DOT Wipes 14 Blocks of Bike Lane Off Bedford Avenue

SandBlastingInProgress3.jpgWorkers blast away at the Bedford Avenue bike lane. Photo: Elizabeth Press.

As reported by Gothamist, DOT is removing a 14-block stretch of the Bedford Avenue bike lane between Flushing Avenue and Division Street in Hasidic Williamsburg. Workers were seen erasing the lane this morning, taking away a safer cycling connection to central Williamsburg that had been in place since 2007. The northbound bike lane now ends abruptly at Flushing, with space that once belonged to bikes already converted to left-turn lanes and the like:


Official reasons for the removal are hazy. DOT spokesperson Seth Solomonow sent the following statement by way of explanation:

A small portion of this lane is being removed 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. We will continue to work with any community on ways we can make changes to our streets without compromising safety.

It’s hard to see how any bike lane, let alone a popular and useful route like Bedford Avenue, can be removed without compromising safety. “This is a really heavily used segment of the Brooklyn bike network,” said Transportation Alternatives’ Wiley Norvell.
“Calling it redundant is a bit like saying it’s redundant to have
sidewalks on the street. It’s a necessary part of the transportation
system. Cyclists are still going to use Bedford Avenue in large
numbers, and they deserve a safe route.”

Last year the Post reported that members of the Hasidic community objected to the Bedford lane, supposedly due to the scanty clothing of female cyclists, although plain old windshield perspective certainly seems to have played a role. Kvetching about “immodest” cyclists was deemed sufficient grounds to scuttle plans for a Borough Park bike lane — all the way back in 1997. That similar complaints have undone safety gains here in 2009 is troubling, to say the least.

During his re-election campaign, Mayor Bloomberg struck a deal on several issues of special significance to Hasidic leaders. Whether the Bedford Avenue bike lane was part of the bargain, we can’t say. But whatever was in the deal, it didn’t help much at the polls. After two elections in which the Hasidic vote strongly backed Bloomberg, this year support for the mayor softened in Hasidic communities as it did everywhere else in the city.


  • Thanks for the cite to the school bus law, Jonathan. But it doesn’t apply to all traffic; just vehicles. Cyclists can easily observe this law by dismounting and walking it for 5 feet as they pass the front of the bus. I wish more cyclists did this. It barely slows you down.

  • Ken

    It doesn’t matter whether the bike lane was needed or was redundant or whatever. What makes this move so dispiriting is the implicit message it sends to cyclists and to the rest of the city about cyclists. The city apparently believes that it can, without warning, simply erase a pathway created for this particular road user. Would the DOT take out a 14-block sidewalk or 14 blocks of a street or even a lane of traffic without warning and without community input? Of course not. By removing the bike lane in this fashion, the message is that cyclists don’t really matter, don’t need to be respected and don’t deserve a place on our streets. This apparent message is bewildering in light of all the wonderful ways, both large and small, that DOT has been changing our streets for the better. Its Orwellian “explanation” does not help.

  • Last time I rode Bedford Avenue countless Orthodox women with strollers just stepped out into the bike lane as if it was intended to be their personal buffer against traffic. The area around Division and Clymers was blocked off by school busses and completely impassable for normal traffic. On my return trip there was a group of 30 to 50 school aged-children standing on the corner and in the bike lane who were courteous enough to step back and allow me to pass. But isn’t that the norm for Bedford Avenue?

    Quite honestly I wasn’t aware bicycles were required to stop for school busses. There’s no mention of it on the NYC CYcling Map, which does list a number of laws that do pertain to bicycles, and there’s no mention of it on the NYS DOT web site.

    Of course cyclists should show “due care” as Section 1146 specifies when passing any group of pedestrians whether they’re disembarking a school bus or simply congregating in the roadway, but there’s no indication they have any more obligation to stop, and wait, than, say, pedestrians.

