Next in the Great Cycletrack Battle of 2013 (last update here), DDOT speaks and WABA asks to talk to the Mayor.
DDOT had a post on their blog d.ish - which in itself is something of an oddity - in which they laid out their reasons for putting the cycletrack on a diet.
During the design process, it became clear that the original cycle track design would have had an impact on church operations that take place within the block and limit the ability to accommodate special events at the church along with routine activities. Metropolitan AME has a large congregation and has been an important institution on this block since 1925. In addition to an existing arrangement for angled parking for Sunday morning services, the church frequently hosts special events throughout the day and the week, such as funerals, that occupy several lanes to manage large numbers of vehicles. The street on this block is narrower than those west of Connecticut Avenue which limits flexibility in the allocation of space for the competing uses.
GGW elaborated on this pointing out that
If this block used the same design [as the rest of M Street], then the church would not be able to have diagonal parking on Sundays, or much on-street parking at all for weekday funerals.
Then they went on to discuss the four options as District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Associate Director for Policy, Planning, and Sustainability Sam Zimbabwe sees it (Reduce church use of M Street at all times, reduce church use of M Street on weekdays, cycletrack becomes a bike lane, or cycletrack is moved to sidewalk level).
Meanwhile WABA is asking the Mayor to talk to them, but it's pretty clear they don't like the change.
From a transportation standpoint, this decision is wrong: Data—and common sense—indicates that removing the bollards will make cyclists less safe and decrease ridership. From a planning standpoint, it’s wrong, too: It undercuts the entire purpose of the M Street cycletrack, which is to provide a safe crosstown connection and encourage bicycle ridership. Additionally, the M Street cycletrack will help achieve Mayor Vince Gray’s Sustainable DC goals. By changing the design of the cycletrack, DDOT has intentionally compromised the safety of cyclists with no reasonable justification.
DDOT has also reversed previous public statements made to us and to the community, without the opportunity for further input. Since 2005, WABA has attended numerous public meetings about the M Street cycletrack, from those about its planning stages to those about its actual design. At no point—until now—has DDOT proposed compromising the safety of bicyclists by removing bollards.
For the city’s transportation agency to make such an egregious change is irresponsible. The design of the M Street cycletrack is unacceptable.
Breaking DDOTs argument down leads to the following points.
- The original cycle track design would have had an impact on church operations
- Metropolitan AME has a large congregation and has been an important institution on this block since 1925
I don't know how much weight to give item 2. I suppose it has more weight than "Metropolitan AME has a small congregation and has been an unimportant institution on this block since 2005," but how much more? Whether or not we should give greater weight to institutions that have a long history or just them all the same is probably another conversation (though, back in Texas, I used to roll my eyes whenever someone would start a comment with "My family has been Texans for 5 generations and ..." or whatever, as though that somehow gave their statement greater weight - so I don't see much of a difference here). And the claim of "importance" might have more value if someone would say how they're important. Are they running a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter? If so, they've been admirably modest about it.
So, they're large and they've been around for a long time. Value that how you will. It's a very good reason to not take their church with eminent domain. Less so for not restricting their use of on-street parking.
As for how it would impact their church operations. It sounds like we're talking about Sunday parking and weekday double parking for special events.
Sunday parking could be accommodated many different ways running the gamut from letting them park in the cycletrack on Sundays to letting them use only 2 out of 3 lanes for church parking (instead of 3 out of 4).
For funerals and other events, it would seem the church would be able to get by with the space in front of their church. Make that a restricted parking area and have the church not schedule events during rush hour.
Will that work? I don't know, because DDOT hasn't really been very specific about what the impacts are. They've been very clear and public about the alternatives that have been considered and dismissed for dealing with the cycletrack, but there has been NO talk about what alternatives were considered and dismissed for dealing with the church's needs. Were they asked about other parking? I don't know.
Nor has there been any discussion about whether addressing the church's needs in this way actually serves the goals of the city.
The church leadership keeps describing this as a win-win. But this is not a win-win. The church is getting to keep the status quo. Cyclists are having to settle for less than they've planned for. I don't think this is a zero-sum game - I do think everyone can win - but I do think THIS solution is a negative-sum one.