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The Traif Bike Gesheft in Williamsburg

I’m reposting another Jewish Week article of mine, as I think the content is particularly of interest to the Jewlicious readership. Stop by 99 S. Sixth St. in Williamsburg for a guaranteed unforgettable experience. And be sure to bring your bike.

Unkosher Wheels, Friendly Faces

Baruch Herzfeld, the self-proclaimed “new rebbe of Williamsburg.

Baruch Herzfeld, the self-proclaimed “new rebbe” of Williamsburg.
Williamsburg bike shop playfully flouts the antipathy of some area residents to cyclists.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010. Sharon Udasin, Staff Writer.

Jammed between industrial brick buildings on the cusp of chasidic South Williamsburg and hipster North is a white canopy that reads the words “Traif Bike” – in bold block letters that sandwich the silk-screened head of a chasid clad in side curls. Traif is Yiddish for non-kosher.

Beneath the canopy, passersby can visit a large black vending machine labeled “Bike Shop,” whose rotating carousel features $55 U-locks, $5 handlebar grips and $2 tire patch kits, among other life necessities like a $33 used BlackBerry.

“I’m trying to take a lot of what’s good about the chasidim, which is how they help each other out as a community, and bring it across multiple communities – not just shared solely amongst the Jews but also reach out into the greater community of Williamsburg hipsters,” said proprietor Baruch Herzfeld, 38, an Orthodox Jew from Staten Island who runs a cell phone business in the neighborhood. “People can socialize around their bicycles.”

Behind the vending machine is the larger Traif Bike Gesheft storefront, decorated with a Magen David shaped out of adjoining rubber chickens, artistic graffiti and a Yiddish message reminding Satmar residents to come borrow bicycles. Next to the vending device is Herzfeld’s “slot machine” ATM, which doles out cash in $10 increments but sporadically dispenses a random $20 to lucky withdrawers.

The shop proper is home to the Time’s Up! cycling club, where neighborhood residents – both hipster and Satmar – come on Sundays and Wednesdays to take free bike repair classes with volunteer instructors.

“The bike shop I envisioned wasn’t even a shop, it’s more of a community building operation,” Herzfeld said.

The Time’s Up! organization was actually at the center of a December 2008 clash between clown-cloaked cyclists and angry Satmar residents, who objected to new city bike lanes that began routing scantily clad cyclists through their parking spaces and school bus paths. Even more recently – December 2009 – cyclists decided to repaint 14 blocks worth of bike lanes that the city had removed from Bedford Avenue, in response to Satmar complaints. Yet Herzfeld stresses that his bike shop has only brought residents closer together, and he sees no division between the two populations.  Continue reading…

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Sharon Udasin is a staff writer at The Jewish Week. Follow her on Twitter or e-mail her at sharon@sharonudasin.com.

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