    Removing the bike lane from this section won’t only make Bedford Avenue less safe for cyclists. It will be less safe for pedestrians, less safe for children who congregate in the streets, less safe for jay-walking mothers with strollers.

  • Sorry for the double post.

  • benbo

    Outrageous! I just called and left a message with Brooklyn DOT. For all the work that everyone has done to get more bike lanes in this city like showing up at community board meetings and signing petitions and sending emails- the fact that DOT can simply turn around and remove them without any input or warning is simply wrong.

  • Well this puts a wrench in my bike commute. I live in Astoria and work in Bed-Sty. I use bedford to come home. What if we gave the anticyclites a bike burlesque down bedford once a week till the bike lane returns? I sent the city my complaint and would like to join a protest.

  • baruch

    anybody who wants to join a protest let me know. i have a bike clubhouse right at the foot of the williamsburg bridge bike lane, where times up has its weekly classes.
    my address is 99 south 6th st.
    my phone is 917 681 5736.
    let me know.

  • Deb

    Shame on this city for handing over more public space to the South Williamsburg Hasidic community. Our streets, our land for affordable housing (check out the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition Web site:, etc.

    I will continue to ride on Bedford and I will continue to be loud about my presence.

  • If anyone is interested in working with me on some morning bike commuter pools next week, let me know.

    You can reach me at:

    bike [at] transalt [dot] org

    T.A. will be letting folks know about the commuter pools through our calendar:

    Keep on riding on Bedford!

  • Corvus

    Does anyone have any actual hard statistics on the number of school children injured by bikers at bus stops – either in the neighborhood in question or citywide? Is this REALLY a problem? I’m sure we can all recall stories of kids hurt or killed by cars, trucks, vans, etc. Anecdotally at least it seems that motorized traffic is MUCH more dangerous to them yet I don’t hear any calls to close down the area to automobiles.

    I agree with the sentiment that has been expressed several times already that the worst part of this whole thing is that the lanes were sandblasted literally overnight, with no notice or due process. Why is it so difficult to put a bike lane into a neighborhood and, apparently, so easy to remove one?

    Those who have used the route regularly should, I think, continue to do so; the streets aren’t being closed to bike traffic after all. If there are enough riders even without a lane perhaps the city can be persuaded to reverse its decision.

    As for protests – I’m half persuaded Ann #39 has the right idea. I’m not for needlessly antagonizing any particular community, but no particular community has any right to impose its provincial morality on those who use the public streets. Too bad it’s December – BRRRRRRRR!

  • Justin

    It’s not about the dress code, the safety of children or the buses. The real problem is the obliviousness of the community. I ride relatively slow through the neighborhood and I’ve seen parents whisk their children across Bedford right in front of me. Is it that much to yield a milisecond to let a rider pass? It’s obviously more difficult for a cyclist to slow down than a human.

    The concern is that the community wants to live in a vacuum. If they don’t intend to live in harmony with the rest of the area (that btw, is rapidly developing around them) they should head upstate and live in the homogenous communites with the rest of the Satmars.

    The buses don’t obey any real traffic laws. People park their cars in the bike lanes more often than not and like other readings have indicated, mothers treat the bike lanes as sidewalks. The conflicts don’t happen because cyclists are inherently unsafe, but because the community puts its interests and their ways above the rest of the surrounding community. Fighting to remove cyclists from Bedford is futile and the community will realize it sooner or later. They can’t have children fast enough to beat the secular development around them.

  • Giffen

    I’d like to dress more provocatively on this route to increase my visibility. Does anyone have advice on how to do this? (I’m a guy.)

  • Jeff

    Based on my observations of passive-aggressive actions by the community, and media coverage surrounding this issue, I would say that, by their standards, the most offensive way to dress involves straddling a two-wheeled vehicle.

    The proud traditions of this community allow one of two options for dressing:

    1) A black suit with a hat.
    2) A large, two-ton metal and glass shell.

