Sunday, December 20, 2009

Naked Women, Frigid Weather & Hassidim

I don't get an opportunity like this very often:

Bicyclists who planned to go topless to protest the removal of a Brooklyn bike lane switched gears Saturday, pinning plastic breasts to their jackets as they rolled into a snowstorm.

Dozens of bikers joined a protest called the "Freedom Ride" to oppose the removal of a bike path in Williamsburg, an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood.

But the fierce snowstorm in New York kept them from pedaling topless as planned.

The hipster cyclists blame Mayor Michael Bloomberg for the loss of the lane because Williamsburg's Hasidic Jewish residents "can't handle scantily clad women" on wheels, said bike messenger Heather Loop, who organized the action.

The bikers' tactics did not amuse some faithful Hasids leaving synagogue services with their families on the Sabbath. They rushed home.

Bloomberg had removed the bike path because members of the Satmar branch of Judaism "don't want to see women in shorts," said Baruch Herzfeld, who runs a bike-sharing program in a community where Jewish women wear hefty skirts and long-sleeved blouses and men wear heavy coats and hats, even in summer.

"The rabbis want to keep their people in the 18th century, and they don't want the world to intrude into their enclave," Herzfeld said.

But Leo Moskowitz, a Williamsburg resident with five children, insists the main issue is safety.

"Kids can be knocked over because school buses are not allowed to stop in the bike lane — it's dangerous," said Moskowitz, who acknowledges he feels "very uncomfortable" seeing women bare their legs in public.

It was too cold to do that Saturday.

Still, the riders made their point, obeying traffic signals as police watched...

Heather Loop, center, leads protestors down Bedford Avenue in the Williamsburg neighborhood

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