Housing Complex

If a Church Can Block a Bike Lane, Why Can’t a Strip Club?

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, which successfully blocked a stretch of cycletrack on M Street NW.

The M Street cycletrack is under siege. Last week, I wrote about an M Street church's successful effort to scrap a block of the planned protected bike lane in order to preserve a few curbside parking spaces for churchgoers. The District Department of Transportation's capitulation, I wrote, set a terrible precedent by sending the message that if a property owner or business found a bike lane inconvenient, the agency would alter its plans and disrupt its transportation network in order to appease that property owner or business.

Well, it seems the lesson is already being learned by another local business—specifically, a strip club.

Newly minted Washingtonian writer Ben Freed reports that Camelot Show Bar, a nudie joint on the 1800 block of M Street NW, is looking to get in on the anti-cycletrack action. Camelot's owner, Nicolas Triantis, is worried that the bike lane will make his (presumably carbound) employees late to work.

“I wasn't aware that AME got an exception,” Triantis told Freed. “I’m going to give DDOT a call to see what’s going on.”

As he should. Once DDOT gives out one slice of the pie, others are going to come calling. After all, though churches and strip clubs may be at opposite ends of the gentility spectrum, the city shouldn't really be making moral judgments on who gets to dictate transportation choices and who doesn't.

Of course, I'm not advocating another block of lost cycletrack to make Triantis happy. The real issue is that DDOT opened the levees by handing out a concession in the first place. Hopefully, if enough other less-than-holy businesses start picking up the phone and asking DDOT for their own exemptions, the agency will learn from its mistake and stick to its guns on what's best for the city's transportation grid.

  • Rosina

    Churches have traditionally gotten parking exemptions in DC. I guess the newer residents aren't aware of this. I believe its only on Sundays (and Saturdays for some).

    As a cyclist, I'm excited that DC has gotten so bike friendly, but I also like our small town appeal. I'm happy to ride around church goers as long as they are looking out for me too.

    And I guess there is nothing else wrong in this city because I have been hearing about this all week now.

  • dc only

    Frankly, this city has become too bike friendly. The cclist are not following traffic rules and tend to show very little courtesy to those who are pedestrians or car drivers. Get rid of the lanes and go ride in the park.

  • sbc

    Rosina, a lot of churches have not traditionally gotten official parking exemptions, but their members have traditionally broken the rules and not had those violations punished. Part of the reason is that fewer parking enforcement employees are assigned to work on Sundays and part is because elected officials don't want to upset parishioners (even those who don't live in the District). I think new residents are extremely aware of this. But many cyclists feel as though their safety all 7 days of the week should take precedence over the comfort of churchgoers one day a week. This church has contracts with parking garages right next door for Sundays and wants to be able to double-park when there are events during the week.

    I ride bikes and go to church about equally often. But I think the reason this is a big story is because it's not just about a bike lane. It's been cast as a dispute between old v. young, black v. white, poor v. rich, disabled v. healthy--and, as you put it--"traditional" v. "newer residents." Those are big divisions in DC in general right now, though not as simplistic as most people would have it (plenty of rich young black people moving to DC from elsewhere; plenty of older folks whose houses are now worth hundreds of thousands more than they paid for them choosing to sell and live in MD and VA, etc.). The bike lane is just a way for people to talk about the bigger issues.

  • steers n queers

    "dc only," I find your name especially ironic, considering that 90+% of the AME's membership don't live in DC. DC should build services for residents first. As for your very well thought-out notion of getting rid of bikes lanes and ordering people to ride in parks, I guess you just don't get it. Move along (but not on a bike).

  • NE John

    As I worship the female body, but not silly gods, I feel more for the nudie bar guy than the churches, ubt you are right that this is the slippery-est of slopes.

  • Chris hauser

    This is filler in a coulibiac of a very slow news august.

  • NE John

    Getting a church license should be 10x harder than getting a liquor license

  • NE John

    Remember that scene from "It's a Wonderful Life" where Potterville had the strip with the bars and girls being loaded into a paddy wagon. Why this was viewed as a bad thing I do not understand.

