Borough(s): Brooklyn, Queens, Distance: 18.2 miles, Elevation: 426 Feet, Terrain: flat, Ride Rating: @@@
The Jamaica Bay is a big deal.
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, which this ride circles, is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area and a bird sanctuary, one of the largest in the Northeast, because of its position on the Atlantic Flyway, a prime migratory route. With its diverse habitats, over 300 different species have been observed stopping by for a break en route to points north and south.
Riding from the dock of the bay.
Whenever I’ve gone to a concert on Central Park’s Great Lawn, the city Parks commissioner gets up to warn people against letting go of their helium-filled balloons (usually brought as identifiers for friends) for fear of them landing in Jamaica Bay and attracting the birds, who might try to eat them and perish. It’s a mildly effective scare tactic, but it aroused my curiosity about what this place was.
First, it’s a huge body of water to have inside a city; 18 miles around. I don’t know how they know that prevailing winds would take balloons there, but there is lots of open space and few places for people.
This ride starts and finishes at Canarsie Pier, which is convenient for those who want to drive, as it has a huge parking lot, with benches and picnic tables scattered around. You head out of the parking lot and immediately turn right. It’s also convenient to the end of a subway line.
The opening and closing sections are along the Belt Parkway, a busy highway. Look one way and you’ll see three former landfills looking more and more like parks. The second, Fountain Avenue, has a notorious history as a dumping ground for organized crime.
Once past the new parks, you’ll turn off the Belt and do a brief tour of Howard Beach, Queens before going across the bay while wondering if global warming will sink this landmass. After the first bridge, you’ll be able to get off the road and ride on a bike path through much of Broad Channel. The path is a straight line paralleling the road with the Gateway grounds on both sides. Once you get to the end of the park, it’s a short tour of Broad Channel, a seafaring community, and then over the bridge to the Rockaways.
The Windy Rockaways.
The Rockaway portion is probably where the wind will be at its most fierce. Unfortunately, you’re on the open road road for much of it. A bike path is planned for here and it will be a relief when it comes.
The last portion is over the Gil Hodges/Marine Parkway Bridge and takes you back to federal land, which you’ll be on past Floyd Bennett Field and back to Canarsie, where you will have earned whatever treat you decide to pick up.
Quaffs and comestibles
Canarsie Pier has food trucks in the summer. There are also restaurants along Broad Channel.
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge visitors center in Broad Channel is a great stop if you want to not only see the bay up close, but get advice on what to look for and where.
Deets (Jamaica Bay Bike Ride)
Borough(s): Brooklyn, Queens
How to get there: The easiest is to take the L train to the end of the line, the Canarsie-Rockaway Parkway terminal. Ride down Rockaway Parkway to the Canarsie Pier. Otherwise, you can take the A train to Howard Beach, Broad Channel, or Beach 90th.
Elevation Gained: 426 Feet
Terrain: Flat; the only rises are bridges. But there is plenty of wind.
Ride Rating: @@@
Notes: The ride takes turns being remote and busy. Jamaica Bay is the ocean without being on the ocean. Lots of time on bike paths. Some open roads can feel fast and busy.