Before moving to Brooklyn in late 1990s, I spent almost ten years living in Long Island City, Queens. Many times I would drive along 11th Street to get to the Pulaski Bridge, to eventually get on the BQE near McGuinness Boulevard. On my way to the Queensboro Bridge a few days ago, I thought I still knew my way around the area on the Queens side of the Pulaski. How hard can it be to travel the area on bicycle? How different can it be compared to driving? A lot, especially if you want to obey traffic rules.
After crossing the Pulaski, I saw a bike lane going toward the river and took it. I thought it could not go wrong to follow the waterfront, which was on the left. At some point though, I saw that the Queensboro Bridge was on my left instead of being in front or to the right. Something had to be wrong, I must have made a wrong turn somewhere! Luckily, not long ago I visited Gantry State Park and knew that Vernon Boulevard runs all the way north, under the Queensboro. Once I found Vernon, I was on track again. When I got under the Queensboro, I should have turn right immediately but instead I went straight. Maybe I did that because I knew from a visit to Sunnyside some years ago that the ped/bike lane of the Queensboro was on the north side of the lower level of the bridge. Unfortunately, there were no other right turn to take because of the buildings of Queensbridge housing project. I ended up having to go the extra distance to 41st Avenue. Eventually I found the bike ramp for the bridge. Cyclists are supposed to use the left lane while the right lane is for pedestrians. There were not that many people and the walkers, and the occasional runners, were all over in either lane. As I slowly made my way up the ramp, it occurred to me how is it possible that I saw land below the bridge, but I was not done with the ascend? In other words, if the Queensboro Bridge connects Queens and Manhattan, as soon as I see land under the bridge, as opposed to water, should I not be descending the bridge already? Then it dawned on me. I was mistaken, for the land I saw was not Manhattan, but Roosevelt Island, the very place I will be running the NYC Runs Hot Chocolate 10K on.
When I finally made the descend, I saw the sign to indicate a steep descend and slowed my progress by braking slowly. It was a good thing I did because the path took a nasty U-turn at the end of the ramp. If I was coasting downward I am pretty sure I would not navigate the U-turn in time to avoid a crash. Maybe I missed some sign that warned "Sharp U-turn ahead!"
Off the Queensboro Bridge, I was already at First Avenue and 60th Street. I should probably just walk the bike over to Third Avenue and whatever 60ish Street but I rode anyway. Right away, I didn't like it. Just a block north there was a truck blocking the bike lane. As I stopped to look to behind me before passing the truck, some cyclist zoomed by. Not close enough to hit me or anything, but it got me shaking my head. Maybe the cyclist already looked behind and saw that the coast was clear. The short trip across the avenues and the few streets were slow and at times I did walk the bike. I was glad to find one of those CityRack but then I couldn't find The Running Company. It turned out my memory failed me and I was off by just one block. Got the bib and souvenir mug (instead of T-shirt), for myself and another PPTC 10K runner, and off I went. I would love to ride back to Brooklyn but the trip to the store already took about two hours. I was needed elsewhere so I had to take the subway back. Bike trips are great as long as you are not in a hurry. Or the distance too great. Or the weather is not too nasty.
I definitely need to re-visit Kent Avenue and the Pulaski Bridge to take some photos. I also totally passed by East River State Park. I think I often saw it from across the river in East River Promenade under the Williamsburg Bridge. It looked like a nice place to take a stroll or just to relax.