Call it a bikelash!
A group of enraged cyclists fought back against the city for removing the Bedford Avenue bike lane last week, repainting the lane under cover of darkness last Friday night.
The two-wheeled crusaders went out late with rollers, paint, homemade stencils — and, of course, a video crew — to document their act of uncivil disobediance.
“We are NY city bicyclists and our message is clear,” the dissidents announced at the end of their video. “Don’t take away our bike lanes.”
But early on Monday morning, when they returned to finish up, a patrol unit from South Williamsburg Shomrim Jewish police force, intervened and called cops.
After an investigation, the NYPD arrested two of the painters, but a source told The Brooklyn Paper that four more Williamsburg bikers and two Hasidim were also part of the re-laning effort.
The controversy began on Dec. 1 when the city sandblasted the painted bike lane along a 14-block stretch between Flushing and Division avenues, citing nearby bike paths along Kent and Wythe avenues as more than sufficient.
But that explanation did not quell persistent rumors in the biking and blogging communities that the lane was removed at the behest of Hasidic leaders, who claim that the lane hinders buses dropping off and picking up children at the numerous religious schools on the route, and populates the neighborhood with scantily clad females.
Hasidic officials refused to talk about the issue this week, but one insider said that political pressure was exerted on the city to remove the lane.
“It was a power play by Hasidic leaders who need to scare community members into behaving,” said Baruch Herzfeld, the Orthodox Jewish owner of the Traif Bike Geschaft shop on S. Sixth Street. Herzfeld, together with environmental advocacy group Time’s Up!, is organizing a rally in support of the lane on Sunday, to be led by a brigade of bicycle clowns.
The Department of Transportation didn’t exactly deny the allegation that the Hasidic community demanded the bike lane’s removal, merely referring The Brooklyn Paper back to its original statement that called the lane’s removal a “network readjustment.”
The agency said it will fight back against the repainting this week.
“Any paint remaining after [Wednesday’s] rainfall will be removed,” said Scott Gastel, an agency spokesperson.
The bike advocacy organization Transportation Alternatives condemned the removal of the lane, but recommended that, like Rosa Parks or Gandhi, bikers should employ passive resistance.
“Cyclists need not risk arrest to ensure their right to ride on Bedford Avenue. It is theirs,” said Wiley Norvell, communications director for the group.
Time’s Up! Bicycle Funeral Procession and Vigil for the Bedford Bike Lane will be at 2 pm on Dec. 13. Meet at the Brooklyn entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge.