The Williamsburg Bike Lane Flap: Beyond “Hipster vs. Hasid”

hasid_pic.jpgWhen the New York Post ran a story last week about the opposition of Williamsburg’s Hasidic community to bike lanes that pass through their neighborhood, the main beef was supposedly about the "immodest" dress of female cyclists. But just like similar uproars in years past, the underlying objections may have less to do with bare shoulders than with the mere presence of bikes in the street.

Here’s Simon Weiser, a familiar source in these stories, as quoted in the Jerusalem Post:

"The issue with modesty, it’s a problem, but we live in New York, you know what I mean?" said Simon Weiser, a community board member who represents the Hasidim.

"My concern is that there are three bike lanes
right next to each other and so many children, so many schools, in a
very small area. Everyone understands and knows a bike lane is a

While the Jerusalem Post’s headline writers stuck with the irresistible "hipsters versus Hasids" angle, commenter Zvi suggests that the bike lanes are entirely consistent with the teachings of the Talmud, which says that "whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world."

Photo: Brian Branch Price/New York Post

  • Everyone understands and knows a bike lane is a nuisance.

    Who with the what now?

  • m-o

    i’d really like to see some more spin about bike lanes talking about how bike riders using bike lanes are liable to ride more calmly and predictably. maybe we can get more CBs clamoring for more bike networks thru’ their neighborhoods.

  • jmb

    With so many schools and so many children in a small area, I would think that they would focus their energy on reducing the insane amount of car/van/bus traffic that goes roaring through those streets every day and claim a few lives a year.

  • andrew

    some contraception would be a mitzvah!

  • marcus

    Anyone who rides through the hasidic sections of williamsburg knows that the true hazards are mostly caused by hasids walking in the streets and by (if I can generalize here, and I don’t see why not) their atrocious lack of driving skills.

    That said, the car lane on Franklin is very tightly squeezed by parking on one side and the bike lane on the other, in certain parts.

  • Moser

    I ride Bedford Ave. from Flatbush near Brooklyn College to the W’burg Bridge about once a week during the summer and I can say from experience that Brooklyn drivers from all neighborhoods and backgrounds are equal-opportunity menaces/assholes.

  • Archie Bunker

    I’d have to agree with Moser on that one. Whenever I catch myself thinking a thought such as: “Wow, these fugin Williamsburg Chasids have to be the worst drivers in Brooklyn,” I step back and remind myself that I’ve had the same exact thought regarding Flatbush West Indians, Carroll Gardens SUV moms, Washington Heights Dominicans, Borough Park Chasids, Bensonhurst Italians with blinged out rims, Pakistani cabbies, anyone with a Puerto Rican flag hanging from their rear view mirror, and all drives of Access-a-Ride buses. With the exception of the Access-a-Ride idiots, who I’m quite certain are the least skilled class of professional drivers in New York City, I think it’s pretty much a wash. No particular ethnic group seems to have a lock on bad driving.

  • pedestri-biker

    A) 1000+ pound vehicles / Huge stopping distances / 30+ MPH
    B) ~200 pound vehicles / Short stopping distances / 15-20 MPH
    That’s a tough call.

    I’d have to agree the pedestrian behavior in W’burg is fairly atrocious. I never understood why, but I am always aware that I have to keep an extra eye out for people popping out from between cars, crossing against lights, without looking, etc.

  • Oy Gevalt

    Great. Now we’ve got the Jewish versions of the Amish (don’t correct me I don’t care) telling us that cyclists are supposedly bad because we dress “immodestly”. I don’t begrudge them pigtails and silly hats in the middle of summer, but if the sight of a woman cyclist’s shoulders gets them all worked up then they really should go back inside and read the Talmud till what ever impure thought the shocking sight of a nude shoulder leaves their mind.
    Yeah, I’m doubting that the clothes are really the issue. Someone’s got an ulterior motive.

  • Streetsman

    At this point we have read comments that the implementation of bike lanes is both fascist and anarchist. It has been called the pursuit of “hippies like Janette Sadik-Khan” or of “Mayor Mike and his billionaire developers.” Bike lanes are not gay enough for Chelsea, and yet they are too flamboyant for south Williamsburg. Most retailers complain they are bad for business, and in Long Island City, they are a sign of gentrification and privatization.

    Anytime you try to add or change anything in New York you face fierce resistance from the community for whatever reason, but mainly because it is change and change has impacts. Whether those perceived impacts are real or imaginary, people will always complain. Fortunately it seems that the DOT is committed to making streets more safely accommodate bicycles regardless of what ridiculous arguments are made against doing so.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    I’ve gotta’ correct one thing “Oy Gevalt” said. The Amish love bicycles! When I’ve been out to Lancaster you would see both boys and girls (and possibly women too) riding bicycles and little push scooters to get around. Plus they don’t really care what the “English” do as long as it isn’t directly offensive towards them.

