Monday, June 2, 2014

Where Trains Don't Go: Bike Commuting from Brooklyn

As New York (especially Brooklyn) rents continue to rise, people are beginning to explore new neighborhoods with the help of their bikes. By utilizing cycles, people can live in parts of Brooklyn, Queens or even Manhattan that may not be adequately served by public transportation, and still have a convenient commute to work and easy access to local amenities. This past Sunday the NYT Real Estate section focused in on the topic of bike commuting and apartment hunting in NYC. Brooklyn neighborhoods such as Wallabout, Clinton Hill, Greenpoint, and Red Hook were mentioned as great, more affordable places to live that are relatively easy to access via a bicycle. In fact, as the article mentions, some real estate companies in the city have noticed biking’s increased popularity and have begun mentioning nearby Citi Bike stations as part of a properties amenities. Local commercial districts benefit from this trend as well - by increasing the area from which businesses draw customers. 
Manhattan Bridge bike path Image:

Biking has a host of benefits – environmental to fiscal – and can even help lessen commute times for some people. For example, I live in Crown Heights, Brooklyn and used to work in the East Village. The commute door to door on the C and F trains was roughly 45 minutes assuming everything was running on schedule. However, the bike route along Flushing, over the Manhattan Bridge and up the Allen Street bike median was a quick 30 minutes and mostly in protected bike lanes. Last summer biking everyday to the East Village helped me save money, get in shape, and most importantly (for me) get outside. As a full time graduate student, with a full time job I wasn’t often able to enjoy summer’s warm weather, but the bike commute ensured I’d see the sun for at least an hour a day.

Allen Street Protected bike lane Image:
Biking opens different parts of the city to you and makes traveling much more enjoyable than sitting on a subway or in a car. You are able to explore parts of the city you wouldn’t otherwise visit and notice the little things that make each neighborhood unique, such as shops with unique window displays and signs, buildings painted unusual colors, and murals painted along the city’s small streets. And, as an avid biker, I will say that easy and plentiful bike parking is often enough to entice me into visiting a store or area. If parking is hard to find or far away from my destination (bar, restaurant, etc.), I am more likely to scrap my plans and keep looking for a new location. Bike corrals in business districts and well placed racks on busy streets can make all the difference in the world when I'm out running errands.

Franklin Street bike corral Image:
Something that rings true for cyclists and that was mentioned in the NYT article is the ease at which you can move through the city. It is very easy for me to take a quick 30 minute or less bike ride from my home to Red Hook, Green Point, or even Chelsea; however, for those who rely on public transportation these trips can take upwards to an hour after walking to the stop, for connections, and traffic. These long trip times can be a deterrent to people and sometimes prevent them from visiting certain parts of the city.  

The NYT article included a map showing the change in percent of bike commuters in Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan and Southern Queens from 1990-2012.  The most significant changes happened from 2000-2012, with some areas going from 0%-14% in those 12 years. As cycling continues to grow in both popularity and convenience you can bet that various areas of the city will see new visitors and residents taking advantage of this mode of transportation. 

Melanie Truhn is a full time graduate student in Pratt Institute's City and Regional Master's Program. When she's not biking around Brooklyn she can found in Prospect Park with her pups.

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