15 December 2012


This morning I traveled by bike to The Running Company on Third Avenue between 62 and 63 Streets in Manhattan to pick up my bib and swag for the NYCRUNS Hot Chocolate race on Sunday.  While the location is not as convenient for me as, say Jack Rabbit Sports in Park Slope, it was a good chance to explore northern Brooklyn and southern Queens on two wheels.  Originally, I thought about entering Manhattan via the Manhattan Bridge then go north along the West Side bike lane.  On second thought, since the store is on the east side of Manhattan and just a few blocks north of the Queensboro Bridge, the Queensboro would be the better choice.  So my goal was to go over the Pulaski Bridge to get into Queens, then the Queensboro to get into Manhattan.

As usual, I started out by heading to Ocean Parkway and traveled most of its length northward, into Prospect Park and went with traffic flow, counterclockwise, to get to Grand Army Plaza.  I hoped I would bump into some PPTC members running in the park but none was found, at least no one I know, that is.  After PP, I went along Vanderbilt to get to past the elevated BQE.  Vanderbilt south of Atlantic Avenue is bike-friendly, but north of Atlantic Avenue it is a shared road.  Good thing there were two other cyclists in front of me, so I just quietly followed them.  I also thought of Transportation Alternatives' bike train, whereby veteran cyclists lead novice ones on rides through the city.  What a great idea!

I don't know the Williamsburg area well enough but enough to know that I had to avoid being south of the BQE.  From the few times I drive through the area, I know that it's somewhat commercialized and can be busy and crowded at many places.  The BQE being dipped below street level does not help either.  As soon as I hit the BQE, I went under it and got to Flushing Avenue and the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  I probably passed through the area before while riding in the Bike New York Tour, but have no recollection of the scenery.  Again, some cyclist happened to go to my right, which I was sure that I should turn right too, so I followed him.  Just past some gate into the Navy Yard, on the opposite site of the street was a protected bike lane, with the protection in the form of cement barricades.  Sweet!  Even better, after a turn into Kent Avenue, there was a sign that tell cyclists to use the sidewalk!  I love Kent Avenue!  Though the sidewalk bike lane ended at some point, the bike lane became protected, with the parking lane being the protection this time.  At many corners cyclists are supposed to watch out for cars turning left, but with the East River on the left, most of the times the left turn would lead to a dead-end, so few cars actually made the left turn.  Or maybe it was too early in the day.  I aimed to get to the store by 10 AM and left home around 8.

I left Kent Avenue for North 14th Street, thinking that I would hit McGuinness Blvd. eventually.  Unfortunately, there was no bike lane on McGuinness and with the calming median and the parked cars, there was just enough room for two cars to go side by side, not an ideal situation for a bike to squeeze into.  I went toward the Pulaski Bridge via Newel Street, but at Greenpoint Blvd. it ended.  Back on McGuinness, the Pulaski was just three blocks away but again I don't want to fight with the motorists.  So I walked the bike the three blocks.  Not just a cyclist, I'm also a runner and walker, when the time comes, I can easily walk.  At the foot of the Pulaski, I discovered that Eagle Street would be the better choice over N. 14th St.  Live and learn!  That's what I love about actually going out there to discover what works and what does not.

I was worried that the Pulaski bike lane would be like the Marine Parkway, i.e. that the bike should be walked, at least according to some signs I saw some time ago.  Luckily, it's a ped/bike shared path and that bikes should go slow.  They sure should, as the lane is pretty narrow, just enough for two people or bike to squeeze past each other.  I traveled over the Pulaski Bridge many time by car and once by bike, on the vehicular road, during Bike New York's tour.  For today's first-time trip over the bike lane, I discovered that in addition to the ramp, there are stairs, with many steps I am sure, to get to the bridge, on both the Brooklyn and the Queens sides.

I made it into Queens!  Just a few more kilometers and I should be at the Queensboro Bridge.  Once I cross into Manhattan, my target would be just a few blocks away.  Before moving to Brooklyn in 1997, I lived in Long Island City for about ten years, so I know the area near the Pulaski Bridge pretty well.  Or so I thought.

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