sense on entitlement. The people who lived and are from this city and remain were doing just fine before YOUR arrival and your tampering with their way of life. And to note, these Church goers are African American and have paid more taxes to get this city to where it is than any transient condo-dwelling new comer. Have somer freakin respect!

  • DC Evacuee

    Um, I bike to work, and five generations of learned helplessness is way too much. Clearly this gentleman who, for some insane reason, lived in the District for five generations feels that motorists are the only citizens that matter - especially if they're motorists that believe in magic.

  • wewo

    It is not clear to me why the churchfolks cannot park in one of the nearby garages or on meters like everybody else. This would have been a very acceptable compromise from my perspective. As a working stiff, I pay for downtown parking most working days, so I believe that the church flock can do the same at the cheaper weekend rates.

    The way the plans for the cycle track have now played out, the parishoners' comfort (not walking) and vanity (showing off their expensive cars to each other) won out against a much desired improvement in bicycle safety.

    P.S.: I do like the idea of folks going to Sunday service on their bicycles, just as I did as a teenager (no kidding here!). This would cause bicycle racks to go up quickly in front of the Metropolitan AME Church and the quoted "bicycle-less" vision by the original church builders will no longer be an issue.

  • Jo

    This is all pretty ridiculous, considering that bike lanes physically separated from the rest of traffic are statistically less safe than bikes lanes that are just painted onto the street. The trouble comes from intersections and merging into traffic - certainly exacerbated by the bike lane stopping and starting again - but the city should be reconsidering its approach to bicycle safety. Dedicated bicycle commuters are accustomed to adapting their routes based on safety, there is no reason this change will be any different!

  • Pearl Girl

    In response to "no name" (comments 26 and 27) - Has Metropolitan had those parking spots for 3 years? If so, then they've had them since 2010. If DDOT starting talking about bike lanes in 2009, why grant the spots to begin with?

  • MStreetDenizen

    "Not everyone is 20 or 30 something and rides a bike for transporation."

    there are lots of folks over 50 who ride bikes for transportation.

    " There are people with families, elderly and non-cyclist that live in the city. They need to drive."

    there are families that bike, and old people who bike. But of course this doesnt prevent anyone from driving.

    " I am a 5 generation Washingtonian, well educated African American well entrenched in my community and city affairs. I don't have one person, friend, or assoicate that rides a bike to work, with the exception of one of my neighbors who is new to the city."

    Hmm. I see black people riding. Perhaps they are all new comers, or not as affluent and well entrenched.

    "The city is not for your entertainment and recreation. "

    I thought it was transportation cyclists you had a problem with, not recreational cyclists. In any case, are you suggesting shutting down all entertainment in the city?

    "When I was growing up, we cycled in Rock Creek Park. You can virtually get anywhere in NW from there and its paved for cycling."

    Of course there are lots and lots of place in NW that are not immediately adjacent to RCP. Like the 1500 block of M, for example.

    " The new comers want that and the streets? Please!"

    yes, streets are needed to get by bike to workplaces.

    " You need to check your sense on entitlement."

    I dont see how asking DDOT to keep to its plan is entitlement. There will be still far more general travel lanes than bike lanes in the City.

    " The people who lived and are from this city and remain were doing just fine before YOUR arrival and your tampering with their way of life."

    actually they have been moving to the suburbs for decades. I would not that the accusation of new arrivals tampering iwth a way of life was something that older residents threw at african americans in the 1950s. Ways of life change (if you are a 5th gen washingtonian, then your ancestors lived in city with streetcars, and few automobiles)

    " And to note, these Church goers are African American and have paid more taxes to get this city to where it is than any transient condo-dwelling new comer."

    Im not sure what the connection is between being african american and paying more in taxes is? Will you be happier when cyclists stay in the city for long years?

    "Have somer freakin respect!"

    All humans should respect each other. Im not sure what that has to do with this issue.

  • MStreetDenizen

    "This is all pretty ridiculous, considering that bike lanes physically separated from the rest of traffic are statistically less safe than bikes lanes that are just painted onto the street. "

    that is not correct.

  • goldfish

    "Okay, do you REALLY want “the church ladies” biking to all these DC churches, in their little wool suits with their “say-something” hats flapping in the wind..."

    This is pretty risible, but nevertheless gets to the heart of the matter. To expect the dress-up church ladies and gentlemen to bike is untenable.

    It is not surprising that the church opposed the lanes considering their 3-year campaign to get angle parking. They won; deal with it.

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