    Also, the laws of physics are much, much different in this particular community. Twenty-five pound vehicles (averaging 200 pounds with operator) traveling at 20 to 30 miles per hour are lethal to children boarding school buses. However, two-ton vehicles traveling at 35 to 45 miles per hour pose no threat whatsoever to school children. The latter vehicles should be encouraged to travel even faster and in a more unpredictable manner by giving them more road space, all in the interest of creating a safer environment for children boarding school buses. Unfortunately, most of the physics which explains this phenomenon is transcribed in Yiddish, and I am thus unable to provide any additional details.

  • ED

    Everybody outta make an effort to obey the traffic signals on Bedford and in general in South Williamsburg. Seems like their main complaint is that we’re dangerous.
    Minivans in Southside are really dangerous and everyone knows it. They don’t have any driving etiquette around here.

  • ED

    Scantily clad is a bullshit complaint so I won’t even address that.

  • Mike

    Jeff, your comment was genius.

  • Bill

    Yesterday there was a comment to this article that began “Thanks bitches.” It appears to have been deleted. Yes, it began with (debatably) juvenile name calling, but as I remember it, the rest of the comment was on-topic. I’ve not noticed creeping PC censorship on Streetsblog before, and I hope the comment was deleted for some other reason. If it was deleted because of the (again, debatably) negative mention of Muslims later in the comment, that’s, without a doubt, PC censorship.

  • ladyperson

    Jeff, wish like hell you’d get that in a letter and send it to DOT and Brooklyn Community Board One!

    Realize it was short notice but only 2 people attended last night’s board meeting to complain and one of them was Ben Fried. Please give it a shot at the January meeting and/or take your own complaints from here, paste into a letter and send out!

  • Just to be clear: in bringing up the school bus thing I was pointing out the hypocrisy of the community pointing to safety concerns as a rationale for encouraging the slaughter of cyclists, not suggesting the buses did that in response to bikes. In fact, part of the ridiculousness of pointing to bikers as the one great unsafe group of people in that area is that those school buses pull across those lanes because of motor vehicle traffic. The two or three times I’ve ever seen a bus NOT pull across all those lanes, cars and trucks and other buses all whizzed right by. And yet for some reason, there aren’t any backroom deals struck to eliminate motor vehicle lanes and turn the neighborhood into a pedestrian paradise. I wonder what that reason might be . . .

    And by the way: if I don’t hear from DOT soon, I’m writing again. This is not going away.

  • Whens the Bedford ‘scantily clad’ ride going to happen? Lets make it happen.

  • Corvus

    When’s the next World Naked Bike Ride? Maybe it should have a Williamsburg edition.

  • Ian Turner
  • fdr

    Gee, I haven’t seen this much outrage on Streetsblog since Iris Weinshall and Michael Primeggia left.

  • Giffen

    BRrrr, I have a feeling most of those “outfits” won’t work this time of year!

  • moe

    The fact of the matter is that the bike lane was never taken away , the solid line separating the cars and the bikes was deliberately left their and reinforced.#2 those few blocks of bedford become very narrow and curve in that area which makes it unsafe for bikes and cars to share that part of bedford.

  • benbo

    What about if we just repainted the bike lane? Anyone have any spray paint?

  • David_K

    Moe – you are right. The solid line is still there, so the bike lane is still there (sort of, minus the bike icons). If the solid line is taken away, Bedford would be back to the old days — a traffic free-for-all. I guess that’s what the Hasidic cultmembers crave.

  • I encourage you not to rely on that space as a “bike lane.” Just this morning, I was traveling in the center of the left lane on this stretch of Bedford. An automobile decided that its desire to make a left turn at the next intersection was more important than my life, and therefore used the (former) bike lane to pass me at a very high speed. In other words, despite the fact that motorists did not completely respect the formerly properly marked bike lane, it at least made them think twice before pulling little stunts like this.

