Photo by Lincoln Anderson
Leslie Sicklick, left, and Jeff Underwood, owner of Continuum Cycles on Avenue B, debated bike lanes at the protest. Underwood thinks bike lanes should be in the middle of streets.
Bicycle-lane foe doesn’t get much traction at demo
By Lincoln Anderson
More supporters of bike lanes than critics of them turned up last Friday afternoon at an East Village rally intended to decry the new, protected pathways along First and Second Aves.
Leslie Sicklick, an unemployed teacher and lifelong Lower East Sider, and a couple of other bike-lane opponents were far outnumbered by about 15 cyclists and advocates at the demo, at the northeast corner of 14th St. and First Ave.
Sicklick claimed the bike lanes have made the streets more dangerous, and that pedestrians are being injured. She said she was told this by a Ninth Precinct detective, though declined to provide his or her name. She said the bike lanes, furthermore, are a waste of money — pointing to the small, concrete traffic islands that have been added near intersections on First Ave., and even the paint marking the lane.
“Green paint is very expensive,” she said.
She slammed cyclists who aren’t native New Yorkers — and accused Mayor Bloomberg of catering to them.
“A lot of these bikers that he’s making the bike lanes for, they’re not even from New York,” Sicklick accused.
Sicklick’s late father, William Sicklick, was a Lower East Side political activist in the 1970’s and a longtime member of both the Gouverneur Hospital Planning Board and Community Board 3.
“He was a very good man, and I think if he didn’t pass away in 1995, he’d be here today,” she declared.
Meanwhile the bike-lane opponent said her mother, who had a double knee replacement and has difficulty walking, has a special parking permit. Sicklick drives her up to First Ave. for shopping and to go to restaurants — but she said the new bike lanes make it harder for her mom to get onto the sidewalk.
“I feel like these bike lanes are almost an attack on my mother,” she complained.
And Sicklick said, once a cyclist attacked her — verbally.
“I had one biker — excuse my language — tell me to f--- myself, because I got in his way for a second,” she said.
Marlo M. came over from the West Village to the protest, bringing along her dog, Bowie, who she tows behind her bike in a special carrier. She said she had read Sicklick’s letter to the editor in this newspaper in which Sicklick announced the protest, and decided to see what all the fuss was about.
After listening to Sicklick, Marlo said, “My opinion hasn’t changed. I still don’t really understand where she’s coming from.”
The protected bike lanes, Marlo said, are just that — protection.
“The might, the power of the machine gives them the power to bully weaker beings, pedestrians and cyclists,” she said of auto drivers. “They’re saying, ‘Look, I can kill you. I have the ability to run you down.’ You’re bullied to obey their desires. They’re encased — you can’t even see their faces.”
It goes beyond bike lanes, Marlo said, noting we must shift away from gas-powered vehicles.
“We just had this massive oil spill,” she said. “We have to move to other forms of transportation. We’re on the brink of extinction.”
Attorney Steve Vaccaro, who volunteers with Transportation Alternatives, said people had ample opportunity at community board meetings to critique the lanes before they were installed.
“Now that they’re in,” he said of the protected lanes, “I’m dumbfounded that there are people who are arguing to rip them out.”
As a T.A. volunteer, Vaccaro has been pushing for the completion of the First and Second Aves. bike lanes northward from 34th St., where they now end, up to 125th St., which was the city’s original plan. But Vaccaro said the city has been dragging its feet.
“The Lower East Side has the highest bicycle commuter percentage in Manhattan other than East Harlem,” he said. “What would make more sense than to connect the two communities?”
Brandishing a summary of bicycle rules and regulations, Deborah Harkins said police should enforce all cycling violations, such as failing to use a white headlight and red taillight from dusk till dawn or riding on sidewalks, both $130 tickets.
“The city could rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines,” she said.
But Detta Awl said cyclists are being singled out.
“Pedestrians cross on the red light when they see an opening. They jaywalk,” she said. “Motorists go through the tail end of red lights. If there’s going to be enforcement, it should be across the board.”
To ensure cyclists are using the bike lanes correctly, Vaccaro and T.A. volunteers have been biking through the lanes with signs on their bikes that say things like, “I Break for Peds” and “Hey Buddy, Wrong Way.” Usually, the response is positive, he said.
“I had one guy tell me to eat you know what,” he noted. “But, you know, this is New York. There are people on foot, and on bikes, and in cars that will do that to you. But most of the people are reachable and teachable.”