Some cycling activists are taking the law into their own hands.
Nearly one week after Department of Transportation (DOT) workers sandblasted 14 blocks of bicycle lanes on Bedford Avenue in South Williamsburg, a group of vigilantes rolled and sprayed white paint over the lines that had been removed.
According to police sources, on Monday, December 7 at approximately 3:30 a.m., witnesses observed two individuals painting bike lanes on Bedford Avenue, between Clymer and Division avenues. Officers arrested the two suspects, Quinn Hechtropf, 26, and Katherine Piccochi, 24, and charged them with criminal mischief.
According to the New York Post, the Shorim Police Patrol, a Hasidic volunteer community watch unit, identified the two individuals, though the two were not immediately arrested by the police or given summonses.
“I think it’s vandalism,” said Simon Weiser, a Community Board 1 member and a nearby resident. “It must have been very professional. They had a symbol of a bike, they painted a few blocks, and it looks like it was orchestrated.”
According to the DOT, any paint remaining after this week’s rain will be removed, and that the lane was removed last week “as part of ongoing bike network adjustments in the area.” A DOT spokesperson said he had not heard of any incident in the city where someone has repainted a bicycle lane after it was removed.
A 90-second video of the vandalism acts was posted early Tuesday morning on YouTube by “occupyeverything,” a student activist organization also involved in recent demonstrations and building occupations at The New School and New York University.The video shows precisely how the scofflaws painted the lines that were removed, and reveals that there may be more individuals involved in the defacement.
Transportation advocates, including Transportation Alternatives spokesperson Wiley Norvell, said that cyclists “don’t need to risk arrest to claim a lane on Bedford Avenue,” and that it is their right by law to ride on any city street.
“With respect to the decision to remove the lane in the first place, it is one we disagree with. Every street should be safe for cycling,” said Norvell.
Weiser believes otherwise.He said that the bike lane was “taking a toll on the local community” and did not fit in that section of Williamsburg, which has a large number of school buses and car uses.
“The city has ignored the community before they put the bike lane in. It’s good that they heard both community concerns and they fixed it,” said Weiser. “People don’t like it that it was removed, but we have to be fair. The city is very accommodating for the bikers. If things don’t work perfectly, it has to be adjusted.”
But Lacey Tauber, a Neighbors Allied for Good Growth member and Williamsburg resident, said that the Bedford Avenue bike lane is a “convenient route that connects many parts of Brooklyn.”
“The 14-block section that the DOT removed was located in a bustling area that is heavily used by cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers alike,” said Tauber. “Cyclists are likely to continue to use Bedford whether there is a lane there or not, and the removed lane provided essential protection for cyclists against speeding cars.”