• Mon December 21 2009
  • Posted Dec 21, 2009
New York, NY By Verena Dobnik, Associated Press Writer , Bicyclists who planned to go topless to protest the removal of a Brooklyn bike lane switched gears Saturday, pinning plastic breasts to their jackets as they rolled into a snowstorm. Dozens of bikers joined a protest called the "Freedom Ride" to oppose the removal of a bike path in Williamsburg, an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood. But the fierce snowstorm in New York kept them from pedaling topless as planned. The hipster cyclists blame Mayor Michael Bloomberg for the loss of the lane because Williamsburg's Hasidic Jewish residents "can't handle scantily clad women" on wheels, said bike messenger Heather Loop, who organized the action. The bikers' tactics did not amuse some faithful Hasids leaving synagogue services with their families on the Sabbath. They rushed home. Bloomberg had removed the bike path because members of the Satmar branch of Judaism "don't want to see women in shorts," said Baruch Herzfeld, who runs a bike-sharing program in a community where Jewish women wear hefty skirts and long-sleeved blouses and men wear heavy coats and hats, even in summer. "The rabbis want to keep their people in the 18th century, and they don't want the world to intrude into their enclave," Herzfeld said. But Leo Moskowitz, a Williamsburg resident with five children, insists the main issue is safety. "Kids can be knocked over because school buses are not allowed to stop in the bike lane — it's dangerous," said Moskowitz, who acknowledges he feels "very uncomfortable" seeing women bare their legs in public. It was too cold to do that Saturday. Still, the riders made their point, obeying traffic signals as police watched. They had gathered earlier Saturday at a Williamsburg bar called the Wrecked Door. Lyla Durden took a last puff from her cigarette on the street before rolling off into the flake-filled night with other protesters who believe the Bedford Avenue bike path should be restored. Marc LaVorgna, a Bloomberg spokesman, said the city wants riders to use a much safer lane nearby — a two-way path separated from car traffic. That bike lane also drew the wrath of some Satmars last year, but it stayed. The now-vanished bike lane on Bedford Avenue has been the subject of two recent protests, including one during which activists painted back the lane stripe. City workers quickly scraped it off. Sam Paul uses her bicycle to deliver food and alcohol in Brooklyn for a service company called Snap. The 23-year-old native New Yorker said it was snowy and cold, "but we're used to riding in this kind of weather." Despite the hundreds of miles of bike lanes the city has created in recent years, "we need more," Paul said. Bedford Avenue "is congested — that's why a bike lane is necessary." No word from City Hall whether the path will get a Second Chance, the name of a Williamsburg saloon where the group wound up on Saturday.

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