Two Charged With Criminal Mischief for Williamsburg Bike Lane Action

Activists from Monday morning’s guerrilla bike lane striping on Bedford Avenue say two individuals were indeed given summonses for criminal mischief, contrary to media reports published today. Police haven’t yet answered inquiries from Streetsblog, but organizers of the action confirmed that two were charged.

"The police took the names of two people, but they didn’t haul anyone in. Then the cops showed up later at the bike activists’ individual houses and gave them their summonses," says organizer Hayden Cummings.

The action brought together Hasidim and secular cyclists. One of those given a summons is a prominent member of the Hasidic community who volunteers to teach kids how to ride bikes, says Cummings.

A Critical Mass bike demonstration planned for Sunday won’t sit well with some Hasids, says one bike advocate.

"People are going to get upset, I think," says Baruch Herzfeld, who owns a bike business under the Williamsburg Bridge. "It’s better to find common ground, resolution instead of confrontation."

  • Mark

    I know you’re writing something brief, but what does “A Critical Mass bike demonstration planned for Sunday won’t sit well with some Hasids” mean?

    A Hasidic bike rider did guerrilla striping. He got a summons. Other people are showing up in solidarity with him, I assume. But? But what? But some 80-year-old religious nuts who don’t even recognize the rule of the American government on American soil are going to get annoyed?

  • jim

    What these folks did took an act of courage. They should be celebrated, not charged. Who runs this town anyway! This is an outrage!

  • Ian Turner

    Jim,

    It was an illegal act of civil disobediance. The rule of law is more important than any bike lane; they should be charged.

  • Corvus

    Does anyone have any info on this Critical Mass protest?

  • tom

    On Monday as I was traversing up the avenue a Hassidic man positioned his car in front of me (in the now re-painted bike lane) obstructing my path. He swerved closer to the parked cars each time I tried to pass.

    As he swerved his car at me I yelled at him ‘what the f_ck are you doing?” He then yelled back ‘f_ck you, there is no more bike lane.’ After he swerved at me again, I attempted to kick his side view mirror – I missed (and almost whipped out). As he drove off he said ‘f_ck you! This is isn’t your neighborhood.’

    At the time I had no idea what he was talking about but, now I know.

    The above interaction was unprovoked and hateful.

    I think the biking community will win by shaming the administration into being forced to explain why they favor one community over another (commercial residents in SoHo and Greenwich Village have long complained about bike lanes affecting commercial deliveries).

    I want in on the CM protest. What’s the info?

  • Brownstone

    Mr Turner suggests that repainting the bike lane “was an illegal act of civil disobediance.” and that “The rule of law is more important than any bike lane;”
    The bicycle lane on Bedford was placed there following a full public planning and design process under the rule of NYC law.

    To date, we have seen no explanation or justification for removing the lane, and there was no public process as required for a major change affecting life safety that this removal involves.
    It is the removal of the lane that is illegal, and it is the City that has broken the rule of law.

  • Re: “The rule of law is more important than any bike lane”

    No, the rule of law is only important when it is just.

  • I have used that lane often when coming back from other parts of Brooklyn. It’s best when school is out. They claim Kent is the alternative, but that’s best going southbound to Ft Grn or dwntwn Brooklyn. As far as I know it’s still legal to bike (or walk) on any city street. The street is a public place and one has to pass through South Williamsburg somehow. Should people be forced to go around? I must admit this kind of clash is nice compared to the area’s past. Brooklyn’s biggest problem is a middle-class row over bike lanes. That’s progress.

  • Mike

    Brownstone, the removal of the lane is unfortunate and misguided, but what evidence do you have that it’s *illegal*? As far as I know, the DOT can legally do whatever it wants with our streets, short of closing them completely, without any public process.

  • eLK

    What would it take for cyclists to get this kind of respect?

    http://www.copenhagenize.com/2009/12/led-lane-lights-for-cyclists-and.html

  • Jym

    =v= Sometimes people misuse the words “Critical Mass” for any sort of bike demonstration, which is bound to cause confusion.