    You need to remember that, by definition, we are sharing street space with the segment of the population which lacks the basic intelligence necessary to decipher to Subway map, or ride a bicycle. I know, I know, the Subway map is color-coded, and most of us learned how to ride a bicycle when we were five years old. Like I said, these are not very intelligent people. Come on–they communicate with a system of loud honking noises! Kind of like my dog. This is why I’m recommending that you don’t use this de-facto “bike lane”, or engage in any other actions that further put your life into the hands of any quadraped, whether it be a dog, or an automobile.

  • Just out of curiosity, does anyone know of any other instance, since the 80s when Koch removed the concrete barriers on the Sixth Avenue Bike Lane, that the City has actively and deliberately obliterated an entire stretch of striped bike lane? More often they seem to disappear due to wear and neglect.

  • Stacy, the Myrtle Ave bike lane was removed a few years ago from Washington Park to Washington Ave (a span of about 10 blocks), but they provided an alternate eastbound bike lane on Willoughby Ave, a much calmer street.

  • Clarence Eckerson

    In Staten Island, a substantial portion of bike lane was removed about 3 or so years ago. I am trying to look that one up. But it happened, I believe it was about one mile.

  • Steve Faust

    The insularity and disdain for outsiders of the Williamsburg Hasidim is nothing new. I lived in the Marcy Projects at Nostrand Ave (Lee Ave) and Flushing in 1950 and even then, the shtetl started just beyond Flushing Ave and ended at Division Ave. Over the past 60 years, things have gotten more intense there, more kids, more cars, but the boundary and the attitude is the same.

    Removing the bike lane will change little, there will still be the vans and school buses randomly double parked in the same places, forcing traffic into a grand slalom. Only now drivers will be even less understanding when cyclists have to move out and take a lane to pass.

    Kent Ave is absolutely not the viable daily detour route for Willy B bound bike traffic. The added distance down Flushing and back up hill on Division or Broadway or South 5th, plus the 2 turns onto and off of Kent Ave add up to a major safety problem. All this extra distance is extra exposure versus continuing to ride the shorter distance along Bedford, even without a marked bike lane. Flushing has heavy traffic. Kent Ave at the BQE has chaotic traffic and a major crash risk site.
    (Has anyone seen the total car crash statistics for Bedford’s intersections versus the Flushing-Kent-Division detour, particularly Kent at the BQE?)

    Does anyone remember Ed Koch’s ill-fated plan to ban bicycles from Midtown avenues, allegedly for the safety of cyclists? One of the viable arguments against it was the added cyclist exposure traveling east & west, with added intersections, put cyclists at greater crash risk than using the center avenues.

    The suggested alternate detour route is far more hazardous. Bad design.

  • J

    Many bike lanes have come and gone over the years. Some of the first bike lanes were installed in June 1977 on the grounds of JFK airport. These have long since disappeared. The Sixth Avenue lane was installed in July 1977 and originally stretched from 8th Street up to 59th Street. The section between 42nd & 59th has also long since disappeared.

    I’m not a fan of the process or the policy, but there is some precedent.

  • Corvus

    So when is the Lady Godiva protest?

  • I don’t know that there is any evidence that Hasids had the bike lane removed, let alone that it had anything to do with the way cyclists dress. I hope this article can be updated with some hard facts rather than all these rumors.

    I think Bedford ave from St Marks to Flushing is the most awful bike lane ever. Who wants to ride on such a wide road which allows vehicles, especially very large trucks to speed at 45 miles per hour? With the double parking, you have to be quick or lucky to get around without stopping and waiting for a break in traffic. I never feel safe on Bedford.

    The part that was closed is slightly calmer than the section to the south. The Bedford Stuyvesant section is a painted bike lane with a buffer zone. The closed section is more narrow, it is still two lanes going one way, which I think encourages competitive driving and speeding. The bike lane is/was more marginal, closer to parked cars and narrower. I don’t think it was a good place for a bike lane anyway and DOT may be doing us a favor by removing it to divert traffic to calmer streets.

