New York City Erases Bike Lanes to Appease Hasidic Men Who Object to Seeing Women in Bike Shorts
By JEREMY OLSHAN and JAMIE SCHRAM
New York Post
December 8, 2009
Groups of bicycle-riding vigilantes have been repainting 14 blocks of Williamsburg roadways ever since the city sandblasted their bike lanes away last week at the request of the Hasidic community.
The Hasids, who have long had a huge enclave in the now-artist-haven neighborhood, had complained that the Bedford Avenue bike paths posed both a safety and religious hazard.
Scantily clad hipster cyclists attracted to the Brooklyn neighborhood made it difficult, the Hasids said, to obey religious laws forbidding them from staring at members of the opposite sex in various states of undress. These riders also were disobeying the traffic laws, they complained.
Brian Branch Price
Two cycling advocates were apprehended by the Shomrim Patrol, a Hasidic neighborhood watch group, as they repainted a section of bike lane at 3:30 a.m. yesterday, but when cops arrived, no one was arrested and no summonses were issued, police said.
“These people should apply for a job at the DOT,” neighborhood activist Isaac Abraham said of the repainting. “You put it on, they take it off — and they will probably do this again.”
A Department of Transportation spokesman said: “We will continue to work with any community on ways we can make changes to our streets without compromising safety.”
A source close to Mayor Bloomberg said removing the lanes was an effort to appease the Hasidic community just before last month’s election.
Abraham contends the bike lanes put children at risk of getting hit by cars or bicycles as they exited school buses.
But Baruch Herzfeld, who has tried to bridge the gap between hipsters and Hasids with a bike-rental program, said safety is not the issue so much as xenophobia.
“They don’t want the hipsters in their neighborhood,” he said. “It’s like in Howard Beach back in the day when they didn’t want black people in the neighborhood.”
The cycling advocacy group Transportation Alternatives has not taken sides in the dispute.
But bike lane or not, “cyclists have a right to be on Bedford Avenue,” said Wiley Norvell, a group spokesman.
Additional reporting by Maggie