Early Bike Share Arrival Splits Both Hasidic and Non-Hasidic Williamsburg

By Meredith Hoffman on May 22, 2013 8:11am 

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 The new bike share station was placed on Broadway last week.
South Williamsburg Bike Share Station
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WILLIAMSBURG — The city's bike share program will roll out in South Williamsburg earlier than expected, with some stations opening next week, officials said.

The stations — part of the city's massive new program whose first stations launch next week — were slated for delays in a map the city released this spring, but now certain South Williamsburg locales will be open for bikers starting May 27, officials said, since a number of expected Manhattan stations are now facing delays.

And one of the new bike share stations, which appeared on Broadway on the border of Hasidic Williamsburg last week, has already split both Hasidic and non-Hasidic residents over the location before it has even opened for use.

The station, which locals said "appeared overnight" near the Williamsburg Bridge, has prompted heated anger, safety concerns, and elation from the diverse mix of residents on the major thoroughfare.

And despite past clashes between Hasidic opponents of the bike share and bike lanes and non-Hasidic proponents of bike initiatives, the divides over this particular station seemed strongest within each group.

"We love it," said one Hasidic resident Joe (who declined to give his last name) while climbing into his SUV on the street by the lane. "I think this is the only thing I'm happy that Mayor Bloomberg has done. Bring more!"

But within minutes on the same block by the station, Hasidic neighbor Aaron Gross said his community was filled with "frustration" that bikes were receiving priority over vehicles in the area.

"I don't understand why bikes are getting a bigger space than cars," he said, lamenting the bike lanes already on the strip. "This is a very crowded community...If somebody double parks here there's nowhere to drive."

Meanwhile some newer, pro-bike share residents on the block agreed with Gross that the middle of Broadway was indeed the wrong spot for a station.

"This is just inviting people to get hit by a car," said Sophie, who declined to give her last name. "It's in the middle of two lanes of traffic and there's no clear way to cross the street legally to get to the station. I support bike share...but this one is badly positioned."

But plenty others awaited the bikes' arrival with high hopes for economic growth of the South Williamsburg strip.

"Since we're by the Williamsburg Bridge I assume it'll be good for business," said an employee at the deli and produce shop Marlow and Daughters of the station, which she hoped would bring bikers over from Manhattan. "People have used that area [where the station is] to double park. They're not supposed to do that."

A spokesman for the Department of Transportation said that no safety issues had been found when surveying the spot, and that the station's placement in a median would solidify the spot as a "pedestrian refuge." And he noted that granite blocks would be added to the site.

He did not immediately respond to further questions about the other specific stations to open next week in the neighborhood.

 

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