15 September 2012

Train Tracks To Bike Paths?

Today was one of those crisp, clear, early-fall (though the calendar still says "summer") days that just makes me want to follow roads just to see where they'll lead.

In this case, I found myself following railroad tracks.  Oh, I've passed by or over them hundreds of times before.  But, just for fun, I decided to see how much I could follow them.

This one starts at the East River, and, within about a mile, passes under the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge of disappearing-bike-lane infamy.  It continues through along Newtown Creek, through a heavily industrialized area of Queens.

However, it's possible to follow it only for very short stretches.  Some of the land adjacent to the tracks is private property (factories, garages and such) that is closed off to the public.  And there are other stretches where the only way to follow the tracks is to ride on them. I've ridden on railroad tracks before--with a mountain bike.  

Apparently, the track is owned by New York and Atlantic Railway, which provides freight service on current and former Long Island Rail Road (Yes, it's spelled as two words!) tracks and right-of-ways.  One stretch of it--from about 43rd to about 58th Streets--seems to be used, at least on occasion, as it seems to be connected to another series of tracks and it's near UPS and FedEx terminals (and the Thomas' bakery!).  But other parts, such as the spur along Flushing Avenue and 56th Street, seem not to have been used in decades.

If New York and Atlantic indeed owns all of the tracks I've shown, I wonder whether they plan to use them.  As industrialized as those areas around the tracks are, there's still not as much as there was, say, during World War II.  And much of the freight is carried by trucks rather than trains, as there are highways nearby.

So...If NY and A doesn't plan to use the tracks, I wonder whether they'd sell, or even give, them to the city or state. If they did, I think the tracks and the adjacent paths and roads would make some great bike lanes.   I think now of the lane built by the Concrete Plant Park in the Bronx; I think something on a greater scale could be done with those tracks.  The effect would be similar:  Bike lanes that traverse some interesting urban-industrial architecture that takes on a unique beauty in the light of autumn foliage.


  1. Wow, what a fun adventure! Thanks for sharing.

  2. In the 60's a lunatic called Beeching culled many of Britain's railways. Instead of utilising a unique and generally slope free rail bed for alternative transport links it was ruined by piecemeal random sales making any future use impossible! A great tragedy.

    A short section on an embankment exists in Edinburgh and it provides an amazing quick route in and out of town for one lane in each direction because there are no possibilities of stupidly placed intersections, the traffic flows like water through a high pressure hose!

  3. Coline--Are you suggesting a ride we could do when I get there?

  4. Sadly that road in Edinburgh is fast and narrow but takes a lot of traffic from the wider and often empty main road which runs a quarter mile away. There are lots of choices for rides for keen cyclists, it was one of the reasons I fell in love with this part of the world.

  5. All the more reason to go to Scotland!