An old road. Like from before paved roads were a thing.
Eastern Parkway might read like something you’ve heard of before, and you’re right, you have, but that’s thanks to Eastern Parkway (bike ride you should). Conceived in 1866, it is the world’s first parkway. It was built for pleasure, for taking a scenic trip through Brooklyn either to or from Prospect Park. This was supposed to be the beginning of a system of parks and parkways. Now, it’s a busy thoroughfare that just goes to Queens. But thanks to thoughtful design back then, there have always been paths for human-powered transit.
Thoroughly modern. In an old-fashioned sort of way.
The Eastern Parkway is an impressive avenue. Wide, tree-lined, and zoned to keep commercial uses away from this thoroughfare. This ride takes in all but one block of the embodiment of Calvert and Vaux’s vision of a parkway leading to a park.
You start at the eastern end of the parkway, by Lincoln Terrace Park, on the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway. You’ll notice that you’re on a hill that runs east-west. It’s really a moraine, and it’s the same geological feature that separates northern Long Island from southern. There is something easy-going about riding on Eastern, even if the traffic is pretty hectic alongside you. That there are few commercial concerns, and no shortage of interesting apartment architecture to enjoy might be part of the equation. That you’re protected by not only curbs, but trees helps with this. For cyclists, this represents a dilemma; it would be nice to have more protected, tree-lined roads for riding, but it would be bad to have more roads like the parkway for driving.
Get Around the GAP
Once at Grand Army Plaza, you skirt the traffic circle by taking a bike path around to Vanderbilt Avenue, the commercial center of Prospect Heights. The only difficulty of this street is finding a single place to eat.
Turning onto Dean Street you get a long, straight road lined with brownstones and a bicycle lane. The hope seems to be that this will become a major bicycle transit route in the future, as Bergen Street, paralleling Dean to the south, also has a bike lane that runs the length of the street.
Dean takes you a quiet way through Crown Heights (Eastern Parkway is the busy way), a neighborhood with a strong Caribbean flavor, a fact reflected not only in the restaurants, but also the offerings found in the delis. The road is straight and wide and not popular with drivers, making it great for riding.
In terms of feeling a neighborhood, you’re much more in the place when riding Dean than you are on Eastern. It’s easier to get a feel for the style and rhythm of life. Unfortunately, just as it’s all flowing well, you’re at the end of Dean, and it’s a right, left, and right, and you’re shooting downhill back to the park where you started.
Treats and libations
The short stint on Vanderbilt Avenue, right in the middle of Prospect Heights is where you’ll find a rich selection of food choices, bars, cafés, restaurants, ice cream, American, ethnic, nouvelle. An impressive selection.
The Brooklyn Museum of Art. Big, lots of art, housed in a beautiful Beaux-Arts building; 560,000 square feet of space, and several large permanent collections.
Specs (Eastern Parkway Bike Ride)
How to Get There: Take the 2, 3, 4, or 5 trains to the Crown Height-Utica Avenue Station. You’re on the route, a few blocks from the start. There’s also a LIRR stop on Nostrand Avenue a few blocks north of the route.
Distance: 5.8 miles
Elevation gained: 317 Feet
Terrain: Flat, with slight rises and dips. half protected bike path, half on-street bike path
Ride Rating: @
Notes: Seeing what was supposed to be but never came to fruition.