09 December 2009

Hasids vs Hotties in Bike Lane Paint Duel

So I heard that some bike lanes were removed in New York. Over a year ago I blogged about the Hasidic communities objections to bicycle lanes over at Copenhagen Cycle Chic.

As the New York Post reported back then and as only the Post can formulate it:

"It's the Hasids vs. the hotties in a Brooklyn bike war.

Leaders of South Williamsburg's Hasidic community said yesterday that bike lanes that bring scantily clad cyclists - especially sexy women - peddling through their neighborhood are definitely not kosher.

The red-faced religious sect is calling on city officials to eliminate the car-free lanes on Wythe and Bedford avenues, and to delay construction of a new one planned for Kent Avenue."

The lanes were removed because of alleged appeasement from Mayor Bloomberg up to the recent elections.

Now the NY Post is reporting:
Hipsters repaint bike lanes in brush off to Hasids

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.

The whole story awaits you here.


Melbourne Cyclist said...

Is anyone there suffering from an overwhelming urge to dress up in bikinis and drive through in a variety of open top motor vehicles?...

I get really angry at the religious types who blame *their* inability to "be pure/think pure" on the *women* that *they* are looking at. It's all just a way of gaining control over the women. You never see any fuss about men needing to cover up because the women will think impure things, but plenty of blame on the evil women. Grumble.

Soto said...

That's a great idea Melbourne Cyclist. And after they outlaw cars, then we can get them to get rid of the sidewalks by walking up and down their streets in skimpy clothing.

This whole thing is ridiculous. If they were really interested in strengthening their faith, they would welcome the passing non-believers as a way of testing their resolve. But of course, the real reason has already been stated: this is about control and about gender politics.

Cycling is just an innocent bystander in an ancient conflict. You'd think we would be past this by now.

KDT said...

It's a little more nuanced than the Post reported -- not surprisingly. The bike lanes were repainted at night by community bike enthusiasts, who were cited by the Police for doing so. One of those cited "is a prominent member of the Hasidic community who volunteers to teach kids how to ride bikes," according to Streetsblog: http://www.streetsblog.org/2009/12/08/two-charged-with-criminal-mischief-for-williamsburg-bike-lane-action/

mitchparadise said...

As a practical matter, it hardly matters that the bike lane was removed. That particular stretch of Bedford is so congested and the bike lane was pretty much always blocked by parked automobiles or school buses or any one of the thousand and one other things that you might find in a New York City bike lane.

lagatta à montréal said...

I wish someone would teach Hassidic WOMEN to ride bikes. They have some weird hangup about it. I've often seen Muslim ladies in hijabs and long skirts on bicycles, and both Catholic and Buddhist nuns. I have nothing on earth against scantily-clad hotties" of either sex or any sexual orientation, but one can also successfully ride a step-through bike according to most modesty laws.

I often see Hassidic men on bicycles, little boys and girls, but no teenaged girls or adult women. Once again, I fear that the thought of an independently circulating woman, even doing a wholesome activity and "modestly dressed" will overexcite religious fundies of any persuasion.

Come on ladies, put on your snoods, your skirts, your lisle stockings and step astride your bicycle!

Adrienne Johnson said...

There is supposed to be a separation of Church and State in the United States. It is a founding principal of America. Streets are part of the State, not the Church. There should be no influence on any kind of street design that is based on "God" in any city in the US.


Mark said...

And so say all of us Adrienne!

This story is almost funny it's so strange in it's twists and turns. The nonsense of it all of course is that even without the bicycle lanes 'hotties' can still choose to walk / cycle / run down that road if they so wish - it is public estate after all.

Most worrying of all about all this is that A.) a cycle lane, which can help to improve perceived safety for nervous cyclists, has been lost B.) the Mayor of New York seems to be more concerned with the demands of a religious group than with the greater good of all of his city and C.) this religious sect has it's own 'vigilante force' that patrols it's neighborhood - whaaaaaaat? Sometimes the US is such a hard place to try and understand from afar!

Brooklyn bike commuter said...

The Hasid were not particularly upset about 'impure women'. A few people commented on a Hasidic blog, but mostly the sides can be characterized as sexually loose slackers versus an 18th century Eastern European cult.

It would be an overstatement to say that the bikers represent the Enlightenment. Many bike riders who ride up Bedford Avenue do so without benefit of brakes or lights on their bikes. What with starting, stopping, and momentum, it is frequently easier for people on such bicycles to run lights, cut off pedestrians, and generally create havoc on the street.

We have to clean up our act before we can expect to be welcomed by other cultures.

lagatta à montréal said...

Nope commuter. If bicycles don't have brakes - I assume you mean those silly "fixie" bikes made for vélodromes, not urban streets - or lights after dark, then those can be ticketed.

I have absolutely nothing to do with fixie cyclists, any more than I have to do with Chassidic women if I'm wearing a skirt or a hat. No reason to lump all cyclists together.

Yes Adrienne, of course I agree, there is all too much bending over backwards to religious fundies whatever the religion. (voting blocs?)

Adrienne Johnson said...

Other cultures? These are American Jews we are talking about, yes? They live in an American city if I read "Brooklyn" correctly. If they were born here or chose to come here to live, this is America whose law and "culture" are represented by the "separation" of Church and State. Our laws do not come from the Vatican or the Rabbinical Council of America or any other religious body. There is no room in the Universal Vehicle Code for "God".

The question of whether or not fixies have breaks or not is also something that should not determine the creation or removal of infrastructure designed to create safe and usable space for all who use it.

I am afraid I have no humor on this point. These are serious issues that reach beyond bicycles and start to reach into basic rights that are afforded all Americans under our Constitution.

mikey2gorgeous said...

Surely this is censorship of your streets?

I think Critical Mass should team up with Gay Pride & really show these people what a thong is!

Anonymous said...

@KDT: The bike lanes were repainted at night by community bike enthusiasts, who were cited by the Police for doing so. One of those cited "is a prominent member of the Hasidic community who volunteers to teach kids how to ride bikes

Yeah right, that's what HE says.
I bet he just wants more hot bicycling women to "test his faith". ;)

the opoponax said...

@ "Commuter"

Except, of course, that inexperienced fixie riders with no brakes, lights, bells, helmets, or any other safety features will continue to ride up Bedford Ave, bike lane or no. There is no law here that requires cyclists to only use streets with special bike lanes, and the bike lane on that street is really just a painted line, anyway.

And if you want to cut down on dangerous/lawbreaking cyclists, have beat cops ticket offenders. Don't take away amenities for people who are, by and large, following the rules.

Then again, while the cops are ticketing cycling lawbreakers, they could also maybe focus some attention on the horrendous drivers - I'm convinced that half the Yeshiva schoolbus drivers aren't even licensed. Certainly I'd never have gotten my license if I drove like that.