New Bike Lane Altered for Historic D.C. Church

There was a lot of grousing and adjusting when the District installed a protected bike lane on key blocks of L Street NW downtown.

Drivers and cyclists are getting use to each other, and the city says more cyclists are finding the roadway going eastbound on L Street.

But plans for a new, uninterrupted westbound lane – this one on M Street from 14th Street to 28th Street at Rock Creek Park – has hit a big bump.

The historic Metropolitan A.M.E. church, in the 1500 block of M Street NW since 1925, objected to the bike lane that would disrupt parking for its many services each week, as well as funerals, conferences and community meetings.

It has persuaded D.C. Department of Transportation officials to interrupt the mile-long protected bike lane. Instead of a protected lane on the church’s block, there will be a traditional, unprotected bike lane, painted green for better visibility but no protective bollards.

Shane Farthing of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association said the interrupted lane is dangerous to cyclists.

“It’s unsafe,” he said. “There’s a big difference.”

Farthing said WABA doesn’t want to fight with the church and its activities but says the protected bike lane has been planned all along. There were intense community meetings in the spring where the church objected to bike lane design. Farthing also said the revised decision was announced without any input from groups that had been involved all along.

The Rev. Ronald Braxton, senior pastor of Metropolitan, said his church members were worried about access to their historic house of worship. He said a traditional bike lane will still be effective for cyclists.

“The church is very appreciative of the city’s effort to bring about a win-win for all the parties concerned,” he told News4 Friday.

DDOT Planning and Policy Director Sam Zimbabwe acknowledged that the city changed its plans because of the church’s opposition. Zimbabwe said there was no political pressure from Mayor Vincent Gray or anyone else in the administration.

Zimbabwe said the city hopes to have the new protected bike lane – with its one block altered for the church – completed in November. He said the city would monitor traffic on the church’s block and make changes if necessary.

The dispute over the 1500 block of M Street is being played out in different forms all over the District as the city government seeks to make transportation corridors accessible for vehicles, bikes, transit and pedestrians.

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