Hasidic Group Wants Citi Bike in South Williamsburg

With the arrival of Citi Bike, the shared bike initiative sponsored by Citibank, one group of Jewish residents wants to fill the “Black Hole” of the heavily Hasidic neighborhood of South Williamsburg, which the program has bypassed. Hasidic community leaders sought to keep the bike system away from the area but Hasidim For Bikes want to prove that not all Hasidic Jews agree.

(Photo by Planetgordon.com, Flickr Creative Commons License)

Hasidim For Bikes hopes this bike share station in Brooklyn will also spread to their neck of the borough. (Photo by Planetgordon.com, Flickr Creative Commons License)

Hasidim For Bikes, a grassroots organization from Williamsburg created in late May, hopes to dispel the perception that Hasidim are anti-bicycle. “We were shocked to hear last Memorial Day that there will be a Black Hole in Hasidic Williamsburg; it created a black hole in our hearts,” a representative of Hasidim for Bikes wrote in an email to the Forward. “We decided to create the organization, Hasidim For Bikes. The organization will let our voice be heard, the silent majority of Hasidim.”

A representative from the department of transportation said, “The station siting reflects the input of neighborhoods in the service area, and communities can still propose locations where they would like to see additional stations.”

The representative for Hasidim For Bikes said they plan to create an online petition to send to Citi Bike and said it was a misconception that most Hasidim living in Williamsburg do not want to ride bikes. “A few extreme fringe activists are against bikes claiming it’s a non-Jewish thing, but they are also against a lot of things,” the representative said, listing examples such as smart phones, DVDs and exercise for women. “The media just quotes a few extreme leaders. If the community will be polled directly on those issues, you will hear a total different opinion.”

However, those community leaders are still influential. The representative for Hasidim For Bikes did not wish to be identified, for fear of “backlash and intimidation from the so called leaders of South Williamsburg.”

This isn’t the first time Hasidic leaders in South Williamsburg have opposed initiatives to accommodate bike riders.

South Williamsburg’s Hasidic leaders have long been quick to publicly deride bicycle enthusiasts and the city’s efforts to accommodate riders. In 2009, they fought to get rid of bike lanes along Bedford Avenue in South Williamsburg claiming that the bike lanes would bring immodestly dressed women through the neighborhood.

For Jewish businessman Baruch Herzfeld, who used to own a Brooklyn bike shop that lent bikes out to Hasidic residents, it’s a vocal minority speaking for a community who disagrees.

“You have to understand, it’s a few hotheads [complaining],” Herzfeld said. “In the city, there’s always a battle over cars and bicycles. When you combine religion, it becomes a bigger stress point.

“For the most part, the community enjoys bicycles and physical activity. They used my bike program all the time and were very happy with it. The community would love to have this program. They should put it in as quickly as possible.”

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