Biking in the Big Apple
Leave it to hard-bargaining Brooklynites to get the best deal. The Brooklyn Bridge is part of the greenway system and is the best Brooklyn access from Manhattan. This route offers classic views and fascinating people watching. However, the other bikers tend to be an aggressive lot, with sub-zero patience for slow pokes or picture-taking tourists who step into the bike lane.
For a more relaxing waterside ride, consider the Shore Parkway Greenway, which follows the edge of New York Bay, passing underneath the Verrazano Bridge. Some consider this the best multi-use, traffic-free path in the city. The views are glorious. A significant stretch of this Greenway is interrupted, but it picks up again when it hits the Gateway National Recreation Area, taking you along the edge of the marshlands of Jamaica Bay. Bring your binoculars for this stretch; there's some great birdwatching.
You can pick up the extensive Brooklyn-Queens Greenway at Prospect Park, Frederick Olmsted's other great New York City park. Take a spin around the park, which contains Brooklyn's last living forest. Then head out of the park where the greenway picks up Ocean Parkway all the way to Coney Island, which is still a fun place. While you're more likely to hear salsa and hip-hop than organ grinders along the boardwalk, Nathan's Hot Dogs is still there, along with the rickety Cyclone rollercoaster, bumper cars, Sideshows by the Seashore theatre, and ring toss games.
If you want a cleaner beach than Coney Island and one unaccompanied by cotton candy, the Rockaway Gateway Greenway will take you out to the Rockaway beaches, Floyd Bennett Air Field, and Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. This is the ride that I took to the moon-gazing party. The Rockaway-Gateway Greenway makes a circuit of the Rockaway peninsula, and includes the Rockaway Boardwalk, which is for pedestrians only. But hey, get off your bike and walk for a bit. The ocean is beautiful.
You can travel the eastern rim of Queens on the the Laurelton Parkway Greenway. This greenway meets up with the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway at enchanting Alley Pond Park. Alley Pond Park is 635 acres of, to the south, forested rolling hills encircling kettle ponds, and, to the north, a creek-fed flat rimmed with meadows and salt marsh. This park is fairly lightly used, and gives a beautiful sense of the natural terrain of the city before development.
From Alley Pond Park you can take the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway back to the Brooklyn, which mostly follows the route of the Interborough Parkway though large cemetaries. Along the way, you can pedal a nifty circuit through Flushing Meadows Park, the site of the 1964-65 World's Fair.
If all goes according to plan, the Queens-North Shore Greenway will connect to the Queens-East River Greenway, from which you can take the Roosevelt-Island Tram back to Manhattan. The tram, which allows bicycles at any time, affords some of the best views of the East River.
The Staten Island Ferry is part of the greenway system, and at a quarter a ride, still one of the best deals around. Not much of Staten Island's greenways are in place, but with a good map, you can find your way around some of New York City's wilder parks.
Portions of the South Shore Parkway exists, providing a pleasant ride along Lower New York Bay. Greenway advocates are very excited by the idea of opening up the Verrazano Bridge to bicycles, thereby providing land access to Brooklyn and making it possible to cycle from New Jersey to Brooklyn without going through Manhattan.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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