Biking Through Brooklyn

"To Subway" Bike Sign

Sometimes there is even bike-specific signage!

On several occasions each year I uncover my mammoth chrome mountain bike and go for a ride. My destination is generally the Howard Beach – JFK subway station in Queens. After mentioning this to people I’m often asked for details. I think that my mention of such a trip conjures up images of me biking through heavy traffic for dozens of miles. But actually, it’s a very serene ride. Here’s how it’s done:

The first thing you’ll want to do is check out the latest version of the NYC Bike Map. Besides a giant PDF, there is also a route finder feature on the site. New York City has added hundreds of miles of bike lanes over the last couple years and they fall into three categories:

  1. Bike route – Simple markings on a normal driving lane. These are generally used when adding a full lane would take up too much space. They might put drivers into the mindset that they might encounter bicyclists, and they can help you get back to the nearest full bike lane, but they don’t offer much more than that.
  2. Bike lane – A designated lane that motor vehicle drivers are not supposed to drive or park on. This is pretty much ignored, particularly for parking. However, riding in one of these does give you an extra feeling of safety. Some even feature buffer zones between the bike and driving lanes.
  3. Protected bike lane (aka Greenway) – A bike lane that’s physically separated from motor vehicle traffic. Often this is done with parked cars or by allowing bikes on extra wide sidewalks.

The more you stick to categories two and (particularly) three, the more enjoyable your ride will be.

 

Bike Ride to JFK via Rockaways

My preferred route

I’m up in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, close to McCarren Park. A couple of blocks over is Leonard Avenue, which has a bike lane. After Broadway, where Leonard ends, there is some signage and pavement markings to direct me over to Tompkins Avenue, which I follow to Dekalb Avenue, which has nice bike lane with buffer area.

Due to the street grid in this part of Brooklyn, I actually go quite a bit out of my way to use these bike lanes. Similar to the G-Train it’s a southeast route that shifts to a southwest route to essentially get to a point south of where I started.

Dekalb Avenue is easy to ride. It’s rather flat and the traffic isn’t that noticeable. I continue on Dekalb until Vanderbilt Avenue, where I take a left and start heading south. This section of Vanderbilt is only one of those “bike routes” (#1 in the list above), so it’s not as nice to ride on, but this is a short stretch. After Fulton Street a bike lane develops and this takes you all the way up a gradual hill to Grand Army Plaza in front of Prospect Park. The bike lane takes you around the outer circle and guide you into the park. Note that it’s also possible to use a completely separated bike lane along Prospect Park West. But the park is a little bit more fun in my opinion.

Heading south in the park, the route is mostly downhill. This is generally the fastest portion of my trip. It’s easy to miss the exit to Machate Circle, which you’ll want to use to get over to Ocean Parkway.

The routing here can be a little confusing. You want to cross Prospect Park Southwest and then Ocean Parkway (so essentially diagonally across from where you exit the park). There you’re allowed to ride on the sidewalk. This section is already called Ocean Parkway, which is confusing, since it’s a little street. You’ll ride along a couple of blocks high above the Prospect Expressway until that ends and you’re on Ocean Parkway proper. You need to cross over Ocean Parkway using the Church Avenue intersection to get to the bike path (riding is only allowed on that side). The bike path doesn’t actually officially start until a couple yards south (where the railing begins).

Ocean Parkway

The start of the Ocean Parkway Greenway

The Ocean Parkway ride is pretty nice. The railing separates pedestrians from bicycles, and most people obey this. The only annoyance is that you’re still crossing every intersection and will frequently need to stop. When you do have a green light (technically you’re using the pedestrian light) you still could encounter turning vehicles, however, for some reason, I seldomly see any vehicles doing this, except, notably, at Bay Parkway which diagonally starts out of Ocean Parkway at an intersection that does not have a traffic light.

