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Williamsburg, NY - Hasids and Bicyclists Debate Bedford Avenue Bike Lane [video]

Published on: January 26, 2010 07:28 AM
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Williamsburg, NY - As a representative for the Hasidic community, Isaac Abraham went as a sheep into the lion’s den last night at Pete’s Candy Store in Williamsburg, where Open City Dialogues hosted a debate on the contentious Bedford Avenue bike lane—a lane that’s cost both sides $26,000 of taxpayer money so far.

Hasidic bike enthusiast Baruch Herzfeld moderated panelists that included Transportation Alternatives’ Caroline Samponaro, Bike messenger Heather Loop (the topless protester), and Satmar representative and City Council Candidate Isaac Abraham, as they civilly argued over issues of pedestrian safety, parking, cultural differences, ranging statistics, and the role of a bike lane in front of a crowd that was 90%+ bike lane-sympathetic.

Representatives from the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Mayor’s Office declined to attend.

It was Abraham who became the central focus of the debate, defending the Hasidic community against various accusations as the packed house jeered, laughed, and applauded at various points and counter-points made throughout the night.

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Samponaro, who offered the majority of the rebuttals to Abraham’s various claims, presented bicyclists as riders in a system designed to create a safe network of passages to help the city move. When bike lanes are in place, she argued, bicyclists move in a predictable manner, making it easier for drivers to see them and safer for pedestrians to cross streets.

On the contrary, Abraham argued that the bikers don’t listen, won’t slow down, do not respect pedestrians, and will not obey traffic laws whether or not they are in place. He argued that the lane was enacted without consultation from the Hasidic community, and that the DOT did not do their proper research because they are “a bunch of morons.”

Abraham also scuttled the popular belief that the dispute itself is a cultural issue - - namely, that scantily-clad biker chicks ride through their neighborhoods—arguing that these women can be found riding on the parallel streets Wythe and Kent. Why, he asked, would they care so much about Bedford? He pressed his case that it’s simply a matter of pedestrian safety, and that with all the kids in the neighborhood, having bikers flying through just isn’t something the Hasidic community wants to deal with.

Addressing the situation as Abraham presented it, as a safety issue, Samponaro offered a number of solutions and next steps for the two groups to move forward. Among them, establishing a school bus safety program, “neck downs” for pedestrians, raising the crosswalks, and keeping cars from parking close to the curbs - a process called “daylighting.”

But despite these, she concluded that nothing will get done if the two camps can’t begin to see eye to eye. To help get there, she offered a way to get everyone “enjoying each other more.”

That plan is Waving Wednesdays—Transportation Alternatives’ idea to have everyone appreciate each other’s humanity. To take part, all they ask is for riders and pedestrians alike to recognize one another when they meet, with a simple wave, and for this to be one of many baby steps as both sides can move closer to some kind of agreement.

But aside from waving representatives from two overwhelmingly different walks of life, it’ll take many more discussions like tonight’s before Hasidic representatives will see that the safety that bike lanes provide bikers on Bedford, and for the bikers to believe that the Hasids really do think their pedestrians are in danger.

In the end, organizers concluded the event by thanking the panelists and admitting that if people want to have their voices heard by the decision makers who matter, they should show up at next week’s Community Board 1 meeting, which is Thursday, February 4th by 6:15 p.m. at the Swinging Sixties Senior Center in Williamsburg, and register to speak, for the week’s 7 p.m. meeting.



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Read Comments (10)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Jan 26, 2010 at 08:29 AM Anonymous Says:

"waving wednesdays." LOL. i can just picture the chassidim waving at the bikers.

2

 Jan 26, 2010 at 09:08 AM Anonymous Says:

herzfeld and durden are wearing isaac abraham hats. LOL

3

 Jan 26, 2010 at 09:35 AM NYCbuff Says:

thumbs up to you.... i will make sure you get an alyea tomorrow !!!! -k-

4

 Jan 26, 2010 at 11:56 AM Dav Says:

Well spoken and short to the point... we need a person like him to represent us in our community he is not just playing politics he fights what’s right,
They been caring Isaac Abraham campaign hats, its not bed idea he still have a big chance to become the next city councilman at 33rd district.
Last time he came in third out of seven hopefully by next time around he will be our next councilman. Lets wish him lots of HATZLUCHA..

