Visit my new site velotrope.org for better and more up-to-date content. Thanks!
I’ve been deliberating over what to call this bike blog. I’ve settled for now on “Escape Brooklyn” because it sounds better than “Fuhgeddaboud Brooklyn”. My concern is that the word “escape” lends a negative connotation – as if Brooklyn is a place I’d like to liberate myself from. And in some ways that may be true.
But this blog is not a snub on Brooklyn. From the bike lanes of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, to the loop around Prospect Park, the pot-holed streets out to Red Hook, and the pedestrian path all the way to Coney Island, Brooklyn is a bike-affable borough with no shortage of character to explore. And I return every time I leave.
This blog is meant to be a platform from which I can share my favorite rides outside of the city using Brooklyn as a starting point. I’m fond of the idea of picking a spot on the map and getting there with only the strength of my legs, using forgotten roads and trails sitting quietly in the shadows of our highways.
I love poring over maps, analyzing different topographical shades and splotches of green and sepia, measuring rough distances with my thumb, connecting cities together with squiggly lines. But the map is not the territory. It’s when you traverse the distance on two-wheels that you get a much better purview. You’re almost forced to. You feel the temperature, the mileage, the ascents and descents with your body in a way that evades a passenger in a car. The slower, self-guided pace allows you to get a better sense of the subtle, chromatic changes in landscape and neighborhood as you inch ahead geographically.
To quote Andy Robinson, a member of the Ride to Rio quartet, “On a bike you are slow enough to immerse yourself in the character of new places, but fast enough that the experience is always fresh.”
In this way, “connecting” is probably a more appropriate word than “escaping” (although Brooklyn Connect sounds like a horrible dating site). And the meaning is two-fold: the first is using a bicycle as a way of connecting with the world around you. The second is the way that Brooklyn, or whatever place of familiarity we reside, is literally connected by navigable roads and trails to destinations that may not be so familiar.
And perhaps I’m easily impressed, but even my monotonous commute to work seems like a miraculous connection and feat of human engineering. If I never looked up, one continuous slab of pavement from Prospect Park to Chelsea Market transports me across a tidal strait and through a myriad of neighborhoods.
I grew up in Massapequa, Long Island and I remember as a kid taking trips with my family to visit cousins or grandparents upstate or in New Jersey. It might as well have been another country I was visiting – those rides seemed so long and I never stayed awake for the duration of them. Now places like Nyack, Brewster, and Peekskill, just names of places from my childhood, have their meaning etched into my muscles and bone.
When planning rides I always appreciate all the resources I can get, and I hope this blog will be useful to those looking to adventure beyond the boroughs. My aim is to share routes, pictures, stories, and other insightful info with interested riders. And most importantly, I hope to point you in the direction of some decent grub and a cold beer after your ride. And, if you ride far enough outside the city limits, maybe a cheap pack of smokes…
Life is nothing without its rewards.
– July 13, 2013
On Twitter @escapebklyn