Prospect Park West has been the most active front in the Brooklyn bike wars for months but look out, here comes Bedford Avenue again! In late 2009 the Department of Transportation painted over a fourteen-block stretch of a bike lane along in South Williamsburg, and without a line in the asphalt, Hasidic motorists are harassing, threatening and fighting cyclists in the street.
The Brooklyn Paper reports a series of recent incidents involving altercations between bikers and Orthodox Jewish motorists and pedestrians on the stretch of bike lane-less Bedford Avenue between Flushing and Division avenues, which remains the most direct route for northbound cyclists—who can ride along Bedford safely in a separated bike lane all the way from Sheepshead Bay with relatively few risks, mind you. But once they reach Flushing (there’s still some resentment that the block after Park Avenue still has the bike lane), all bets are off. A Bed-Stuy resident had an especially harrowing encounter en route to work last month:
A bus driver even trapped cyclist Christine Sandoval against a parked car near Flushing Avenue as she was commuting to work on April 15. But the blowhard screamed at the cyclist, even kicking her bike in anger.
The justification for the endangering cyclists? That stretch of street is just too busy to safely make room for cyclists.
Hasidic leaders say that cyclists should find another route. “You have a densely populated area that hundreds of people cross those streets every single day,” said former Council candidate Isaac Abraham. “You’ve got a ballroom, two schools and five synagogues. Traffic there is tremendous.”
It’s my understanding that tremendous traffic is among the best reasons for installing a bike lane on a street, not only to create a safe space for bike riders, but also to calm traffic, reduce speeding and prevent deaths. The city’s best bike lanes are on streets that thousands of people cross every day, and to actively attempt to injure and possibly kill cyclists is only going to make Bedford Avenue more dangerous for all the drivers, riders and pedestrians who have the right to use it.