Church members, bicyclists clash over proposed DC bike lane

- A heated meeting was held in the District over a new bike lane project that would connect the Shaw neighborhood to downtown.

But a local church opposes the project saying it infringes on their constitutional rights.

The main issue at hand here is parking. Leaders of the United House of Prayer say adding a bike lane will take away diagonal parking from their members on Sundays.

But cyclists and the D.C. Department of Transportation say the bike lanes are needed for safety.

Cyclists and church members faced off in a meeting that was full beyond capacity at the Shaw Library in Northwest D.C.

“In the end, it's all about safety,” said a bike lane proponent at the meeting. “A bike lane, especially a protected one, protects cyclists, it protects pedestrians and it protects drivers by slowing the overall speed of traffic.”

“We've seen displacement of other religious institutions that have been throughout the Shaw area for sometimes a hundred years or more,” said another person at the meeting. “And because of these types of issues that come up, they have been displaced.”

The church located on 6th and M streets is leading a coalition of churches against the project. They even bused people to the meeting.

Church attorneys sent a letter to the city claiming the project violates its constitutional freedom of religion by taking away parking.

The plan is to add a northbound and a southbound lane somewhere between 4th and 9th streets. There are four options, but there is a problem – the church does not like any of them.

Samantha Wetzel is passionate about adding protected bike lanes.

“In 2012, I was struck by a driver going about 40 miles an hour,” she said. “I broke my tibia and fibula, broke my pelvis, broke my thumb and I broke off three teeth. I was in the hospitals for three weeks.

But various D.C. churches fought to get the angled street parking on Sundays in the first place. A bike lane would take away some of those spots.

Dr. Monica Crawford, a member of New Bethel Baptist Church, proposes a compromise.

“To just allow them to park during worship hours and then you can have your bike lanes the rest of the week,” she said.

This meeting was supposed to be an open house where people could look at maps of the proposed bike lanes and get information. It was not supposed to be the heated public hearing that it essentially turned into.

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