Perfecting a Brooklyn/Manhattan bike route
June 29, 2009 6:24 AM   Subscribe

BrooklynBikeRouteFilter: Please help me map the best route to/from Brooklyn/Manhattan by bike.

I'm trying to start riding to/from work every day. My route starts at Eastern Parkway and Rogers in Brooklyn, and ends at Broadway and Astor Place in Manhattan.

Ridethecity is giving me directions which I'm not entirely comfortable with [I've never ridden on, and so want to avoid, the Williamsburg Bridge,] so I'm looking for a better route. It seems to prefer the Williamsburg Bridge over the Manhattan Bridge because of the routes in Manhattan, but NYC Bike Maps seems to have a more updated version which includes Lafayette and Chrystie Streets with bike lanes.

So once in Manhattan it seems like Chrystie>Grand>Lafayette>Astor would work.

But what about in Brooklyn? I used to ride Flatbush Avenue… I'm not crazy about that. Neither Ridethecity nor NYC Bike Maps show Washington Avenue as having a bike lane, but I'm fairly certain it does. If so, then the most direct route would seem to be Eastern Pkwy>Washington>Bergen, but then what? (I can also get onto Bergen from Bedford if I'm wrong about Washington Ave.) From Bergen Street, what's the best route to the Manhattan bridge?

As for the way back…

Ridethecity tells me to go down to Grand>Chrystie>Canal to the bridge. Is Broadway better of worse than Mercer to get down to Grand? Is there a a better route altogether?

And once I'm back in Brooklyn, what's the best route to get back to Eastern Parkway? Is it Jay>Myrtle>Washington/Bergen?

posted by mhz to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The Williamsburg bridge is a perfectly peachy walkway/bikeway. Is there any reason besides unfamilarity that you're trying to avoid it?
posted by Greg Nog at 6:31 AM on June 29, 2009

Best answer: You're right - noone in their right mind should ride a bicycle down flatbush avenue.

The Williamsburg bridge is, from everything I've heard, *extremely* bike friendly. The Manhattan Bridge has the challenge of getting through downtown Brooklyn.

If you do want to take the MNH, I'd suggest getting to DeKalb (w/ class II bike lane) to Flatbush, cutting through Metrotech to Jay St, and then Jay -> MNH.

Your return route sounds about as good as it will get, though I don't think Washington has a bike lane.

Once in Manhattan, I prefer Eldridge (too much traffic on Chrystie) up to Houston, & then cutting over from there (on any road but Houston).

Coming back, I tend to take Allen (bike lane, fairly quiet), but that may be too far east for you - YMMV. I tend to detour a block or two for sanity as a tradeoff for directness. I figure the extra few blocks add to the workout.
posted by swngnmonk at 6:36 AM on June 29, 2009

According to NYC Bike Maps, both Bergen and Dean have bike lanes all the way to Smith, which you can take to the Manhattan bridge.

p.s. hello, fellow Eastern Parkway resident!
posted by billtron at 6:46 AM on June 29, 2009

Oh, the Williamsburg is very bike-friendly. You could probably get to its base without hitting much traffic, either.

Plus, it dumps you out RIGHT on Clinton Street in Manhattan, just at the north side of Delancey, so you don't have to worry about crossing Delancey (which gets a lot of traffic) - Clinton Street becomes Avenue B once you cross Houston. There is a bike lane the whole way. If you're trying to get to Astor Place, you could just cross the Williamsburg Bridge, zip up Clinton/Avenue B to 8th Street, then hang a left and go straight down 8th Street and you're there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:38 AM on June 29, 2009

Response by poster: Greg, swngmonk, Empress,

I'm trying to avoid the Williamsburg Bridge because of unfamiliarity. I drive across the Manhattan all the time, but I can't think of more than a handful of times I've crosses the W'burg. It comes down to not knowing the neighborhoods at both ends.

Also, now that I've Googled it, it seems that it's a shared path. Again, never ridden it, but is it anything like the Brooklyn Bridge, where it's almost impossible to bike because of the pedestrians who ignore the suggested sides for bike/walking? If that's the case, I'd still rather stick to the Manhattan. It has a tough incline, but at least it's clear.
posted by mhz at 8:06 AM on June 29, 2009

Response by poster: swngnmonk,

The map I'm looking at (NYC Bike Maps) has DeKalb's bike lane ending at Ashland. Can you elaborate a bit, please?
posted by mhz at 8:09 AM on June 29, 2009

Response by poster: * oh, and I drive up Chrystie all the time. It's busy, but there is a bike lane (or at least the broken lines indicating an eventual lane). Is Elridge quiet enough to make up for no bike lane?

