First Time Biking Over the East River Bridges? With the Right Help, It’s Easy

Photo: Kim Burgas

Shawneladee Cole is not what most people would consider an “avid” cyclist. So when e-mails on her Clinton Hill co-op listserv got heated as bike-share stations were installed this spring, Cole paid some attention, but it wasn’t until the blue bikes appeared in May that she thought she might want to give it a shot.

“I have a bike but it’s been in my closet for five years,” Cole said. She bought an annual Citi Bike membership and at first used it around her neighborhood and a little bit in Manhattan, but not to get between boroughs on the East River bridges.

Then on Sunday, she joined a ride organized by Citi Bike and NYC Biketrain, which coordinates scheduled rides so new bike commuters can try out routes with a group of more experienced riders. Sunday’s route went from Fort Greene to Stuyvesant Town, using bike lanes and paths on Flushing Avenue, Sands Street, the Manhattan Bridge, Allen Street, and First Avenue.

Before Sunday, Cole wasn’t sure how to access the Manhattan Bridge bike path. Now, she knows — and isn’t afraid of making the steady climb up the bridge’s incline, though she would like bike-share to bring stations closer to where she works in Williamsburg.

“Our goal is simply to get more people cycling by offering a friendly way to get on the road,” NYC Biketrain co-founder Kimberly Kinchen said in an e-mail. The group is looking to connect with large employers and develop outreach tools to make organizing rides easier. In the meantime, mark your calendars: NYC Biketrain is organizing another ride with Citi Bike on the evening of October 18. For details, follow NYC Biketrain on Twitter or check out the Citi Bike website as ride day approaches.

  • Anonymous

    I wish some of the bike lane signage and lane markings at key intersections was clearer. I got very confused coming down Broadway around the Flatiron district and Union Square. Bike lanes seem to just disappear. If it is a quiet time of day, you can figure it out. But lunchtime on a work week is just sensory overload.

  • Joe R.

    Since inclines were measured, here’s an interesting thread with some further info: http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php/527851-climbing-amp-elevation-grade-for-NYC-bridges

    The gradients climbing the bridges aren’t as steep as I thought. It appears most are 3% to 4%-a grade I can easily climb at 13 to 15 mph. For comparison purposes, the grades on some of the streets north of Hillside Avenue in my area are 8% to 10%. It’s all I can do to hold about 10 mph going up those. Thankfully these hills are only 3 to 4 blocks long.

  • Anxiously Awaiting Bikeshare

    Yeah, bike signage is uneven across the city.

    In that particular location, however, there is a sign hanging above the bike lane at 20th street on Broadway that instructs “Union Square” with an up arrow and “Downtown” with a left arrow. It isn’t obvious as there isn’t a bike logo or anything else on the sign but it is a bike lane instruction. 20th street has an eastbound bike lane which you can take to 2nd avenue heading further downtown.

  • Commuter

    The NIMBYs are screwed.

  • Anonymous

    Especially when bike lanes jump to the other side of the street without any signage that warns you about it.

  • TomGg

    What they really need to do is fix the paths accessing the bridges and exiting from the bridges. Brooklyn Bridge is particularly bad. There is no safe connection exiting the bridge on the Manhattan side to any of the paths or greenways going uptown, particularly on the East side. The East Side Greenway is actually pretty nice down there but there is no way to get to it from the bridge. You can take Lafayette TO the bridge but you’re screwed coming back because there is no parallel path uptown.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Wait til she drops Citibike and starts riding her own. And someone else starts riding Citibike instead. Etc.

  • Anonymous

    If it doesn’t have a bike symbol, I just assumed it was for cars.

  • Ben Kintisch

    Absolutely, way faring signs for biking in NYC leave much to be desired. That’s kind of a low-hanging fruit for DOT to improve existing infrastructure for New York cyclists.

  • Ben Kintisch

    Just tweeted DOT with a link to this article and a plea for better signage on bridge approaches. Who will do the same?

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