Mon December 21 2009
Posted Dec 21, 2009
New York, NY
By Verena Dobnik, Associated Press Writer ,
Bicyclists who planned to go topless to protest
the removal of a Brooklyn bike lane switched gears
Saturday, pinning plastic breasts to their jackets as they
rolled into a snowstorm.
Dozens of bikers joined a protest called the "Freedom Ride"
to oppose the removal of a bike path in Williamsburg, an
Orthodox Jewish neighborhood.
But the fierce snowstorm in New York kept them from
pedaling topless as planned.
The hipster cyclists blame Mayor Michael Bloomberg for the
loss of the lane because Williamsburg's Hasidic Jewish
residents "can't handle scantily clad women" on wheels,
said bike messenger Heather Loop, who organized the action.
The bikers' tactics did not amuse some faithful Hasids
leaving synagogue services with their families on the
Sabbath. They rushed home.
Bloomberg had removed the bike path because members of the
Satmar branch of Judaism "don't want to see women in
shorts," said Baruch Herzfeld, who runs a bike-sharing
program in a community where Jewish women wear hefty skirts
and long-sleeved blouses and men wear heavy coats and hats,
even in summer.
"The rabbis want to keep their people in the 18th century,
and they don't want the world to intrude into their
enclave," Herzfeld said.
But Leo Moskowitz, a Williamsburg resident with five
children, insists the main issue is safety.
"Kids can be knocked over because school buses are not
allowed to stop in the bike lane — it's dangerous," said
Moskowitz, who acknowledges he feels "very uncomfortable"
seeing women bare their legs in public.
It was too cold to do that Saturday.
Still, the riders made their point, obeying traffic signals
as police watched.
They had gathered earlier Saturday at a Williamsburg bar
called the Wrecked Door.
Lyla Durden took a last puff from her cigarette on the
street before rolling off into the flake-filled night with
other protesters who believe the Bedford Avenue bike path
should be restored.
Marc LaVorgna, a Bloomberg spokesman, said the city wants
riders to use a much safer lane nearby — a two-way path
separated from car traffic. That bike lane also drew the
wrath of some Satmars last year, but it stayed.
The now-vanished bike lane on Bedford Avenue has been the
subject of two recent protests, including one during which
activists painted back the lane stripe. City workers
quickly scraped it off.
Sam Paul uses her bicycle to deliver food and alcohol in
Brooklyn for a service company called Snap.
The 23-year-old native New Yorker said it was snowy and
cold, "but we're used to riding in this kind of weather."
Despite the hundreds of miles of bike lanes the city has
created in recent years, "we need more," Paul said. Bedford
Avenue "is congested — that's why a bike lane is
No word from City Hall whether the path will get a Second
Chance, the name of a Williamsburg saloon where the group
wound up on Saturday.
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