19 June 2013

How Real New York Cyclists Cross The East River

When you live in any place--especially a major city--for any period of time, you realize that there are certain "things only tourists do".

For example, Parisians don't visit the Eiffel Tower or go to le Boulevard des Champs-Elysees unless they absolutely must.  And, no Parisian--unless he or she is a student or oherwise on a really tight budget--eats in the cubbyhole restaurants and frites stands along la rue de la Huchette, known locally as Allee des Bacteries.

(OK, so I went up the Eiffel Tower once.  But I was new to town at the time!)

Likewise, New Yorkers don't go to the Statue of Liberty or Radio City Music Hall.  We also don't go to the Empire State Building unless we work there.  (The same held true for the World Trade Center.)

What don't New York cyclists do?  Well, the first thing that comes to my mind is this:

From nycentralparktours

These days,  no Big Apple bike rider pedals across the Brooklyn Bridge unless he or she is part of an organized ride-or under extreme duress.

Of course, at one time there was almost no other practical way for a cyclist to cross between Brooklyn and Manhattan.  For many years, the bike/pedestrian lanes of the Manhattan Bridge were closed.  (Recently, the north walkway reopened, making the Manhattan the only New York City crossing with more than one usable bike lane. )  And, if you entered the Williamsburg Bridge, you really had to wonder whether you and your bike would both make it to the other side:  If the condition of the walkway didn't shake you or your bike apart, you and your bike might be parted from each other en route by someone who, shall we say, knew that you were riding a good bike but had absolutely no intention of riding it himself. (Yes, the thugs were all male in those days

But now, the condition of the Williamsburg has greatly improved and, while we might bemoan the proliferation of hipsters in the neighborhoods on either side of the bridge, you have to say at least this much for them:  They're not going to mug you for your bike.  And the north lane of the Manhattan Bridge offers easy access to one bike lane that actually makes sense: the one that separates cyclists from the traffic entering and exiting the bridge and expressways at Sands Street in Brooklyn.

Plus, there are now daytime ferries between Brooklyn and Manhattan.  I've seen people ride their bikes to the boats in Williamsburg and Grand Army Terminal and disembark at Wall Street.

So now New York cyclists don't use the Brooklyn Bridge, not to show how sophisticated they are, but because, at times, it seems as if all of humanity is walking across it.  And, of course, they're not watching for cyclists:  They're craning their necks, taking photos, embracing, eating, drinking or doing almost anything else you can imagine.  And stateboarders are weaving among them. 

So, it's much easier to ride over the Queensborough (what I usually take, as I live near it), Williamsburgh or Manhattan Bridges to Manhattan.  Besides, if you want a view of the Brooklyn Bridge (and the lower New York harbor), your best bet is the south walkway/bike path of the Manhattan.


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