I've never driven down Mercer, but driving down Broadway is bad enough for me to chicken out of biking it. Maybe Allen is better, even if it adds 5 minutes.
posted by mhz at 8:12 AM on June 29, 2009

Response by poster: billtron,

Bergen (which is westbound, as opposed to Dean) all the way to Smith may be my best option, but if I can take DeKalb, it seems to be slightly more direct.
posted by mhz at 8:15 AM on June 29, 2009

Response by poster: EmpressCallipygos,

Thanks for that.

That's more or less what ridethecity advises (although it has me crossing to Avenue A to get around Tompkins Sq Park.

Another concern about the Williamsburg for me was Delancey St. But I didn't look very closely, and if I can just go up Clinton, then it doesn't seem as bad.
posted by mhz at 8:19 AM on June 29, 2009

The Williamsburg bridge is significantly less annoying than the Brooklyn bridge. Its pathway is much wider, and there are far fewer pedestrians.
posted by jordanlewis at 8:23 AM on June 29, 2009

Best answer: [Avenue B to 8th Street] is more or less what ridethecity advises (although it has me crossing to Avenue A to get around Tompkins Sq Park.

Oh, duh, that's right, I forgot about the park...the park starts at 7th Street.

I'd still suggest Aveune B as much as possible, because there will be less traffic than on Avenue A. I believe you can go west on 7th, though, so just turn left on 7th instead of 8th. If 7th is one-way running West to East, turning left on 6th will also work. (Do NOT turn left on 5th -- there is a big housing complex sitting right bang in the way blocking your way from Avenue A through to 1st Avenue).

You may also be able to just ride your bike THROUGH the park at 8th, too.

I haven't ridden my bike on Williamsburg Bridge either; but I have walked it. But I am a very timid bicyclist, and the last time I was on the Williamsburg Bridge, I remember thinking that "you know, I may want to bike this, this doesn't look bad."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:29 AM on June 29, 2009

Why not take a test ride over the Wburg bridge some weekend and see how you feel about it? In my experience the pedestrian traffic is way lower than on the Brooklyn Bridge, even on a sunny saturday. The bike path up Clinton is a tight squeeze but one you cross Houston you can zip over to A, which has a bike lane, and go across town to Astor on the westbound bike lane on 9th st.
posted by Morpeth at 8:32 AM on June 29, 2009

Yeah, just chiming in here to confirm that the Williamsburg bridge is not at all like the Brooklyn Bridge. The path is nice and wide, and it's generally not crowded. I personally prefer it to the narrow lanes on the Manhattan Bridge in general. That said, both are good options for biking and about 100x better than the Brooklyn Bridge.
posted by rachelv at 8:36 AM on June 29, 2009

Best answer: One more chimer saying that the Williamsburg Bridge is leaps and bounds less annoying than the Brooklyn Bridge. The only problems I've ever encountered involved the north path being closed for a week or so (the south path is much narrower and steeper) and Broadway in Brooklyn being a crappy street to ride on.

The bike path on DeKalb does end at Ashland, and there's a little bit of weirdness getting across Flatbush and through the Fulton Mall area, but it's not that bad. Going up Ashland isn't really a problem, though, so either way works.

If I were coming from Bergen, I would probably take Smith>Jay, but DeKalb>Fulton>Jay or DeKalb>Ashland>Willoughby/Tillary>Jay also works. Ridethecity always suggests Ashland>Sands for me, but there's construction going on on Sands that makes riding kind of nerve-wracking.
posted by quatsch at 8:50 AM on June 29, 2009

Best answer: Mhz,

Downtown Brooklyn is dicey. I don't take the route I was describing above, but my friends do, as they all live in Fort Greene. I come from Park Slope, and run down Bergen to Smith, to Jay (as billtron mentioned above). Jay Street, in short, stinks, until you get close to Tillary. It's chock full of slow-moving traffic, about a thousand different bus lines, and millions of pedestrians.

In short, they all cut through Metrotech to get to Jay Street, and then hit the Manhattan Bridge. I don't know where exactly the bike lane on Dekalb ends. If it is Ashland, you could go DeKalb->Ashland->Myrtle, and cut through Metrotech to Jay St (those de-mapped streets have roadways that you can bike on). Alternatively, Fulton is closed to all traffic except buses, and is likely pretty easy on a bicycle in the morning.

I would re-examine the Williamsburg Bridge option. It's a much shorter route to your destination, the bridge isn't bad for bikes, and the approach on the Brooklyn Bridge is safer (I ride from Park Slope to the MNH all the time, and there's no nice route - either a ton of lights, or you're putting your life in your hands). You also get to hang out with trucker-hatted hipsters on fixies, and who doesn't want that?
posted by swngnmonk at 8:53 AM on June 29, 2009

The WB bridge is totally bike-dominated. Ped traffic is pretty much never a problem -- not like the Brooklyn Bridge at all. It is a bit steeper than the MNH if I'm not mistaken... I always feel much more tired.

