New York City is traditionally a city of walkers and straphangers but ever since the Citi Bike arrived last summer it’s increasingly become a city of bikers.
Let’s assume that you’ve checked off all the tourist spots, museums and Broadway shows during your visit here. What next?
May I suggest Brooklyn. By bike?
Read More: Bike All 5 Boros of NYC
A few quick facts about Brooklyn. Technically speaking it’s a borough of New York City, which can lead people to assume it is a) small b) less varied than Manhattan.
Neither of these things are true, of course. With a population of 2.5 million, if Brooklyn were its own city it would be the fourth largest city in the country, behind only New York City (all five boroughs combined), Los Angeles, and Chicago. It is also 71 square miles (for comparison’s sake, Paris is 33). Not to mention, in recent years, much of the creative community has decamped to the borough in the face of skyrocketing Manhattan real estate prices, making it an increasingly vibrant place in terms of culture and food.
Fortunately, much of Brooklyn is bikeable — far more so than Manhattan, where crowded streets can still prove challenging for the uninitiated on two wheels.
Here is the ideal way to see Brooklyn by bike:
Citi Bike vs Bike Rental:
It depends on your itinerary. Currently Citi Bike is only available in select parts of Brooklyn, and for 45-minute time increments. Meaning if your goal is to bike the Brooklyn Bridge or the Brooklyn Waterfront with stops in between for shopping and eating this this could be a perfect option. (Please note, NYC laws do not require a helmet, which does not mean you shouldn’t go out of your way to wear one. Bike and Roll rents helmets by the day and week.)
However, if you are planning a longer trip, say out to Prospect Park, or as far as Coney Island, you should probably consider renting from a bike rental shop, which does not put the same sort of restrictions on time. You can rent a bike from Brooklyn Bridge Sightseeing (110 South Street) for $30 for the entire day. The helmet is included.
The Brooklyn Bridge
One of the great free experiences (and workouts) to be had in NYC is crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. Bikers and pedestrians share the elevated walkway across the bridge. The north side is ostensibly for cyclists and the south is for pedestrians, though the path is often so crowded with sightseers that the two blend together, requiring extra care to navigate. The top of the bridge provides stunning, panoramic views of Lower Manhattan, Midtown all the way up to the Chrysler Building, and the Manhattan Bridge just to the north.
Take a right at the end of Brooklyn Bridge walkway. Head straight up Tillary Street to where it dead-ends into Cadman Plaza and you will find the neighborhood Brooklyn Heights. Lock up your Citi Bike at the stand here and take a stroll. Known as America’s first suburb, the quiet leafy streets in the Heights are lined with charming, century-old Brownstones. This is where The Cosby Show was set, and Moonstruck was filmed — the exact house is located on the Northwest corner of Willow and Cranberry streets. It is also the neighborhood upon which the Sesame Street is based. Walk or ride over a few streets to the Promenade — one of the great jewels in Brooklyn’s crown, where you can take in an uninterrupted view of the Manhattan skyline from the Statue of Liberty all the way up to the Empire State Building. If you’re hungry grab a sandwich at the 75-year old Lassen & Hennigs on Montague and take it with you. Pro-tip: The homemade black and white cookies are to die for.
Brooklyn Bridge Park
Just below the Promenade, and accessible from the newly opened Squibb Park Bridge on its northern tip, the Brooklyn Bridge Park runs along the East River from the Manhattan Bridge all the way to Atlantic Avenue. On the south end, where it meets Atlantic Ave, Pier 5 boasts the Smorgasburg food market on Sundays, while Pier 6 houses volleyball courts, a dog-run, and playgrounds. To the north, between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridge overpasses there is a refurbished, 1920’s carousel that you must ride — it’s not just for kids! In the summer, on Thursday nights, free movies are screened against the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline.
Accessible from the south end of the Brooklyn Bridge Park across from Pier 6, Atlantic Ave is where you should lock up the bike again and head out on foot. While the avenue itself runs all the way to Queens, it’s the 10 blocks between the Brooklyn Waterfront and the Barclay’s Center that are packed with antique shops and cafes. Holler & Squall at the corner of Henry and Atlantic is a favorite furniture store among locals, and if you need a snack pop into Sahadi’s or Damascus Bakery for a homemade spinach pie. Want something more substantial? Two-year-old Colonie, opened via a local Kickstarter, remains enormously popular. Looking for some early evening libations? The newly reopened Long Island Bar is an oasis of mid-century charm.
Make a reservation early at Colonie on Atlantic Avenue (Photo: Thinkstock)
Time to get back on the bike. Depending where you are, choose a street anywhere between Court and Hoyt and head south 10 blocks or so. Hang a left on either Union St or 3rd street and follow the bike lane for about two miles to where it dead-ends into Prospect Park (be warned — the last few blocks require some serious uphill pedaling). Brooklyn’s central park often feels more like a huge neighborhood backyard than a formal city park; BBQ-ing is allowed in certain areas and during the summer months the Bandshell hosts a series of concerts. If you feel the need to satiate a sweet tooth along the way, scoot over to Ladybird Bakery at 8th Ave and 11th St.
Pro-tip: The Brooklyn Blackout cupcake. Nuff said.
If you’re feeling especially adventurous and energetic (or perhaps just wanting to work off the aforementioned cupcake) you can bike to Coney Island. Start at the ‘Machate Circle’ roundabout at the southern tip of Prospect Park and go due west on Ocean Parkway. Stay on it as it makes a quick curve to the left. From here it’s a straight (flat), five-mile shot south to Coney Island along the tree-lined, century-old Ocean Parkway. Be sure to bring water if it’s hot; if you need a break along the way consider making a ‘halfway there’ side trip off Kings Highway and stopping at the Mirage Diner for a grilled cheese and milkshake. Fear not, once you get to Coney Island there will be plenty to eat, including Nathan’s famous hot dogs, followed perhaps by a dip in the ocean or a ride on the famous Cyclone roller coaster.
But don’t stop there. Head east on Brighton Beach Avenue and you’ll hit the Brighton Beach neighborhood, where you can find plenty of traditional Russian fare (and vodka, if the occasion calls for it). A number of Russian nightclubs in the area, including Chinar, put on spectacular cabaret shows, and if you’re too tired to bike home, the N or Q train will have you back to Manhattan in under an hour.
Glynnis MacNicol is a writer and co-founder of The Li.st. Previously she was the Media Editor at Business Insider and a founding editor of Mediaite.com. She contributes to Capital New York.