At this week's DC Committee on Transportation and the Environment hearing on the bike plan and bicycle facilities there was one speaker who came not to ask why DDOT hadn't built the facilities it laid out in the bike plan but to ask that they not build one facility at all.
Dr. Mertyl Bowen pastor of Galbraith A.M.E Zion Church came representing several churches on 6th Street between Florida Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue. [You can see her testimony here starting at 01:48:47]. Dr. Bowen is an architectural engineer with many years of experience and chief of the Master Planning division for the United States Army at the Joint Base Myer - Henderson Hall, Directorate of Public Works in Arlington, Virginia
She starts out by noting that these churches have a lot of history in DC, Galbraith has been around for 170 years, Springfield Baptist for 78 years, the House of Prayer for 93 years and First Rising for 79 years. That's a combined total, she points out, of 410 years. [I'm not sure that is really how this works or how that is relevant]. In addition, they own properties on the street and several of their members live on 6th Street.
Not only are their churches old but so are their members. Many are in their 80's, 90's and 100's and they - we are told - can not ride bikes. Therefore, she surmises, bike lanes on 6th are not needed. And why is she against a bike lane on 6th Street NW? The usual...
Our concern is to maintain the existing parking plan that... has been recently updated where we have diagonal parking that provides more parking for individuals [who] live on that street as well as parishiners that are part of those various congregations that may live in Washington DC that drive in.
She suggests that the city look to 9th Street. 9th Street is closer to the "bike stands" that are already there and near the Metro station. And there is not a lot of parking on 9th throughout the week the way there is on 6th. So the city should look to 9th Street instead - or possibly 7th.
There are several flaws here with Dr. Bowen's suggestion.
1. It's not really an either/or situation. DDOT has said on other occassions that the need is so high for bike lanes in downtown that they would put them on any street where they can find room - so 6th, 7th and 9th. It's matter of finding space. Cyclists are not going to detour to 9th when where they want to be is on 6th. More importantly, there are already bike lanes on part of 9th Street. And on most of 7th.
2. If by bike stands she means Capital Bikeshare stations, there are more stations on 6th than there are on 9th.
3. There are three Metro station entrances on 7th Street and none on 9th. So putting the bike facility on 9th moves it away from Metro.
Later she adds that
We have several individuals who take Metro in, but they are not biking to our congregation.
As if these congregations are the only entities on 6th or the only destinations for which cyclists would use a bike lane on 6th. People at her church don't bike - therefore bike lanes are not needed in front of her church.
Once again, this is about one thing and one thing only. They have free, on-street parking and they don't want to give it up for bike lanes that they won't use. If it weren't for the fact that this exact same argument worked for Metropolitan AME on M Street, I would think that no one could make it with a straight face. David Grosso tells her that she makes a good point and that we should look at 7th Street. I guess we need to find businesses and people who have lived on 6th Street for a combination of years greater than 410 who support a bike lane there.