Check this bit of history out
While we didn’t intend it when we first laid out the Queens Vanderbilt Parkway Ride, it’s an interesting study in contrasts. You experience both successful and unsuccessful visions of uninterrupted highway driving. While we’re cyclists first, and New York is a human-powered and public-transit town, cars and the amenities created for driving, are still a big part of life. The parkway this loop is named for was the first purpose-built private highway in the country. It was a high-speed toll road, with bridges making it possible for drivers to avoid slowing, and banked turns to allow high speeds. I It was sold to the state twenty years after opening; public highways bankrupted it.
The skinny on the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway Loop
We don’t start many rides on the edge of parking lots, but here, it makes sense. The Vanderbilt Motor Parkway Loop takes you right by this small lot, and the lot itself is in a quiet spot and even has benches where we start.
At the beginning, the ride threads around several large, wide-open playing fields. In good weather, expect to find lots of people meandering and making their way to the fields. After you ride over the first of many bridges path traffic will thin out and you’ll get a fun sensation. That’s of riding through woods in what is clearly the middle of a heavily-trafficked area. You’ve got a clear path ahead, are surrounded by woods, but you’ll still sense car traffic just beyond your vision.
The traffic will become explicit when you ride out of the park and onto the Horace Harding Expressway. You’ll be paralleling the Long Island Expressway. The nice thing is that while most of what you see there is cars stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, you’ll be rolling along unimpeded. Keep your head up and ears perked as drivers frustrated by traffic can end up on the same road with you and can get touchy. All the same, there are enough lights that they won’t be tempted to speed.
Once you climb up a hill and get to a point that the highway is beneath you, the road will feel quieter and more manageable, and once you’re used to this sensation, you’re at the turn. Go right, have Alley Pond Park on your left and start threading suburban streets en route to entering the park.
The Vanderbilti Motor Parkway (aka Long Island Motor Parkway)
The highlight is the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway. Here, too, you’re in the middle of the woods, a green oasis in very densely-packed suburbia. You feel like you’re sneaking through people’s back yards, and you can have fun imagining that you’re rum-running; lore has it that bootleggers used to utilize this road to elude cops during prohibition. Sixty mph on this road, in early cars, must have been frightening.
Snacks n Meals
As we wrote about the eats near Cunningham Park’s mountain bike trails, there’s nothing in the park. But there is food aplenty in Bayside and Flushing (great Chinese, said to be the best in the city), and there’s a commercial strip at the intersection of 73rd Avenue and Bell Boulevard.
If you need something more than just riding and eating
Just two miles from the southeastern edge of the ride is Queens Farm Museum. The farm has been in operation since 1697. It is both a working farm, and a site that explains the city’s agrarian past. Open every day from 10am to 5pm. www.queensfarm.org
Ride Deets (Queens Vanderbilt Parkway Ride)
Distance: 5.8 miles
Terrain: Lightly rolling, a few hills punctuated by lots of flat roads and a few gentle descents
Ride Rating: @@
Notes: A one-time private highway can feel like your own private park
Q01, Q02, and Q03 are also nearby.
Includes: A PDF with intelligence and a GPX file to upload to your bike computer or mobile device.