Ocean Parkway will take you all the way down to Coney Island, where you can either stop at the Boardwalk or take a left on Neptune Avenue and continue eastward to Sheepshead Bay. This, once again, is just a bike route and the traffic can be a little annoying. But luckily  this section is less than two miles. You pass a fishing marina and the southern end of Bedford Avenue, the longest street in Brooklyn. Right before you get to the Belt Parkway, there is a deli on the opposite side of the street. I have recent begun to use this as it’s the last chance to get some Gatorade or water before your journey outside of civilization.

The entrance to the Belt Parkway Greenway is a little hidden. You want to make to not head up the onramp onto the Belt Parkway. Instead, you take a right on Brigham Street and then enter from there.

Now you’ve reached easy riding… Oh, well I did forget about the beach erosion. Shortly after you enter the greenway you’ll get to Plumb Beach, which is essentially a highway rest stop (with no facilities) that allows access to small beach (no swimming, too polluted). Shortly before this exit a small section of the beach and the greenway washed away around 2010, so you have to bike on the grass to the left of the path. This is only for maybe 200 feet and then you reach the parking lot and from there you can get back on the greenway.

From here you will quickly reach the Flatbush Avenue exit. Here is where you can take a detour via the Rockaways (and add about five miles to your trip) or continue on the Belt Parkway Greenway.

Belt Parkway - Old BridgeBelt Parkway - New Bridge

An old bridge (top) with narrow sidewalk and a new bridge (bottom) with a full-sized sidewalk

If you continue on the Belt Parkway Greenway, you will pass over a series of bridges. Some have tiny sidewalks that can only realistic be ridden in one direction at a time (so you’ll have to co-ordinate with fellow bicyclists). The newer ones, however, have full width bicycle and pedestrian accommodations. Eventually you’ll reach Queens and can then take a right on 84th Street (the end of the greenway). At the next intersection you take a left and then follow the bike bath and signs to the Howard Beach – JFK subway station.

The detour to the Rockaways is a little more scenic and I recommend taking it if you have time. You cross the Marine Parkway Bridge and ride through Jacob Riis Beach (bicycling is always allowed on that Boardwalk, presumably since it doesn’t get much use).

Jacob Riis Beach

Jacob Riis Beach

At the end of Jacob Riis Beach you take Rockaway Beach Boulevard for 33 blocks. This is a quiet residential artery street with very generous bike paths. Since you’re on the primary road and there is very little cross traffic and there are very little traffic lights, this section is very enjoyable. At Beach 116th Street, the main business street in Rockaway Park, I generally take a right and head down to the boardwalk. This is a city boardwalk and it doesn’t allow bike riding after 10am May – September, so during this time it’s advisable to continue on Rockaway Beach Boulevard until Beach 108th Street and then take a right to the Shore Front Parkway, which parallels the boardwalk and has very generous bike lanes. A fun fact is that this was built to be part of an intended actual highway, which luckily never happened.

At Beach 94th Street you can take a left and head across the peninsula to the Cross Bay Bridge which will take you over to a nature preserve. For more than three miles this bike path passes through nothingness! It can actually get kind of boring.

You eventually cross the Joseph P. Addabbo Memorial Bridge and return to civilization, where you’re actually faced with a mile or so of sharing the road with traffic. There aren’t even bike route markings. Luckily the boulevard is very wide here and you can use the parking lane to avoid much interaction with motorists. At 157th Avenue, a right turn will guide you on your way to the Howard Beach – JFK station.

Howard Beach - JFK Subway Station

Waiting for the subway at the end of a long bike ride

The Howard Beach – JFK station is a modern station that’s ADA (and bike) accessible. An elevator will take you to the fare control area, where, after turning the turnstile with your hand, the station agent will electronically open the service gate for you. You then take another elevator down to the platform. In the summer it is advisable to go to the front of the platform as the rear cars of the A-train tend to be packed with beachgoers returning from the beach.

And that’s how you get 25-30 miles of biking in Brooklyn (and Queens) without dealing with too much traffic.