  • Gwin

    Chris — it may not provide 100% hard evidence, but check out the link in Mike Epstein’s post above for complaints from the Hasidim (which include the attire issue).

  • al dente

    I love it…..all you bikers and green people who supported EMPEROR BLOOMBERG are now getting screwed. LOL

    His latest flip flop is dropping support for green initiatives in large buildings (his real estate buddies were against it)

  • mike

    @al dente: The Mayor is retreating on some environmental initiatives and you’re happy? What is wrong with you?

  • baruch

    according to what people tell me, the bike lane was painted back on by a coalition of concerned bicyclists and hasidim.

  • Whoever painted the bike lane back:

    THANK YOU!!!

    I was literally grinning from the moment I crossed Flushing Ave, all the way across the bridge!

    In addition to the DIY paint job, I noticed some new stenciling and real DOT paint for the dashed lines which mark the bike lane through the intersection.

    Are we getting our dignity and safety back for real?

  • David_K

    I saw those DIY lanes too. I’m gratified and intrigued to hear (Baruch’s comment above) that people in the hasidic community pitched in. That’s great news — anyone have info on that aspect of the story?

  • Mellow Yellow

    Brooklyn Critical Mass THIS Friday the 11th!!

    The perfect opportunity to assert our right to all streets, painted with lines and stencils or not. Let’s show them just how many of us there are. Lets show them the power of a community that is mobile, diverse, and transcends parcels of land that can be zoned, sold, or “represented” by elected officials.

    Meet 7pm at Grand Army Plaza or at Williamsburg Bridge. The latter might be preferable, as the increasingly hostile 78th precinct has been showing up in force at the G.A.P. Bring lights and bells to avoid getting Nyp’d.

    Love your BiKeLaYN!

  • According to Gothamist tipsters two goiyem were arrested around 4am this morning for trying to repaint the Bedford Avenue Bike Lane.

  • If or when these bike lanes get permanently repainted, get them out of the door zone!

  • Johnny

    I am irate about this whole situtation. We all know that this wouldn’t be happening in another community. The reason why this is an issue is because the community is Hasidic. We must raise our voices against these fanatics, who want to tell others how to live their lives. We also know that the bike lanes don’t present a “safety issue,” like the Hasidics claim. Do you remember when the Hasidics first started to complaint during the summer? Well, if you remember correctly, it wasn’t becuase of a “safety issue,” they didn’t approve of the way the cyclists dress. Who the HELL are they to tell people how to dress? I am thankful that I don’t use this bike lane, but I am willing to join the protest…this is an injustices! As I said previously, the DOT wouldn’t be entertaining this type of nonsense from another community. We need the bike lanes, not because we want to get back at the Hasidics, but because it’s a SAFETY ISSUE. People, let’s organize and fight for our rights!!!

  • Mychele

    So what happened? This is a fascinating issue & I’m dying to know if the Critical Mass actually occurred, what happened, and how a huge multicultural biking community stands up to a small one that isn’t supposed to use cars on the sabbath day but seems addicted to them all other days to the point of developing a hatred of bikes! And the clothing issue!
    It’s NYC for heaven’s sake, not Kansas!!

  • SUV

    I have a great idea for all you fucking people and your fucking bikes. Pick up your shit and go back where ever the fuck you came from.No one wants this bike lanes, no one uses them is waste of my tax dollars. Yea I have a business and pay taxes. SO GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY CITY. Watch out for the BIG black SUV. This money making city not a bike riding city

  • Ian Turner

    I rate this troll 0 out of 5 points. If you want to get a rise, you’ll need some more subtlety, especially on moderated forums such as this one.

  • Kaja

    And yet, you replied! 🙁

  • Ian Turner

    Kaja, reply ? rise. I like to give trolls a score so that if they study hard then maybe someday they can do something like this or this. When you take trolling to the world level, then you get Jonathan Swift, which in my opinion is a good thing for society. 🙂


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