If you wondered how much the DOT has spent so far to add and subtract a controversial 14-block stretch of bike lane on Bedford Avenue in South Williamsburg, here's your answer: $11,000 to install and $15,000 to sandblast it away. As NBCNewYork.com observes, "That's $26,000 of taxpayer money that isn't making bicyclists any safer." But at least now that the bike lane's gone, the Hasidic rabbis in the neighborhood can protect their flock from immodestly dressed outsiders—that is, unless bicyclists do something crazy like ride without a bike lane. This weekend, some are planning to do just that. And without clothes.
As previously noted, bike messenger Heather Loop and a group of female cyclists are going to ride through South Williamsburg topless on Saturday. Loop says the ride is intended to send a message to the predominantly Hasidic community that "If you can't handle scantily clad women… live in a place where you can have your own sanctuary, like upstate." The so-called "freedom ride" is the latest salvo in a bike lane battle that began earlier this month when the city removed the Bedford Avenue bike lane, only for cycling activists to repaint it themselves a few days later. Then the DOT had to come paint over the DIY lane.
A DOT spokesman explained away the removal as "part of ongoing bike network adjustments in the area, which have included the recent addition of a barrier-protected connector lane on nearby Williamsburg Street and the completion of a unique, two-way protected lane on parallel Kent Avenue." Indeed, the DOT has also just converted a half-mile long stretch of wide sidewalk on Kent Avenue to a rare mixed-use pedestrian/bike path, making it even safer for cyclists to commute between north and South Brooklyn. But the removal of the Bedford lane has turned into a p.r. debacle, and some say it was sandblasted as an election-time favor.
A source close to Mayor Michael Bloomberg told the Post the bike lane was removed as "an effort to appease the Hasidic community just before last month's election." And cyclist Geoff Zink told the Brooklyn Paper, "It was a political deal. The street is for everybody. [They] say the removal of the lane was for safety, but how does that make any sense? It's a bike lane." Well, it was, but these young women are threatening to get naked as often as it takes to get it back.
Transportation Alternatives director Paul
Steely White has this to say about Saturday's topless protest ride: "A bike lane on Bedford Avenue is an issue of transportation and road safety. Rhetoric or acts that pit neighbors against one another are not just irrelevant to this discussion, they are flat-out offensive. A bike ride of people in provocative undress doesn't make Bedford any safer, and undermines efforts to bring north Brooklynites together to solve this problem."