Bike to JFK - May 1, 2011 - 01Bike to JFK - May 1, 2011 - 02Bike to JFK - May 1, 2011 - 03Bike to JFK - May 1, 2011 - 04Bike to JFK - May 1, 2011 - 05Bike to JFK - May 1, 2011 - 06
Bike to JFK - May 1, 2011 - 07Bike to JFK - May 1, 2011 - 11Bike to JFK - May 1, 2011 - 14Bike to JFK - May 1, 2011 - 15Bike to JFK - May 1, 2011 - 17Bike to JFK - May 1, 2011 - 19

Bike to JFK – May 1, 2011, a set on Flickr.

Fire in Williamsburg

Williamsburg Fire 1I saw a fairly large fire on my way to see the fireworks tonight. It was in an industrial building at the corner of North 9th Street and Wythe Avenue in Williamsburg.

I saw the first smoke around 9:15 while walking on Berry Street along McCarren Park. I quickly walked down to North 10th Street, and that’s when I first saw the flames.

I’ve uploaded several more photos after the jump.

Continue reading

Say Goodbye to ‘The New Kai’

While the newkai.com domain will be sticking around, I killed the over-eight-year-old “The New Kai” concept of this website. Not only was it horribly out of date content and design-wise, much of it was broken!

“The New Kai” concept was based on fifteen-to-eighteen-year-old me and simply had to be discarded of. I now work about fifty hours a week, spend six-plus hours in the gym, enjoy nightlife, and sleep most of the weekend to recuperate from the previous three. It was time for me to upgrade to a much simpler content management system.

Any of the worthy content from the old site will be carried over here eventually. You’ll already find a link to my two photo sites in the “pages” section of the main page.

Even maintaining a website in this age of Facebook is a struggle. See my post about this last year.

Here are images I dug up of newkai.com versions 1 & 2:

newkai1.pngnewkai2.png

I’m finally freeing myself of frames on newkai.com. While they improved the site’s appearance back in the day, there’s no use for them in 2008. And last but not least, there’s no more 18-year-old me frozen all over the screen!

Public Bathrooms in New York City

One of the first things you learn upon arriving in New York City is that Starbucks contain the quasi-public bathrooms of this epicenter of Western civilization. There are two major reason for this:

  1. The city only provides one. (There are also about a dozen in the subway system, but they’re not recommended)
  2. There is a Starbucks on virtually every corner and they do not post “restrooms are for customers only” signs.

The “Starbucks law” will help you out a lot. However, if you find yourself in a pedestrian-heavy areas, you might find yourself in a ridiculously long line several times longer than the coffee line.

That’s where the New York City Public Toilet Map comes in… The preview on the site doesn’t show you too many examples, but it does mention the SoHo Apple Store. I’ve been in there at least a dozen times and never even realized it had a public bathroom.

I don’t own this map (yet), but happened to find myself in SoHo on Saturday, when it was packed by European tourists spending the formerly valuable currency known as the dollar. There was a line of about 20 at Starbucks on Spring Street by Lafayette Street. Fortunately I remembered that there’s a Bloomingdales around the corner with three sets of bathrooms. There was no line.

More background on the map

Tighter Squeeze Thanks to Cab Driver Strike

Packed_L-Train.jpgWhenever I take the L-Train in the morning, I expect claustrophobic conditions such as those in the picture to the right. However, whenever the cab drivers strike, the packing extends to the last part of “Option A” for my commute, the E-Train.

Drivers were protesting plans put in motion by Mayor Michael Bloomberg under which all drivers must equip their cars with global satellite positioning systems and machines to take credit cards, partially at their own cost.

