My milk run — the route I take if I’m not feeling very adventurous or creative and just want to get a few miles into my legs — is to cycle over the Manhattan Bridge, make my way up to Prospect Park for one to three loops, and then head for the Williamsburg Bridge for the ride back to Manhattan.
On that 14- to 20-mile circuit, some of the roads I take have bike lanes, and some do not, but generally I’ve picked out a route without much traffic or hassle.
It’s a relaxing ride, and one of my favorite parts of it is the time I spend on Bedford Avenue.
Turning onto the avenue from Rutledge, I ride Bedford in a northwesterly direction, passing over the BQE before the street angles to the northeast and heads for the Williamsburg Bridge.
It’s only a short stretch in my overall route, but especially on Saturdays, with so many of the Hasidic Jews walking around, it’s quite a scene, like you’ve suddenly warped your way into a 19th Century Hungarian backstreet.
I’ve always considered it one of the more enjoyable parts of my workout.
I was only vaguely aware that this short part of my ride was Ground Zero in the hipster-Hasid nuclear war going on over a bike lane, probably because I wasn’t riding as much last year.
This winter, I’ve started riding again, and was stunned to see what had happened to that bike lane that so much has been written about.
As in, it’s still there.
Sure, the painted bicycle symbols identifying it as a bike lane have been removed, and the purely symbolic inner stripe, separating the lane from parked cars, has also disappeared.
But the lane itself, and the all-important painted stripe separating it from traffic, are still very much in existence.
The last couple of weekends, I pedaled happily on this bike lane with just as much safety as ever, with the Hasids walking along on the sidewalk to my left and some weekend traffic passing by me on my right.
Clearly, when it bowed to pressure from ultra-orthodox Satmars (the world’s largest Hasidic sect, headquartered in Williamsburg), the city “removed” the bike lane in the most responsible, most safety-conscious way possible: BY NOT ACTUALLY REMOVING THE BIKE LANE AT ALL.
With the markings and the useless inner stripe gone however, the city could claim to have removed the lane, bowing to the pressure from the Satmars. The Hasids themselves could feel vindicated. And meanwhile, cyclists can pedal with just as much safety on the street.
Everybody wins, right?
Well, if there’s anything more annoying on this issue than the Satmars, it’s a Williamsburg hipster.
Just keep in mind, as you see more coverage of this supposedly dire issue, both sides are completely full of shit. It’s not really the city’s responsibility to protect Hasids from the sight of women in cycling outfits, and hipsters should find an issue with some real safety concerns.
In the meantime, I’m looking forward to my next milk run.