Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Take Five: Boroughs & Bridges

If you want to really see New York City, I highly recommend cycling in the annual Five Boro Bike Tour held in May. Traversing by bicycle on the roadways and bridges normally relegated to motor vehicles evokes a rebellious giddiness—at least until the nearly two-mile and almost four percent grade of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge beginning at mile thirty-five. This forty-plus miles adventure was a good training ride for the big ride in a few weeks [], and introduced my new tires to the five boroughs of New York City and five interesting bridges. The residents and visitors must have been thrilled to have 30,000 bicyclists and road closures that day.

In New York state a borough is a municipal corporation created when a county merges with the cities, towns, and incorporated villages within its boundaries. The five boroughs of New York are: Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island.
The ride technically began in Battery Park at the southernmost tip of Manhattan, but many of us jumped in at other points to avoid the throngs of people. The route included Central Park, streets of Harlem, and a rest stop at Astoria Park in Queens.[pictured left] The ride officially ended on Staten Island, and the highlight for me was riding the Staten Island Ferry back to the starting point. Then came the serious business of eating Italian food in Little Italy!

The five bridges were exciting because they added some "hills" and history to the ride, in addition to the fact they were completely closed to car traffic. First, we ascended the Madison Avenue Bridge, a swing bridge, in order to get to the Bronx. As a side note, the Bronx is the only mainland parcel of the United States in New York City; the other boroughs are on islands!  At mile nine we crossed the Third Avenue Bridge, which connects East 135th Street and Third Avenue in the Bronx to East 128th Street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan.
Six miles later the cantilevered Feelin’-Groovy Simon-and-Garfunkel [Queensboro] Bridge offered stunning views of the East River between 59th street in Manhattan and Long Island City in Queens.[pictured left]

We reached our fourth bridge at mile twenty-two: the Pulaski Bridge. This bridge connects Long Island City to Greenpoint in Brooklyn, crossing over Newtown Creek and the Long Island Expressway.
The grand finale bridge, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was a special treat, especially for commuters accustomed to waiting a while in their cars to cross it. The only two ways to cross this bridge without a car are cycling in this ride or running the New York City marathon. When this bridge opened to traffic in 1964, it was the world’s longest suspension span bridge [it has since been surpassed by six others]. The main span from tower to tower, at 4, 260 feet makes it sixty feet longer than the Golden Gate bridge. Cyclists enter the bridge at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn and then exit at Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island. After visiting the finale festival on Staten Island, we had to cycle about three miles to the Staten Island Ferry terminal for the trip back to Manhattan.
On such a beautiful day, the ferry ride was an added treat.