The satellite system includes a monitor for passengers to follow their route, check news and weather, view advertisements, and pay their fare by bank card.
&ndashNew York taxi drivers ‘regroup’ after lackluster strike

New_York_Taxi_GPS.jpgThere are many things I don’t understand about the changes that are being required that have the cab drivers in an uproar:

  1. Why GPS for the passenger but not for the driver? How come I still have to inform the driver of every single turn once we enter the fine borough of Brooklyn? Besides, the system is so lagged that one night the driver found the correct turn before I did as a result of the fact that I was navigating by the screen, which was five blocks behind.
  2. Probably half of the cabs I’ve ridden in since I moved here in March already had some kind of cheap-looking credit card reader on the back of the separation glass. Were those fee-free for the driver?
  3. The union(s) are claiming that the changes are also disadvantageous to the passenger. I don’t see that at all. I have ridden in the newly retrofitted cabs on several occasions already, and while hearing Jim Cramer scream at me about the stock market was a little annoying at three in the morning, I do remember there being an “off” button, which contradicts what I heard in an interview with a cab driver yesterday. And the credit card thing? That’ll make me more likely to actually take a cab, which should offset any fractional losses. Come on, it’s 2007… I pay for $2 coffees with a card. Why shouldn’t I be able to do so for a $20 cab ride?

As for this soon-approaching morning? I am seriously contemplating “Option B” again: “G to the C.”

Photo Credit:

  1. Getty Images via “Too Many Hipsters Bring Down L Train Grades” – New York Magazine
  2. NY Taxis want no GPS” – NaviGadget

Cable, Parking, Passport

Brooklyn HeightsNot much has changed. The weather is still great, the job is going great, and the weekends are going great.
I spent over an hour last Saturday in line at the only Time Warner Cable customer service establishment in Brooklyn. There is one establishment with two customer service windows for 2.6 million people.
Subsequently I received a parking ticket in Brooklyn Heights for returning to my car twenty seconds after the meter expired. I know it was twenty seconds because the meter maid told me that she “just saw it expire twenty seconds ago.” Subsequently she had to nerve to have me wait while she finished typing in the info into her machine.
Thursday I got up early and took a trip to the Austrian Consulate to apply for a new passport. Well, first I had to have photos taken. I had these taken at eight at the consulate’s recommended photographer on 42nd Street (the consulate is on 69th).
It turns out the photos were not up to specs, and I had to travel back down to the photographer and have them retaken. Apparently my eyes were slightly too low and the color was bad. At least the representative at the consulate called the photographer so I could have them retaken for free.
So yeah… That’s what’s new.

