Brooklyn Battle Over Bike Lanes

Municipalities are most often charged to create infrastructure like bike lanes. But individual cyclists creating their own bike lanes on public roads has happened in the recent past, including a group led by Los Angeles writer Dan Koeppel, who with some friends took to the streets to roll their own paint and create lanes more than a year ago.

Now some New Yorkers — looking to follow LA’s lead, perhaps? — have angered the Hasidic community for repainting bike lanes in Brooklyn. That’s according to a New York Post article, which is titled “Hipsters repaint bike lanes in brush off to Hasids.” The story cites a strange and complicated culture clash involving Williamsburg hipsters in their prerequisite tight pants banging heads with their conservative Hasidim neighbors.

The cyclists want the bike lanes. The neighborhood’s majority is voting “no.” The reason? Apparently, scantily-clad hipster cyclists make it difficult for the ultra-orthodox Hasids to obey religious laws, which forbid them from staring at members of the opposite sex in various states of undress. The bike riders also were disobeying the traffic laws, the group complained.

In their appointed governing wisdom, the city sandblasted the bike lanes right off the streets. Now, groups of cyclists have been repainting the lanes, 14 blocks in all. Two “cycling advocates” were recently apprehended, although no summonses were issued.

Tolerance is important in any culture. But it’s tough for me to see the case that another culture or group should not be afforded a safe public thoroughfare. Tolerance goes both ways. Cyclists have a right to the streets. And allowing a vocal minority to call the shots is discrimination, no matter how tight the jeans.

—Stephen Krcmar