5

 Jan 26, 2010 at 07:06 PM Anonymous Says:

Reb Avruham Chazak Viemutz! with out you who knows what would be today!
Yashir Koach

6

 Jan 26, 2010 at 08:19 PM LESKid Says:

Go Baruch go! Have any chicken eggs?

7

 Jan 27, 2010 at 02:21 AM Anonymous Says:

There really is no safety concern here; is there!

Chasidim find female bikers- immoral, immodest, and offensive, it goes against their lifestyle (some do not even permit their wives to drive).

Whilst, one can argue, that, perhaps they can look away. The real concern is for the little children, lest, heaven forfend; they behold (their little innocent eyes gaze upon) the sight of a female biker. They believe that they are condemned to hell for a sin of this sort.

On the other hand, it is after all 2010 in America and not 1940 in Warsaw, Poland. Both sides, should be more considerate and open minded (as well as educate their children as such).

8

 Jan 27, 2010 at 03:58 PM Dav Says:

Reply to #7  
Anonymous Says:

There really is no safety concern here; is there!

Chasidim find female bikers- immoral, immodest, and offensive, it goes against their lifestyle (some do not even permit their wives to drive).

Whilst, one can argue, that, perhaps they can look away. The real concern is for the little children, lest, heaven forfend; they behold (their little innocent eyes gaze upon) the sight of a female biker. They believe that they are condemned to hell for a sin of this sort.

On the other hand, it is after all 2010 in America and not 1940 in Warsaw, Poland. Both sides, should be more considerate and open minded (as well as educate their children as such).

You can’t commend if you don’t live in the community! Try to be on Bedford Ave. wile the school buses are pick-dropping off kids you will prove your self
That bikers ignore the red flashers of school buses!! We call this open minded Fallow the rules and regulations: yield for pedestrians!!!

9

 Jan 27, 2010 at 04:13 PM Williamsburgher Says:

Reply to #7  
Anonymous Says:

There really is no safety concern here; is there!

Chasidim find female bikers- immoral, immodest, and offensive, it goes against their lifestyle (some do not even permit their wives to drive).

Whilst, one can argue, that, perhaps they can look away. The real concern is for the little children, lest, heaven forfend; they behold (their little innocent eyes gaze upon) the sight of a female biker. They believe that they are condemned to hell for a sin of this sort.

On the other hand, it is after all 2010 in America and not 1940 in Warsaw, Poland. Both sides, should be more considerate and open minded (as well as educate their children as such).

Safety is the main issue, and that concern is real. Someone else's morality is secondary which we are not forcing on anyone. If the secondary issue goes, the safety issue remains. This is besides a fairness issue which a bike land "also" on Bedford Avenue poses to an entire neighborhood.

Which ever way you want to slice it, safety first, fairness second, morality a distant third.

11

 Jan 29, 2010 at 03:22 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #7  
Anonymous Says:

There really is no safety concern here; is there!

Chasidim find female bikers- immoral, immodest, and offensive, it goes against their lifestyle (some do not even permit their wives to drive).

Whilst, one can argue, that, perhaps they can look away. The real concern is for the little children, lest, heaven forfend; they behold (their little innocent eyes gaze upon) the sight of a female biker. They believe that they are condemned to hell for a sin of this sort.

On the other hand, it is after all 2010 in America and not 1940 in Warsaw, Poland. Both sides, should be more considerate and open minded (as well as educate their children as such).

The Polish Goytas in 1940 Warsaw probably dressed better than the NYC bikers, in fact the Chofetz chaim in his sefer Geder Oilom, on th eimportance of woman covering their hair, writes "how fortunate we are to be in a country like Poland were even the gentile woman cover their". Even in America in the early 1900s no self respecting woman would venture outside without a hat. This trait is traceable to many cultures and concurs very well with the Pirkei dReb Eliezer that says at the time of the sin of the Eitz hada'as, woman was punished with 9 curses and death, among them "her head is covered like a mourner and her ear is pierced like an eved oilom". Which is why I really get a kick out of people particulatly men that walk around with 4 earings to demonstrate their "individuality", altz gresserer an eved.

12

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