Reporting on pedestrian life in the D.C. area

Does a church funeral justify parking in the bike lane?

February 16, 2012 - 08:49 AM
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Sorry, bicyclists. (Photo: Courtesy of Twitter/nikki_D)

When a D.C. resident dies, don't expect to ride in your usual bike lanes.

Such caution, at least, held true the Saturday morning and afternoon of Feb. 4 when St. Luke's Episcopal Church on 15th Street apparently directed funeral-goers to park their cars in the local bike lane. Bicyclist Nicole, known online by her Twitter handle nikki_d, immediately raised the issue on Twitter at 11:25 a.m. "Cop says have compassion because parked in bike lane for funeral," she said. "It would be too cruel to use one of three car lanes ... Apparently the church decided it is their new funeral parking lot."

She reached out to the District Department of Transportation's communications director John Lisle, who forwarded the complaint to the city's Traffic Control Center and was told the city would send a road unit out.

Another D.C. resident with the Twitter handle Suzannelise also encountered the chaos that afternoon and called it "awful."

"Funeral attendees drove with such carelessness that future funerals were narrowly avoided," she wrote online that evening. "Safety shouldn't come in second ... Really bad PR for the church to be known for its aggressive, thoughtless drivers. People were talking about it all over."

Later that Saturday, Nicole still brewed over the incident. "The cop sitting there refused to do anything since it was a funeral," she tweeted. "I will be writing to the church."

I called St. Luke's to seek some comment about the parking violations but was unable to receive a clear answer. I did receive confirmation that there was a funeral held at the church that Saturday and that both St. Luke's parking lots were used and full.

This week, DDOT's Lisle told me that the violating cars were apparently gone by the time Traffic Control Center officers reached the scene. "The supervisor did pledge to have the traffic control officers regularly check the bike lane for parking violations," Lisle wrote by e-mail.

Space matters in a crowded urban environment, and any big event can send traffic into a tailspin. Why did one death priviledge one mode of transportation over another on a major street? Why block a bike lane and not a car lane? The answers are obvious. It was easy to do it, and there was no assumption that they'd be punished in an infrastructure that overwhelmingly favors the car.

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