You better watch out
If you're liberty's guy
Better raise a shout
I'm telling you why
Tyranny is coming to town. . . .
It seems like the same goons who think they own the streets in Jerusalem think they own Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg too, and the city is playing into their hands in a cynical ploy for a powerful voting bloc. After the usual approval process, the city painted a bicycle lane along Bedford Avenue in the Hasidic area of Williamsburg. It appears that Bedford Avenue is a prime route for bicycle commuters seeking to access the bicycle path across the Williamsburg Bridge
. Demarcated bike lanes protect cyclists from onrushing automobile traffic, a major cause of bicycle and pedestrian fatalities. The downside is less space for automobiles. I don't drive or ride a bicycle. I get around on foot (running and walking) and by public transportation (bus and subway), so I am probably the closest thing you will find to an impartial observer. The city has been moving for some years in the direction of more environmentally responsible transportation. Automobiles contribute to air pollution from carbon monoxide and particulates, though much less now than in years past. They use massive quantities of increasingly scarce fossil fuels whose burning contributes to climate change. Simply put, a car occupied by only the driver is the most irresponsible, wasteful and inefficient way of getting from Point A to Point B. Bicycles do not burn fossil fuels at all, hence do not pollute the air. They use human muscle power, and thus contribute to not only a greener New York but a healthier one (see my previous post
). Thus, the city is right to encourage bicycles at the expense of automobiles.
When a bike lane is painted on a street, even after a lengthy approval process where everybody has a chance to be heard, people are unhappy and they gripe. I saw that when a bike lane was painted on Bedford Avenue in my own neighborhood of Midwood. In a short while people get accustomed to the bike lane, and even come to like the new reality of more healthy people and fewer cars. But that has not happened in Williamsburg. There the gripes persist, and recently the city, admittedly to curry favor with a large voting bloc (probably the only one left in New York) erased the bike lane. Bicycle activists responded by clandestinely repainting the lane, and two of their number were arrested and charged with criminal mischief.
Urban guerrillas repaint the bike lane - Nonviolent direct action is
a time-honored American method of effecting social change.
The complaints of the Hasidim center around two alleged problems:
1. Cyclists create a safety hazard for children going to and from school. Granted, Hasidim have more children than most New Yorkers, and they go to school earlier and come home later, meaning when it is dark outside in wintertime. However, the safety hazard is mostly from automobiles and not from cyclists. Bicycles are inherently safer since they travel more slowly and can stop on a dime. And the automobiles are driven largely by Hasidim whose reckless, devil-may-care driving is legendary. As in so many other areas of life, these people seem to think that the traffic laws are mere suggestions, to be flouted whenever convenient. Kent Avenue, a block or two west of Bedford, is a case in point. Hasidim claim that a dedicated bike lane exists on Kent Avenue and therefore the one on Bedford is superfluous. Well, this is how the Hasidim treat the lane on Kent Avenue:
That's right; they park right across it. The bike lane exists to provide free parking for their catering halls, and the police don't do a thing about it. Nor is this a matter of Hasidim vs modern New Yorkers. Baruch Herzfeld
, a modern Orthodox Jew, set up a "bicycle gemah
" to help Hasidim who want to ride bicycles but aren't quite up to buying one yet. He is now in Copenhagen
to confront Mayor Bloomberg on the issue at the climate conference.
He reports that quite a number of Hasidim actually want the bike lane, but they won't appear on camera or give their names. I wonder why.
Some cyclists do ride recklessly and ignore the traffic laws, perhaps out of ignorance of the fact that they are considered traffic and must stop at red lights, go the right way on one-way streets and so forth. Periodic enforcement blitzes would be in order, until cyclists know the law and act accordingly.
2. Women ride their bicycles in "immodest dress," meaning exposed elbows and knees and their own uncovered hair. This is too much for their sexually repressed men to handle. They might actually see females that aren't covered from head to toe, and who knows what will happen to their pure unsullied souls then. But I guess it's okay for those men to molest young boys in yeshiva and at the mikva. Well, guess what - bike lane or not, bicycles have a right to use the streets, and they will use the streets. The only difference will be that without the lane there will be more conflict between automobiles and bicycles, therefore more injuries and deaths. And, newsflash - American streets are public thoroughfares. Anybody of any persuasion may walk, run or ride a bicycle on them, dressed as he or she pleases. And we will walk, run and ride our bicycles dressed as we please. If our dress causes Hasidic men eye strain, ain't that too bad? If we allow these people to impose their will on the rest of us, what's next? Gender-segregated public buses? Men and women forced to walk on opposite sides of the sidewalk?
Enough is enough. These religious obscurantists must be given to understand that they do not have ba'alut (ownership) over any street, and we will not allow them to turn our country or any part of it into Talibanland. Accordingly, a protest ride will start at the foot of Williamsburg Bridge this Sunday, December 13, at 2:00 P.M. to culminate with a rally at Bedford Avenue and Wallabout Street at about 3:00. Cyclists and sympathetic pedestrians are invited. Dress for the weather.
Hasidim - A word of advice. You can't beat us, so you might as well join us. You don't like the sight of attractive women dressed the way American women dress? Well, we don't like the sight of ugly, repulsive men with fat bellies. It makes us want to puke. Get a bike from Mr. Herzfeld's gemah and get on it. Get yourselves a pair of running shoes and use the bodies God gave you to use. You'd be surprised at the goodwill you will generate. I am appalled at the ill will you generate right now; just look at the comments in the articles I linked to and the cross-references there. Get out there and move. You will be happier and healthier.
Let freedom ring.