The saddest thing about preparing to master the roads and routes of Staten Island was how dedicated cyclists who lived in the borough told me the riding wasn’t good. I appreciated the honesty, noted the blasé humor as an affect of weary cyclists, but was worried about the riding prospects. From afar it struck me as strange: this is the most thoroughly suburban county in the city, and that would, at least in my mind, promise good roads that are quiet most of the time. Not that my own experience prior to this book showed that to be the case.
After riding the length of the island a bunch of times, seeing the northern and southern edges, riding the perimeter, climbing the tallest hill, making my way past industrial zones and landfill, I can see where there’s quite a bit of good riding. But at the same time, I see the limitations that someone who lives and breathes cycling must feel. It’s hard to get in a long ride on the island without experiencing the frustrations of riding on overburdened roads. Too many cars traveling too fast on narrow roads between too many lights.
The good thing is that for cyclists gaining their footing, the riding detailed here keeps you away from car traffic and offers up simple, short routes that anyone should be able to accomplish. And, as most of the rides are close to one another, when you get fitter and more ambitious, you can link the rides together into more interesting and more challenging efforts.
Another plus is that riding in Staten Island makes you a pioneer. The more you’re out there, the more you convince your family and friends and co-workers to ride, the more cyclists will get space for riding and the easier it is for the city to create and retain bike routes around the place. I can only imagine it’s going to get better on Staten Island in the future. Not only with more places to ride, but more places to connect to, as the Bayonne Bridge is an easy escape to New Jersey and several greenway routes are planned alongside the waterways leading north from Bayonne.
The picaresque figure in me sees ways to combine various routes through all five boroughs and New Jersey for epic odysseys, starting or finishing at Conference House Park, the southernmost tip of both the city and state.
The rides are: