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Or, how this latest complaint about bike lanes might be a teensy bit far-fetched.
Yesterday, the Washington Post ran an article about a rather unusual debate over a proposed bike lane currently playing out in Washington DC. What began as a standard municipal procedure trying to determine the best possible route for a protected bike lane in the east side of downtown has morphed into a controversy around the infringement of urban infrastructure into the rights of religious freedom. You read that right.
The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has drafted four possible routes for the bike lane, three of which would run along Sixth Street near the property of United House of Prayer (UHOP), a prominent African-American church in the District. UHOP alleges that the loss of parking resulting from the installation of the bike lane on Sixth Street is a direct infringement on their constitutionally-protected rights of religious freedom and equal protection under the law, and represents a veiled attempt to kick them out of the rapidly-gentrifying neighborhood.
The church, represented by a lawyer, delivered a letter to DDOT which laid out, in no uncertain terms, the unconstitutionality of the proposed bike lane. The 7-page, hand-delivered letter lamented the elimination of “an entire lane of traffic, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week” that would “also prohibit any possibility of diagonal parking” and, ultimately “would place an extreme burden on the free exercise of religion by United House of Prayer Congregants.’
While the church wouldn’t be the first body to voice legitimate concerns about the relationship between bike lanes and gentrification, they are the first, to my knowledge, to suggest that a hindrance to motorized transportation directly contravenes the right to practice religion. It’s a big claim, and one that would be difficult to support with any evidence.
From what I understand, parking in DC really is a hot mess, and competition over road space is fierce. Given that bike lanes actually reduce congestion, and there is a metro stop right next to the convention centre, I would be inclined to think that the church would prefer to expend their energy on encouraging congregants to consider forms of transportation other than driving. But what do I know, I’m an atheist.
So following their logic, I’ve produced a handy list of 10 other social nuisances threatening the rights of religious freedom that must be remedied at once:
Get your typewriters ready, these complaint letters aren’t going write themselves.
This article is part of our ongoing coverage of the devastating social consequences of safe cycling infrastructure. Read our previous analysis of how bike lanes are really, terribly ugly, and stay tuned for more updates on this horrifying trend.