Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Frontier Cyclist, vol. 4: BK Bridge Park

Pier 1, Brooklyn Bridge Park, May 2010

[First in a series of urban bike routes, tested by our riders. -FP]

One joy of urban cycling is the ability to travel beyond the routes of subways, buses, walking, and taxis. In New York, perhaps the most vexing transit problem is the trip between North and South Brooklyn. (No offense, G Train). It's easier to get from Manhattan to Greenpoint or Park Slope than it is to travel intra-Brooklyn. But not if you ride a bike. Today, an easy ride from Wiliamsburg to DUMBO.

Route: McCarren -Brooklyn Bridge Park
Distance: 9 miles (4.5 miles each way)
Degree of Difficulty: Beginner

1. Start at McCarren Park, a.k.a. Ground Zero for biking in Williamsburg. Gawk at the proliferation of styles (people and bikes) camped on the lawn. If you need air in your tires or a brake or seat adjustment adjustment, hit B's Bikes, a few blocks north of the park on Driggs Ave. Even on a busy weekend, the staff is friendly and happy to help.

2. Head to the waterfront and ride south. Kent Avenue has painted bike lanes that are often packed with riders. On your way, note the soccer fields, views of the WB bridge and the Manhattan skyline, and the hulls of empty and near-empty condos built just in time for the recession.

3. Turn right on Flushing Avenue and ride past the Brooklyn Navy Yards. Stop at the corner of Flushing and Navy to see abandoned naval officers' quarters before the area becomes a Shop Rite.

In past summers, the Navy Yard has hosted the occasional concert, like oh, Sean Paul, which we may or may not have attended. What? We like to get it on to the early morn. Who doesn't?

4. Follow the bike signs for the Manhattan/Brooklyn Bridges, ride the protected bike lane on Sands Street, and weave your way under the Manhattan Bridge into DUMBO.

5. Explore DUMBO. If you have a road bike with thin tires, watch out for the cobblestones and potholes. The area is filled with art galleries, shops, restaurants and bars, as well as some landmarks/tourist traps like River Cafe, Grimaldi's Pizza, and Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory.  If you're a literary type, check out art books at Powerhouse Books and indie lit at Melville House Bookstore, home of the house that publishes Tao Lin, the author of Shoplifting from American Apparel and the Poet Laureate of G-Chat.  For grub, we like the cheap(ish) food at Pedro's Spanish American Restaurant, especially since swanky Mexican Hecho en Dumbo moved to Manhattan. (Hecho en Soho? Hm.) But on a spring or summer day, hit any of the local groceries or take-out spots and have a picnic in the park.

6. Enjoy Brooklyn Bridge Park. The BK waterfront is in the middle of a massive makeover, which will continue for the next few years. This spring, the city opened Pier 1, not to be confused with the place for Party-O-on-the-Patio or the best seafood restaurant, bar and party nightclub in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Brooklyn's premier pier is an expanse of grass and path with views of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan skyline. Pier 6 opens soon and future plans include the opening of several more piers, a beach, and a tidal pool. And the park is part of the Brooklyn Greenway, which will ultimately be a 14 mile path along the river. So ride on. It ain't what you know. It's what you feel. -Keith Meatto

Have a favorite bike route in New York or another city? 
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