The Prospect Park Bike Ride
Since Prospect Park is the second large city park designed by the team of Olmstead and Vaux, there’s a debate as to whether Prospect is an imitation of Central Park (it’s smaller), or a perfection of the ideas that they tried with that other park in Manhattan (the landscaping is arguably more impressive). Both have a zoo, both have bodies of water, both have ampitheatres that have free concerts in the summer. Importantly for cyclists, both have interior roads that are great for cycling day or night year ’round.
Riding in Prospect Park
is so pleasant and so easy, it’s easy to forget there’s other riding in Brooklyn. If you want to ride alone, you can, if you want to link up with a group, you can. Fast; yes, slow; yes, day; yes, night; yes. There’s even a mailing list for those who use Prospect Park as their main training ground.
Prospect Park isn’t flat, but there’s only one hill and it’s fairly gentle both on the way up and the way down. What is nice is that the road is almost never straight. It’s always turning a bit to the left or a bit to the right, with a few sweeping turns thrown in for good measure. You’re always thinking a bit about the road, which keeps you alert and interested in the ride. As with other large city parks, this is an all-purpose playground, so you can go for a ride of any speed, then picnic, play Frisbee, listen to a concert, nap by the lake, wander through the forest, experience a playground or two, and more.
Speaking as a cyclist who spends more time in Central Park, Prospect feels a bit small for me. The 3.4 miles goes by too fast. That written, the bustle of Central Park, and the tourists, are largely absent in Prospect, and these absences can be a big relief. Smaller crowds mean you have less to fear from the clueless wandering across the roadway. There’s a more laid-back vibe in Prospect and it invites the cyclist to linger longer, whether riding or hanging out.
Vittles and Libations
Connecticut Muffin, 206 Prospect Park West, is just across the Bartel-Pritchard circle from the end of the West Drive at Prospect Park West and Prospect Park Southwest. There’s a Saturday Farmers’ Market at the Grand Army Plaza entrance and a second at the Bartel-Pritchard Circle, Wednesdays year ’round. In the park, you can find food vendors, a few cafés and snack bars, though most are seasonal and have limited hours.
Just across Flatbush is the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Address is 1000 Washington Avenue, so you’ll have to take Empire Boulevard one block before turning left onto Washington. Open Tuesday through Sunday, it has 13 gardens and five buildings all on an idyllic campus. Find out more at www.bbg.org.
Specs (Prospect Park Bike Ride)
Distance: 3.4 miles
Elevation: 302 Feet
Terrain: Rolling. One uphill, one down, some false flats.
Ride Rating: @
Notes: The jewel of Brooklyn parks.
Includes: A PDF with intelligence and a GPX file to upload to your bike computer or mobile device. A how-to can be found here.