  • Patrick

    I love reading StreetsBlog, but the current excerpt from Streetsman being shown on the index page suggests that the characterization of bike lanes as fascist and anarchist and other similar negative comments are his viewpoints, while reading the post makes it clear that he was simply referring to comments made by others. I hope that comments I post here don’t get similarly used out of context on the site.

  • t

    The logic here blows the mind and is very dangerous. If they can oppose lanes because of fears of “modest dress,” couldn’t they then oppose pedestrians for the same reason? Look out, because if these fundamentalists have their way there would be streets that people couldn’t walk down unless they are “properly” dressed. There are some neighborhoods in Israel where that’s exactly the case.

    (And I say this as a proud, moderate Jewish person, who doesn’t believe that anyone should force their religious beliefs on anyone, especially in a shared, multi-cultural city.)

  • This reminds me of an incident that happened some years ago on my college’s campus. On campus, there are often wacko jesus-is-coming-tomorrow-better-repent-now types yelling at students as they pass. A rather infamous young lady was walking past one of these evangelists wearing a conservative summer dress. The preacher touted her as an example of feminine modesty. In response, she removed the dress and continued walking across the campus.

    Great story. Explain to me again why I should have any respect for anyone who attempts to force their own religious/social/whatever beliefs on others?

  • Oy Gevalt

    Andy B, bubbe, nowhere did I say the Amish were anti bike. Reading comprehension is a wonderful thing. Granted I should have proofread it a little more than what I did (the Talmud comment could have been clearer) I never so much as implied that the Amish didn’t like bikes. In fact, the Mennonites (from which the Amish are derived)produced Floyd Landis. Landis who until his Jack Daniels (?) incident, looked likely to take the American cycling mantle from some schmo named Lance.

    I never wear buttons but I got a cool hat
    And my homies agree
    I really look good in black… fool

  • Moser

    It would be better if they were Amish, since then they would be in horse-drawn buggies instead of veering around in huge cars.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    No worries. But it did kinda’ come off that way.


  • Oy Gevalt

    Andy, such a nice boy. I don’t see how anyone would misinterpret what I said, but feh, it’s all good.

  • brooklyn native

    I can see why the hacids don’t want bike lanes in their side of wiliamsburg. Its because they want to keep all of you damn hipsters out of their neighborhood. First you hipsters took over the northside and now your moving into greenpoint where I was born and raised. You people need to take your parents trustfunds and go back to wisconsin, or michigain or wherever the hell your from, and stop raising rent prices in our neighborhoods and driving working class people out. Btw, you all look like retards and you get in my way with your stupid bikes while im driving. God I hate you hipsters.

  • We saw a lot of the hostility of the brooklyn native during the congestion pricing debate. And here it is again. But without “hipsters,” and their energy and creativity and power and money, New York would be less like Paris and London and more like Newark and Detroit. If that were the case, the native-born gentry wouldn’t be biting and scratching to defend their territory — they’d be dreaming and scheming to move to another place worth living in.

  • Hey Mark Walker,

    Jusr shows how ignorant you tranplants are, especially when you leave comments like yours. The majority of Brooklyn and Queens does not even resemble a run down and dangerous place. Your perception of new york is typical of your kind and maybe THATS where the anger comes from in natives.

  • Diehipster, please point to the place in my post where I describe either Brooklyn or Queens as a “run down and dangerous place.” And if you can’t find it, stop putting words on my mouth.

  • biker

    hasids ARE the worst drivers ever. i might stop spitting on windshields and start punching sideview mirrors.

  • DJ Kyosti

    Since when do I need a bike lane to drive through 1870s Vilnius? People rode bikes through the shtetl before the bike lanes and they will continue to do so because Bedford Ave happens to rather perfectly connect North Brooklyn to South Brooklyn and to the various arteries leading to the bridges to Manhattan. Incidentally, one of the things that gives Brooklyn its character are its quaint ethnic enclaves; on the other hand, I suppse the same could have been said about the Balkans. Bottom line: This is America, people can live wherever they want, there is no “right” to a homogenous community, and if these Brooklyn Taliban don’t like other New Yorkers biking through their neighborhood then they need to move because it’s a free country. They’re free to dress as they wish and practice their religion as they wish, but they are not free to impose their religious viewpoints on the public space.

  • TOM

    You would think that they could see our tolerance of eruv border wires hanging from lamp post all over town as cause for more cooperation with the city’s desire to control their traffic problems.

  • John

    DJ Kyosti – So true! They really are Brooklyn Taliban!

  • Sithwarrior_1978

    this utter crock of shit


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