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Cops vastly outnumbered cyclists at yesterday’s “funeral procession” for the Bedford Avenue bike lane — and rain dampened activists’ enthusiasm for another attempt to repaint the late lamented cycle path.
All manner of NYPD vehicles rolled into place right on time at 2 pm, with officers outnumbering protesters by 15 to five on the Brooklyn side of the Williamsburg Bridge — the meeting place for a ride and rally to urge the city to restore the 14-block lane between Flushing Avenue and Division Street that was removed two weeks ago and repainted by activists last week.
The few cyclists who showed up scoffed at the NYPD’s show of force — as detectives took photos from unmarked vehicles and traffic cops sat at the ready in full riot gear — though the rebellious repainting of the lane did lead to two arrests and one viral YouTube video.
Procession organizer Monica Hunker smiled as she dodged the question of whether the group would try to repaint the lane again. “You can’t really paint in the rain,” she said. “I think we’re all prepared to get arrested.” (There were none on the day, however.)
The suggestion of guerilla tactics was about as far as it got, unless you count a small impromptu dance party at Wallabout Street and Bedford Avenue, the end of their memorial route, and a few soggy protesters holding signs reading, “We love bike lanes.”
But the message was clear: bike lanes are safe and environmentally friendly, and their removal doesn’t remove riders. Most protesters had one theory or another on the nature of the loss.
“It was a political deal,” said rider Geoff Zink. “The street is for everybody. The [Hasidic community] say the removal of the lane was for safety, but how does that make any sense? It’s a bike lane.”
Even within the insular Hasidic community of South Williamsburg there are deep divisions. Some Hasidic leaders claim that cyclists slow down buses dropping off children at nearby religious schools, yet other Hasidim were said to have been involved in the repainting.
Few protesters believe that the city will restore the lane, so for now, they’re calling for a show of force.
“Get on your bike and ride — show the community that we do use and need all bike lanes,” said event organizer Barbara Ross.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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