2013-11-08 / Columnists

Go Parks!

Take A (Bike) Ride on the Wild Side
By John Mattera


Adventures NYC. Photos by Daniel Avila/ NYC Parks Adventures NYC. Photos by Daniel Avila/ NYC Parks Bikes on the street have been taking the limelight recently, but bikes have been going strong in Parks for years, and never more than now. The NYC Parks Greenway system stretches from Rockaway to Staten Island, from the top corner of Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx to great routes across Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan.

All told, it’s 240 miles of pathways, off street, and safe for riders of all ages and levels of experience.

In Manhattan, the Greenway along the Hudson River stretches from Battery Park up and into Inwood Hill Park.

Bring your own bike, rent hop-onhop off bikes for the day, or take off on a Citi Bike.

On a ride along the Harlem River, with Manhattan’s soaring cliffs on one side, the hills of the Bronx on the other, and the lush water beside you, there really isn’t a more majestic section of bike path.


Sailing under the arches on the Randall’s Island bike path. Sailing under the arches on the Randall’s Island bike path. Next year, you’ll be able to bike over the magnificently restored High Bridge, connecting Manhattan and the Bronx, for the first time in 50 years.

The Bronx, in addition to having some of the oldest routes, offers more greenway mileage than any other borough.

You can ride from Van Cortlandt Park all the way to Brewster, New York! The Bronx also has the distinction, among the five boroughs, of connecting by Greenway to the rest of the country.

If you start your trip in Pelham Bay Park and follow the Greenway out of town, you’ll find yourself on the East Coast Greenway.

This inter-state route actually starts in the Florida Keys, passes right through New York City (arriving in Manhattan by ferry) and stretches north to Acadia National Park in Maine!

Few have done it all but anyone can ride a bit of it. In Queens, the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway, also known as Long Island Motor Parkway, survives today as a bicycle path, but began as America’s first all-elevated road for cars.


Bronx River Bike Path Bronx River Bike Path Originally built in 1908 as a racecourse for motor cars by William K. Vanderbilt, Jr. (1878-1944), it was one of the first concrete roads in the nation, the first highway to use bridges and overpasses, and the first high-speed route from Queens to Suffolk County.

By World War I (1914-1918), the completed 48-mile, privatelyowned Parkway was open to the public as a toll road.

It was used primarily by New York City socialites travelling to their summer estates on Long Island.

After the dawn of Prohibition in 1920, the toll road acquired the nickname Rumrunner’s Road, because bootleggers often used it to outrun the police.

You can still see some of the guardrail posts on its edges.

The Parkway’s largely untold history is filled with intrigue: race cars, bootlegging, historic preservation efforts, and public controversy.

The tree-lined stretch running through nearby Cunningham Park is now part of the NYC Greenway program, and you can bike it while imagining you’re Jay Gatsby or Eliot Ness.

If you want to kick it real old school though, you have to pedal down to Brooklyn, to the place where Greenways began, way back in 1894: Ocean Parkway.

Ride the whole thing from Prospect Park to Coney Island! There are streets to cross along the route, but your reward at the end is a beautiful beach and ocean views. Too tired, to ride back? You don’t have to.

The historic, but newly rebuilt “green” Stillwell Avenue subway station is the terminus for many subway lines.

Bikes are allowed on subways at all times, and this station has ramps to the platforms; an easy way to wrap up your bike day adventure.

For more information on NYC Parks Greenways and cycling in our parks, go to www.nycgovparks.- org/facilities/bikeways

It’s your chance to explore great new parks while truly on the go. Go Pedal! Go Parks!

John Mattera is a Project Manager for NYC Planning & Parklands

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