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In Sandy’s aftermath, bike shops in Brooklyn doing brisk business

This mural directs passers-by to Dixon’s Bicycle Shop, Park Slope. Photo by Wilder Fleming

For Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Bike shops in Brooklyn and parts of Queens have been blessed with unseasonably brisk business in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. With limited public transit across the East River, rush-hour traffic jams are causing epic backups and many commuters have turned to biking.

"We've been absolutely insane since Tuesday," said Brian Gluck, owner of Red Lantern Bikes in Fort Greene. "People buying bikes, people coming in saying, 'My bike's been sitting in the living room for a year, can you make sure it's O.K.?'"

Widespread debris from the storm has contributed to business as well. Gluck said Red Lantern has repaired almost 50 flat tires since Tuesday, when they usually do around 10 a day this time of year.

As of Monday, six of the 15 subway lines crossing the East River still weren't running and transit officials warned there would be 10-minute intervals between trains. Last week, traffic jams were so bad that cars entering Manhattan were required to carry at least three passengers and gasoline has become a scarce commodity.

"People have really turned to riding," said Jake Fleischmann of Ride Brooklyn on Thursday. "We're coming off our really busy season, but yesterday the flow was like a midsummer afternoon; we didn't even break for lunch."

At Long Island City Bicycles in Queens, manager Colon Silvestre said bike rentals have been through the roof — and no wonder, "The bus line was huge this morning," he said. "You had to wait at least 40 minutes to get onboard, and people just don't want to walk."

Silvestre said people haven't just been after bikes. "One customer bought a skateboard, and one person bought a scooter," he said.

At Bicycle Habitat in Park Slope, business was steady Thursday, although not as crazy as the day before, when people stormed the shop looking for rain gear, safety equipment and tune-ups. Ann Jewkes, a Sunset Park resident and secretary at the law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore in Manhattan, said she last rode a bike to work during the transit strike of 2005.

"My bike was stolen a while ago, and I decided it was time to buy another," she said. Jewkes calculated it would take three hours on four different busses to get to work in Hell's Kitchen from Sunset Park. She remembers the bike ride taking about an hour and a half during the transit strike.

At Brooklyn Cycle Works on Vanderbilt Avenue on Thursday, Grant Thomas of Prospect Lefferts Gardens had brought his girlfriend's bike to be serviced. "It's been sitting in the apartment doing nothing," said Grant, pointing to the loose brakes and frayed tires. "She needs to get to work in Queens tomorrow, and I want her to be safe."

Thomas, a stage actor, was also looking at second-hand bikes for himself. He had just ended his latest show, "A Chorus Line," but there was an audition he wanted to make on Friday.

Of all the bike shops surveyed, Red Lantern in Fort Greene is the only one that stayed open all the days of the storm. That could have something to do with the fact that it is also the only one that serves alcohol.

"The bike shop got crazy on Tuesday," said owner Brian Gluck. "But the bar was really busy on Monday."

November 5, 2012 - 1:48pm


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