  • Afraid of EMS

    I love it! Equal rights for strip clubs as for Churches!

  • Makes Sense

    At least the strip club pays taxes. And employs DC residents. And contributes to the BID. And is really just a much better member of society than the parasitic church.

  • neighbor

    On Sundays, the AME blocks three of 4 lanes on M Street with their diagonal and double parking. That needs to end. DDOT should ticket and tow them. MD churchgoers are subject to the same parking laws as the rest of us.

  • Jonathan Swift


  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/housingcomplex/ Aaron Wiener

    @Jonathan Swift: Fixed, thanks.

  • Tempest in a Teapot

    First of all, this whole issue is a tempest in a teapot - I guarantee you that within a few weeks after the cycle track is completed, riders will barely notice that one block on M Street is different.

    And please stop writing/reading this column if you can't understand the distinction between an institution which has been in the city, in that location, for generations versus a run of the mill business, strip club or otherwise.

    Yes, there is something special about the churches, not because they are religious but because they represent a continuity in a city that is famous for its transience. And as far as special treatment goes, this does not seem to me to be a particularly substantial concession. Is it really such an imposition for one block? You'll be on a bike - deal with it.

  • DC

    Why does anyone pretend this has anything to do with anything but the fact that Fenty lost the support of black churches over issues like bike lanes and double parkers. Gray is smart enough to remember this. He seems to think he can run for reelection (which suggests that Machen has given him confidence that he won't be indicted before then) and he doesn't want to make the same "mistakes" that Fenty made. Period. All this talk about 150 years etc. is just a made up justification to cover he primary reason: the church has political power and Gray doesn't want to mess with it.

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  • SEis4ME

    Comparing black churches to strip clubs? Way to go Aaron! What's next, comparing the National Cathedral to the adult film industry?

    Even to print the argument that an operation's (dedicated to faith/social welfare) opposition to a one-day rule should be seen w/in the same light as an operation dedicated to women being paraded around w/the titties and vagina slits on display, shows just how very clueless you and others who push this argument are.

    DC...well uhm, churches have power in every city, in any state around the country. Why should DC be any different? It's why politicians around the country campaign w/the church in mind. And no, Fenty didn't lose black churches over bike lanes and double parkers. That's just the meme floated about by his supporters.

  • IANALbut

    " I guarantee you that within a few weeks after the cycle track is completed, riders will barely notice that one block on M Street is different. "

    Changing from one type of infrastructure to another - cycle track to bike lane, bike lane to sharrows - is QUITE noticeable when you are on a bike.

    Giving a church a privilege over a business because it is a church, may not stand constitutional test.

    It will certainly embarrass DDOT though. They will need to explain why, if the lane is good enough on one block its not on another. They can't do that, because the reality is it isn't. The reality is this is about clout.

    The problem with clout is, that the more publically and unreasonably its exercised, the more it tends to waste away.

  • http://citypaper sly

    You DEVILS do not respect the church!

  • BubbleDC

    Personally I think the church should not get an "exemption" Church goers should live with this change like everyone else.

    That said. Its moronic to compare a strip club to a church. Truly offensive and I attend a synagogue not a church. (To say more would invite extra sophomoric commentary from the author and others.)

  • Hillman


    If you're gay then chances are this church and many others in DC aren't looking out for you.

    In fact, they are fighting to deny you basic civil rights.

    And if you're Ethiopian they will fight to deny your business a license, as Shiloh Baptist and several others in the area have done.

    Assuming that churches are automatically good neighbors is naive.

    I've been told this church already has use of a parking garage a block away but they don't use it until they've filled up all the street spaces, both legal and illegal.

    Is this actually true?

    There used to be a church on the Hill that would have DC cops in their congregation go out in the morning and tell residents and tourists that street parking was 'reserved' for churchgoers.

    He did this in uniform, as a DC cop.

    And the church encouraged it.

    After that I didn't have much sympathy for suburban churches complaining about parking in DC neighborhoods.