It's also very easy to reach by bike from the south (Bedford Ave, Berry St, others...)
posted by zvs at 9:01 AM on June 29, 2009

The Willy B is my bridge of choice when going from central Queens to lower Manhattan (or vice versa), there are few pedestrians, and the most annoying thing I have to deal with (after they removed the bumps of death a few years ago) is the occasional police car/scooter thing.
posted by Calloused_Foot at 9:47 AM on June 29, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, I guess I'll give the Williamsburg Bridge a chance. Worst case, I'll go back to the Manhattan.

I appreciate it!!!
posted by mhz at 11:06 AM on June 29, 2009

Here's how I would take a round-trip route - WBB into the city and MB out. Some notes:
1. The Northside path for the WBB is on the south side of S5th St, just east of Driggs ave but before the park at the base of the bridge. The northside path is much safer, less steep, and does not end perpendicularly with traffic like the southside path does (see news reports from ~3weeks ago when a pedicab, slammed into a taxi after being unable to stop coming down the southside)

2. When you get off the WBB, you will be in the center of Delancey St. The hotshot bikers will just jump the curb and hug the inner lane in traffic til they have a space to move over, but don't feel ashamed to wait for the walk signal to cross. I prefer Allen/Ave A to B, but I feel comfortable in traffic. Clinton (at the base of the bridge) becomes the quieter Ave B.

3. You can cross on 5th or 7th st. If crossing on 7th you have to ride across the Cooper Union sidewalk.

Heading back -
4. I would take Broadway until W4th. There is no cross-traffic if you ride on the left side of the roadway, and this stretch is considerably safer than Broadway in Soho. Also, should you take Lafayette you would be riding against traffic which is unsafe as well as illegal. An alternative would be to ride St. Marks>2nd Ave bike lane.

5. I continue on the 2nd ave/Chrystie Bike lane, the only difficulty being having to change from the left side of the roadway to the right as you cross Houston. An alternative is to continue against traffic in (what may be a new bike lane since it's painted green) the separated cycling lane on Forsyth, adjacent to SDR Park. You can take this all the way to Hester st, where you would hop on the sidewalk/park access road till Canal for the bridge bike path.

6. Once back in Brooklyn, I prefer Sands (warning:rough roadway at the moment due to construction of new center bike lane) to Navy>Ashland over Jay St/Flatbush because I don't have to cross Tillary or Flatbush during rush hour.

For getting back to Crown Hts from the Williamsburg Bridge:
Take Driggs Avenue South to Division Ave
Bear left and continue South on Lee Avenue
Lee Avenue becomes Nostrand Avenue at Flushing, continue on Nostrand
Turn onto Eastern Parkway.
posted by stachemaster at 12:39 PM on June 29, 2009

Best answer: forgot my mapped route after all that:
posted by stachemaster at 12:41 PM on June 29, 2009

stachemaster: were you on foot (I see you use a pedometer) or on bike? Because there's a problem with this step:

3. You can cross on 5th or 7th st.

There's a big housing complex that takes up the blocks from 4th to 6th Street, and from Ave. A to 1st. There essentially IS no 5th Street between 1st and A. Which is fine if you're on foot, but I"m not sure you can get in via bike (there's a big gate on Avenue A which only opens to residents with a passcode).

At least, it was thus when I lived there 3 years ago...
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:44 PM on June 29, 2009

Response by poster: stachemaster, thanks, and thanks for the detailed map.

Quick question about the route (EmpressCallipygos' note about 5th St. is reflected in Google Maps):

Broadway is certainly quiet for the first couple of blocks down, but East 4th from a bit before Lafayette to Bowery is a bad, cracked, road. Does that continue for the next block (until 2nd)?

Also, I've heard about the Sands St. construction, but I'm trying to avoid any rough roads now (while I'm still getting used to riding a road bike).
posted by mhz at 1:24 PM on June 29, 2009

It's true EmpressC - there is a large housing complex between 1st avenue and Ave A at 5th st. In my shorthand above, that "Allen/Ave A" was meant to mean I prefer riding either 1st ave *or* Ave A. Crossing 5th isn't possible from Ave A, so 7th would be the alternative.

Mhz, yes, 4th st is a little rough from Lafayette to Bowery, but from what I can remember, the other side of Bowery is fairly smooth.

May I ask about your road frame? How much clearance do you have? I have been very happy with the Vittoria Randonneur tires in 32mm on my work bike, so much so that I couldn't believe I rode 23mm tires for so long. You don't have to do so right now, but consider getting a wider cross/touring/city tire for your bike when your current set wears down.
posted by stachemaster at 2:08 PM on June 29, 2009

Response by poster: The 'resolved' followup:

I started taking the Williamsburg Bridge. It's great. In Manhattan it's Delancey>Essex>9 St>Broadway. The way back is Broadway>4 St>2nd Av>Manhattan Bridge>Jay>Dean>Bedford.

Thanks again.
posted by mhz at 5:24 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

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