Lessons from the Real World

New York City SubwayMonths have past since I updated this weblog (which turns seven years old at the end of the year) with some details about what I’m personally up to.
As you might know, I worked in financial consulting in Vienna last summer, from July to October. Since I didn’t like the way that was going, I decided to move back to the United States. I spent several months looking for a job, but never received any interview requests. It wasn’t until March that these started coming about, and by the 17th of that month I had committed to a job at TheLadders.com in New York City.
My starting date was April 2, and I moved in with my friend Nick Harisis a couple days before. I slept on a couch dubbed “Old Faithful” for an entire two months.
My job is pretty cool. The people are great, the material is for the most part interesting, and the company in general is amazing. It was recently featured in The New York Times:
Listing Top Jobs but Charging Candidates to Seek Them
Back to my living situation: About three weeks into “living on the couch,” Mike (remember him from college) and I basically locked ourselves into living in a great place on Park Avenue South in Manhattan after only looking at a total of three places in Brooklyn.
Just as we were supposed to move in, however, two major issues arose that have caused us to be looking for a new place, this time with three bedrooms.
I don’t want to dwell on the housing saga… It is what it is. For now I’m living in the Park Avenue South place on a double-height air mattress which keeps deflating at night after it randomly sprung a hole after its fourth night in operation.
The thing cost me $40 plus a $20 pump at Target in Brooklyn. I pondered the possibility of returning it, but there was no way to fit that into my schedule. A sheet in the box proclaimed “Do not return to the place of purchase,” instead suggesting that I send it back to the manufacturer. That wouldn’t leave me with an object to sleep on, however.
Saturday morning, on the way to picking my mom up from the bus station, I stopped by a K-Mart to see of they had any vinyl repair kits. They suggested I check out Modell’s (a regional sporting goods chain) around the corner. They told me to try K-Mart… Yeah… Just in case, I had picked up a roll of flexible tubing tape at K-Mart.
The tubing tape turned out to be ineffective, and on Monday I purchased some duct tape, after unsuccessfully searching the internet for a swimming pool store in Manhattan. Somehow pools and Manhattan don’t fit well, I suppose, unless they’re at the top of a luxury high-rise.
The duct tape works pretty well. I can currently lie down on a fully inflated mattress at midnight, and my back won’t hit the floor until around six in the morning… Almost long enough for my usual night’s sleep!
I am still determined to find a pool dealer in Manhattan though. Today at work I looked up “swimming pool dealers” on yellowpages.com and found one in the East Village. Unfortunately I remembered the number wrong and apparently walked right by the place. I’m pretty sure it’s a wrong listing though.
There’s no other furniture in my bedroom except for a bar stool and a plastic dresser tower thing (left by the previous tenant) that I have used as an “office” for the past couple days. Not trusting my air mattress as a reliable and halfway comfortable place to sit, I ventured out to the neighborhood drug store at 10 p.m. this evening to buy a $12.95 lawn chair. I might need it this summer anyway… It’s not bad to sit on with my laptop in my lap.
So maybe I’ll give you some more updates over the next couple weeks, but my week, especially Monday through Friday is so ridiculously filled. Here’s my average Monday-Wednesday:
6:00am: Wake up because my air mattress has deflated, somehow manage to go back to sleep
7:15am or 7:30am: Wake up, shower
8:20am: Head out and get on the subway
8:45am: Arrive at work
Sometime between 6:30pm and 7:30pm: Leave work, take care of task (eg. buying a lamp, searching for pool store, etc.)
Sometime between 8:00pm and 8:30pm: Arrive at home
8:40pm: Get on the subway to head to gym
9:00pm: Arrive at gym
10:30pm: Leave gym, eat at Subway (as in the restaurant) around the corner
11:15pm or so: Get home
Midnight: Go to sleep
Thursday is the same except I usually head out to an after-work bar night around 6:30 and stay out until midnight or so.
Friday is also the same except I have some time off from around 6:30 until around 10, when I usually head out.
The weekend usually flies by way too quickly, especially when much of it is spent traveling (Vestal, Syracuse, etc.) or I’m somehow otherwise occupied.
I think it’ll all somewhat improve when the living situation is settled. I’m looking forward to this summer, although it will be the first time in five years that I’ll not be spending it in Vienna.

Vienna Trip XI

Map of Flight RouteI’ve been throwing a bunch of dates around as to when I’ll be in Vienna. I finally decided to check my tickets, so I can now officially announce I’ll be in Vienna from December 29 to January 16. And I also can announce I’ve never been more excited to travel anywhere my entire life. That’s probably due to the fact that I’m currently stuck in Vestal, New York by myself.

Syracuse hasn’t Lost its Luster

Halloween Weekend 2006 in SyracuseI had a great two days/nights in Syracuse Thursday through Saturday, thanks to Chris’s invitation. As a fresh alumni it’s pretty awesome to go back to your alma mater and live it up a little. Especially if you are otherwise stuck in a town with no friends.
I did of course choose a great weekend, Halloween weekend, to head back up to the ‘Cuse, but nevertheless. Thursday night took place at Faegans, like in the old days, and the weather played along as well. Friday was kind of a lazy day, really only kicking into gear with a visit to the Middle Ages Brewery in Syracuse’s Westside neighborhood. Afterwords there was a visit to Pavone’s Pizza (pronunciation still a point of contention) in Little Italy. The night was all about the infamous three-dollars-a-pitcher happy hour at Chuck’s. And finally there was “the buffet” on Saturday afternoon, which cannot be described by words.
It’s great to know that if I want to pretend that I’m still a college student, the opportunity is only 90 minutes away!