Biking the 19-mile Jamaica Bay Greenway
21st Day in Rockaway: Jamaica Bay Greenway
This article is part of a 30-day series exploring adventurous living near Rockaway Beach, Queens.
The Jamaica Bay Greenway was an idea first floated in the 1980s and then finally put into action with a 2012 federal grant. The Greenway now exists as a 19-mile pedestrian and bike loop around the area of Jamaica Bay including areas of Brooklyn and Queens. The main goal of the loop was to provide increased access and interest in outdoor recreation opportunities in the area and combines both local (NYC Parks) and federal (Gateway National Recreation Area) lands. Here is a current map of the Greenway and surrounding area:
I started my ride at Jacob Riis Park, immediately slightly lost as I tried to find the connection to the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge (easiest way is to go up 169th, cross the street and turn right and walk along the sidewalk until you get to the bridge).
The bridge is multi-use (pedestrians & cyclists) so they request you walk your bike. As you cross you get the first expansive view of the waterfront:
After hopping off the bridge and following signs to cross the street, you get a protected bike lane on the side walk which takes you past Floyd Bennett Field (a recent urban camping destination) and to Shore Parkway - another protected bike path that will take you either west to Coney Island or north east along the Greenway.
Following Shore Parkway quite easily brings you to Howard Beach where you'll find the largest stretch of street riding on the Greenway. Much of this area was very well marked with Bike Lane and Greenway markers so you knew you were on the right path.
Once you finish the Howard Beach section it's time for my favorite section: the one that goes by Jamaica Bay (pro tip: take a break at the refuge for some great views and short hikes). The actual bike path is very similar to the other sections except for the crazy amount of birds flying above indicating you're right next to one of the most significant bird sanctuaries on the east coast.
After Jamaica Bay you keep going straight through Broad Channel and over the Cross Bay Bridge into Rockaway. From there you can use the protected lane along Beach Front Drive to get most of the way back to Jacob Riis.
As a user, the Jamaica Bay Greenway is a double edged sword: on one side you have an awesome path that's protected from cars and runs along some of the largest areas of nature in New York City. Yet, while trees hug one side of the path, cars, highways and major thoroughfares surround you on your other side.
Though it might not be the most peaceful of bike rides, it's a hugely impressive project and one that, considering the infrastructure the pre-existing infrastructure, makes the best use of the area to get people to do more outdoor recreation. Check out the Epic Ride this week to explore more of the Greenway!
By Sarah Knapp as part of 30 Days in the Rockaways