  • Ian Turner

    Brownstone, Urbanis:

    I didn’t mean to suggest that I think civil disobedience is always a bad thing, or that these protesters complaint is not legitimate. But letting these guys off the hook sets an awful precedent: That anyone who disagrees with street changes can reverse them at their own will at any time. How do you think this new rule would play out in SoHo? 9th Avenue? Midtown? It’s a recipe for disaster.

    That these protesters’ arrest and prosecution should make an ass of the law is the point of civil disobedience, but the solution is not to exempt them from prosecution (they knowingly broke a just law), but to use their plight to draw attention to the problem of the city’s arbitrary changes.

  • Corvus

    I don’t know the legal ins and outs of the city’s sudden removal of the lanes but I presume it was done more or less within the bounds of the law; the DOT has lawyers. Which is not to say that it was a wise or just move.

    The people who restriped the lanes clearly committed a crime. A justifiable crime and one unlikely to cause anyone any harm, but a crime nonetheless. And they should be prepared to answer for it.

    Of course, the rest of us should be prepared to contribute to their defense, of any fines they might have to pay. Anyone know how to set up a fund?

    And what is the story with CM on Sunday – I’ll demonstrate.

  • Corvus

    Sorry, that should be OR any fines they might have to pay. Oops.

  • There is a need for consistency in how we we deal with DIY roadway modifications. There are people on the UES who want to get rid of a bike lane on E. 91st, and have been removing the “bike lane” signs and putting up obstacles to stop bicyclists from using the lane. That lane is not nearly as significant a part of the bike lane network as Bedford Ave., but that’s beside the point. You can’t condone the Bedford Ave. restriping without condoning the E. 91st Street anti-bike shenanigans as well.

    And I agree it is irresponsible to call a gathering of bicyclists to protesdt the removal of the lane “critical mass.” Everyone should realize by now that NYPD has assigned officers to monitor the internet discussions and activities of NY cyclists, and if they find a bike ride being called “Critical Mass,” there will be police at the ride, likely both undercover and uniformed, and they will make the ride very unpleasant. Of course, NYPD is already aware of what’s going on on Bedford Ave., so we can be very certain they are monitoring the public communications of cyclists on that topic. It strikes me as stupid and unnecessarily provocative (not to mention inaccurate) to call a gathering of cyclists on a Sunday “Critical Mass.” Save it for the last (and second) Friday of the month!

  • PaulCJr

    I would just encourage people to keep riding bedford. The people that wanted to get rid of the bike lane figured that by removing the lane they would be removing the cyclist from the avenue. So I say keep riding the street to show them we will not be going anywhere. This is probably the best solution to the problem because we basically make the point of getting rid of cyclist mute. We should also be aware that there is a bigger issue here as well. One community is feeling the pressure of its community changing. Hasn’t anyone seen the spray painting and people saying ” Oi vey, hipsters move out”? I think my latter point is what is really going on.

  • I think the Century tour and all other city-wide biking events, like Tour de Brooklyn should ride through those 14 blocks.

  • eLK

    Tom

    Get license #, call 911. File a compliant. Send it to the City Council, the DOT and then post it online.

    This is how LA cyclists tracked Dr. Christopher Thompson. There were numerous complaints against him, and they knew it.

  • Wendy

    Contrary to the report, they were in fact detained. I live with one of them – he did spend time in jail. There was no summons issued at home.

  • Corvus

    I think there is a moral distinction that can be drawn between illegally painting over established bike lanes and illegally repainting bike lines that have been legally, if unjustly, eliminated. And it comes down to a matter of harm: those who paint over bike lanes and illegally close streets to bike traffic are taking away other peoples’ rights when they have no authority to do so, whereas those who, as an act of civil disobedience, repaint lines are taking no one’s rights away. The one action positively harms people and makes the city a more dangerous place, the other doesn’t and might even make the city a bit safer. That’s a big difference.

    But I’m not Peter Singer.

    Anyway, here’s info about the Sunday demonstration:
    http://times-up.org/index.php?page=removal-of-bedford-bike-lanes

  • Corvus

    And I think Glenn’s idea (#17) of running the Century Tour and other TA bike rides through the neighborhood is spot on.

