Two amazing bridges.
Riding over city bridges is one of the many cool things about cycling in New York City. The two most striking water crossings, in my opinion, are the Brooklyn and George Washington bridges, and if you’ve got a bike and any yen to ride, going over these is an absolute must. The Brooklyn Bridge, riding from the Kings County side, gives you both a great view of the bridge as well as a great view of the canyons of Lower Manhattan.
To each, his/her own span.
Walking over the Brooklyn Bridge is a popular activity for tourists. There’s no reason we should cede this bridge to them. It’s our city; let’s enjoy all we can of it. It’s also a bridge for commuters and exercisers, which is what we cyclists are, too. Still, they might not be ready for us, so we need to ride patiently and politely and forgive the transgresses of the two-footed set. And if you ride it late at night or early in the morning, you’ll find out it’s for canoodlers, too. Riding over the bridge near sunrise you’ll see people stumbling home, or sleeping a night off, or getting that last smooch before returning to their lives. It’s as public as a place gets, yet the bridge atmosphere is intimate and personal.
The two bridges are a study in contrasts on many levels. Appearance-wise, they couldn’t be more different. The views are equally diverse. Possibly most importantly, the riding conditions are as different as night and day. The Manhattan’s path is just for bikes and feels empty. The Brooklyn Bridge is crowded much of the time and you always have to be ready to politely ask pedestrians, tourist gawkers mostly looking for that iconic NYC image to show their friends, to get out of your way. It is this last reason that many daily cyclists prefer the quietude of the Manhattan over the chaos of the Brooklyn.
Doing the two bridges in quick succession does prompt a person to ask which style of travel they prefer. We love being able to ride without being disturbed, but the view that the Brooklyn Bridge affords is one we have a hard time passing up.
This ride is essentially two hills. In both cases, the gradient is gentle and the ascent is long. People on single-speed and fixed-gear bikes can do it so long as they’re prepared with either a low gear or ready to pedal slowly. In fact, we believe that the gearing of CitiBikes, was chosen so that there was a gear low enough so even the most out-of-shape person could pedal over NYC bridges.
A warning. While the Brooklyn Bridge during the pandemic has been much emptier than of years late, making the bridge feel almost empty on the shared bike/ped deck, the city is planning for a crowded future. They have announced plans to put bike lanes on the car decks. How this will impact enjoyment depends on how you like to ride.
Repasts, street and table.
Food carts basically line the first few blocks between the Brooklyn Bridge and Worth Street. There is also a permanent food stand/outdoor café just behind the city municipal building at Centre and Reade. Finally, there’s Chinatown between Baxter Street and the Manhattan Bridge. If you want to get off-piste for a moment and see the Brooklyn waterfront of DUMBO, there’s a food truck lot that is pretty tasty.
Side Trip In the middle of Manhattan’s Federal Plaza, the green space in front of the court buildings on Centre Street, is a permanent home for Story Corps, an oral history project. Tell your story. You need to make a reservation, www.storycorps.org, first.
Minutiae (Manhattan Brooklyn Bridge Bike Ride)
Borough(s): Manhattan, Brooklyn
Getting to the start: Just about every train line passes through Lower Manhattan, and both the East Side and West Side Greenway bike paths have signage leading you to the Brooklyn Bridge. The East Side path also has signage to the Manhattan Bridge.
Distance: 4 miles
Elevation: 218 Feet
Terrain: Two bridges, a few roads
Ride Rating: @@
Notes: Great for a destination.