Bikes in Crown Heights

Photos by Christopher Mellevold

Photos by Christopher Mellevold

Bicycle Roots

Bicycle Roots is full-service bicycle store in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, co-owned by Nechama Levy and Joe Lawler. The duo opened their first store in Bed Stuy in 2012, moving to their current location at 609 Nostrand Avenue on June 1, 2013. Levy was born and raised in New York City, studied Biology at Cornell University, and worked as a medical research assistant. In 2005, when the MTA shut down due to a strike by the Transit Worker's Union, she started commuting by bicycle. This led her to develop a deep interest for all things bike related. Lawler was born and raised in Hell's Kitchen. He interned at Recycle-A-Bicycle in DUMBO, and from there went on to become the Head Mechanic at Recycle-A-Bicycle's East Village location and then at Sid's Bikes in Midtown Manhattan.

Joe Lawler hard at work

Joe Lawler hard at work

Nechama Levy and Joe in the backyard of the shop

Nechama Levy and Joe in the backyard of the shop


Fit4Dance Rack

Recently, the Nostrand Avenue Improvement Association loaned a bike rack to Fit4Dance at 778 Nostrand, and this deed was returned with a shower of positive feedback. Amalia, who works at Fit4Dance, speaks for the benefits of having a bike rack available in Crown Heights and how small things like these have a large impact on the community. Two people who work at Fit4Dance come to work by bike and numerous customers get to the studio that way. Having the bike rack means that instead of finding an awkward solution to parking, the surrounding environment meets the needs of the people in it. “You often don’t see good things happening in small Brooklyn neighborhoods,” says Amalia. She moved to New York 20 years ago and starting biking ten years later. “It was a life changer,” she informed me. “It’s physical exercise and also meditative.” She finds she is in better shape, sees more of the world around her and has a better attitude about life. Coming to the city, she was exposed to the culture of biking as a primary commute for many people in New York City and eventually adopted biking as an important part of her life. “We all have little apartments, “ she said. So people need to use the space outside to escape the the feeling of being cramped.  

To her, putting a bike rack outside a dance studio on a busy Crown Heights avenue is like a public service announcement: This Space is Yours. “Dancing and biking is a cool combination,” she told me one morning, leaning onto her custom-built bike in front of Fit4Dance. She emphasized the value of community connections and how crucial it can be when small businesses and organizations in the community, such as NAIA, team up and work together. “I didn’t know what a neighborhood association does or how good it would feel,” she told me. Having small additions to the neighborhood such as a bike rack strategically and conveniently placed in front of a dance studio brings a sense of community to the people of Crown Heights, and “makes people feel seen and important” that someone cares about them and their needs.  “These micro doses of community life,” as Amalia said, help to develop Brooklyn neighborhoods into well-rounded and cohesive communities. Ultimately, promoting biking, a universal activity open to all ages, through the availability of bicycle parking, will affect the community in Crown Heights in a positive way. People will move about easily, get to know each other (as they will not be locked in cars), and care more about the place they live, work and play.

– Xenia Berkowitz

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The Improvement Association has started a program of subsidizing bike racks for merchants that need them. NAIA will pay half of the price of a U-line 8 bike rack that does not need nailing down to the sidewalk. With its own weight and an attached concrete block the rack is basically immovable. It can also be taken inside the store if necessary.


CitiBike

New stations have been constructed at Classon and Lincoln.

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UpdatesJonathan Judge