  • Corvus@20, Bike lanes curtail driver’s rights, whether they are installed by the city or repainted by well-meaning citizens (to whom I am very sympathetic, I assure you). If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be worth much. Bike lanes limits motorists’ ability to park, double-park, and maneuver around obstacles in the road. It’s all spelled out in 34 RCNY 4-12(p)(2).

  • Jym

    =v= Here’s a Sunday ride demonstrating against the removal of the lanes:

    http://times-up.org/index.php?page=removal-of-bedford-bike-lanes

    Perhaps that’s what somebody misconstrued as “Critical Mass,” but it’s really a clown brigade funeral procession.

  • MrManhattan

    I don’t have a clown outfit. in view of the season do you think a Santa hat will do?

  • Corvus

    BicyclesOnly@22 – Your point is valid, I suppose, but by the same line of reasoning it would also be true to say that ANY traffic lines at all curtail drivers’ rights. Not to mention sidewalks. And buildings. And…oceans. And anything else that might keep a driver from driving or parking wherever they might want to on the surface of the Earth. But is anarcho-individualism REALLY the essence of freedom?

  • Corvus

    Jym@23 – Time’s Up is sellin Critical Mass stuff on their website. I could be wrong but I think they’e related. Anyway, I’ll be there even though I don’t have a clown suit.

  • MrManhattan

    In 1960, JFK was running for president, he made a speech in front of Protestant leaders and said this:

    “I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish, where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches of any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general population or the public actions of its officials.”

    50 years later we’re still dealing with this issue. Amazing

  • bike7

    Best ways to protest the Bedford Av Bike Lane Removals:

    1) Slowly drive down Bedford Av in cars full of “scantily clad women”, waving to each and every passerby. See if they locals want to kick cars off the road too in order to avoid such obscene sights.

    2) Legally park cars, buses, and vans on Bedford Av, and have loud parties with “scantily clad women”. See if the locals want to give up their free on-street parking to in order to avoid such obscene sights.

    3) KEEP BIKING!

    Rinse and repeat until we get the bike lane back.

    Seriously, if people want to live in an area of restrictive social mores, let them live in a gated community in the ‘burbs. If you want to live on a public street, then deal with the public using it.

  • A factor that some may not be aware of: the Hasidic communities in Brooklyn have long been regarded as blocs of votes that can be bought with promises of specific favors. This is because in the past they have reliably voted for whoever their rabbis told them to vote for.

    Apparently it doesn’t work so well any more, so hopefully we’ll see an end to that kind of undermining of democracy.

  • Corvus

    MrManhattan@27: What’s sad is that in 1960 that wasn’t really a radical or controversial thing to say whereas now people would be up in arms. We’ve been regressing my whole life.

  • on a saturday, years ago, i was riding my bike through hasidic williamsburg, when an orthodox man hailed me over to him. it was a sweltering day and he was standing in front of a synagogue waiting for some non-jew to happen by on their bicycle. that non-jew happened to be me. he took me into the synagogue and pointed at light switches and air conditioner for me to turn on and off, because his god told him he couldn’t flip switches on a saturday. i complied and his gift to me was a tour of this mega-synagogue, full of old bearded dudes buried in texts that looked pretty ancient – probably books from rabbi schneersohn’s own library, come all the way from poland.

    now, i have no problem doing a favor for you, but if you don’t want *us* in *your* neighborhood, turn on your own god damned air-conditioners and don’t ask us to turn the turnstyle for you so you don’t have to break your sabbath and carry your sick children(i had a friend tell me that someone actually asked her to do this, no joke) and all that other crap that you need us non-chosen ones to do for you.

    also, don’t kid yourself. you don’t own the neighborhood. there are quite a few puerto ricans and dominicans here too.

    btw, tom – never kick, slap or touch a car in anger. you can get arrested for that, even though drivers are free to run us over and have nothing done about it. there are other, more subtle and effective ways to get back at drivers.

    corvus@30: one step forward, two steps backward.

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