After a fractious year between D.C.’s cycling community and a few churches, there comes a glimmer of hope in the form of community prayer.
A church near the Convention Center will host a “DC Bicycle Blessing” event May 7. The idea is to bring together cyclists and churchgoers — two groups that are often wrongly thought of as non-overlapping, according to the hosting church’s priest, Dominique Peridans.
Peridans, the priest at Church of the Ascension and Saint Agnes, heard of a similar event at a New York church and thought it would be a good fit in D.C. He said, however, that this event was not a response to the clash that erupted in Shaw last year over a proposed bike lane that would jut into church parking. His church is not impacted by the proposed bike lanes.
The event will work like pet blessing ceremonies, where participants will bring their bikes to the church, mingle, and then join in a short prayer. Borderstan first reported on the event.
“It is an opportunity to build bridges,” Peridans said. ” A blessing is super apolitical. We are not seeking to say anything political.”
Late last year, congregants from two prominent African American churches in Shaw showed up in massive numbers to multiple D.C. Department of Transportation meetings to rail against proposed bike lanes that would run near their churches.
The meetings to discuss different bike lane proposals quickly turned into a meeting that unearthed tensions in the rapidly changing city between longtime black residents and new, largely white residents.
Bike lanes are seen as symbols of gentrification in cities throughout the country, as some longtime residents see the lanes as solely serving the needs of young residents who could ultimately displace them.
Both the church and the city’s lead cycling advocacy organization say the perception that cyclists are a young and homogeneous demographic is wrong, and the event will help show that churchgoers and cyclists aren’t all that different.
“Bicycles are such a huge way to building communities, and no wants to see antipathy between these two communities,” said Tamara Evans, advocacy director at the Washington Area Bicycle Association. “There are a lot of people of faith who also bike.”
Representatives from WABA and the Department of Transportation will be in attendance, and there will be food and free bike-related giveaways according to Peridans.
The “bike blessing” will take place May 7 at 11 a.m. at Church of the Ascension and Saint Agnes, 1217 Massachusetts Ave. NW.