Every day more than 20,000 bike rides are made across New York City’s East River bridges. For many, these bridges are the most physically demanding part of the ride to the office or back home.
As more and more New Yorkers start biking to move around the city, I wanted to share why I can’t wait to ride easy on the city’s interborough bridges with CLIP*.
*CLIP, co-founded in 2018 by Somnath Ray and Clement de Alcala, is a Brooklyn-based urban mobility startup that is launching the first all-in-one, swappable, and universal bicycle e-motor. Click here to pre-order 🚲 🔌
- Brooklyn Bridge (2,558 daily rides, 1.13 miles, 3.5% avg. incline)
For morning commutes into Manhattan, there’s something magical about riding over the city’s most iconic bridge. But riding on the narrow wooden slats that make up the shared bike/pedestrian path is not always so smooth — especially on return rides into Brooklyn. I often find myself losing momentum as I make it up the bridge, dodging carefree pedestrians or trailing bike traffic in a single file. The added effort you need to push up the bridge can be enough to turn some commuters towards alternative routes.
2. Manhattan Bridge (6,008 daily rides, 1.30 miles, 3.4% avg. incline)
With its separate bikeway, it’s no surprise that the Manhattan Bridge attracts more than 2x the number of rides than its more famous neighbor. The ride over the bridge is generally pleasant and the views spectacular — it’s just the on-ramps on either side that make me sweat.
On the Brooklyn side, the 0.15-mile looped climb to the bridge is a tough 6.8% incline to start. And coming from Manhattan there’s an abrupt, get-off-your-seat climb that hits you as soon as you ride through the small barrier. Once on the bridge, however, it’s a more manageable, but still effortful, 3.0–3.5% incline to the crest from either end.
3. Williamsburg Bridge (7,089 daily rides, 1.38 miles, 1.85% avg. incline)
For some reason, the Williamsburg Bridge feels a lot tougher to ride than the numbers seem to indicate. Since I live in South Brooklyn, I asked friends who more regularly ride across the Williamsburg Bridge to describe the commute experience to me. The words, “exhausting”, “hard”, and “brutal” topped the list. To be sure, the rides to the crest pose a challenge, but as one commuter described the downhill ride to me, “…it’s a joy and feels like a reward for all of the effort going uphill.” But what if the entire ride could feel that way?
4. Queensboro Bridge (4,968 daily rides, 0.70 miles, 3.0% avg. incline)
The Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge is the shortest of the interborough bridges, but as noted in a recent piece in The New York Times it’s “…the only direct connection for pedestrians and cyclists between Midtown Manhattan and Queens”.
So it’s no wonder why the NYC DOT counter records nearly 5,000 bicycle rides per day. In a recent r/NYCbike thread about the most challenging hills and bridges for biking in the city, the Queensboro Bridge may not have earned any mentions, but the climb from the Manhattan side is a steep quarter-mile with a 58-ft elevation gain (at an average 4% incline grade). Now that’s a segment where a boost would be nice!
- “Cycling in the City: Cycling Trends in NYC.” New York City Department of Transportation. July 2020. Accessed July 31, 2020: https://www1.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/cycling-in-the-city-2020.pdf
- “Most challenging hills/bridges to bike over in NYC?” Reddit. Accessed August 3, 2020: https://www.reddit.com/r/NYCbike/comments/i3ntzh/most_challenging_hillsbridges_to_bike_over_in_nyc/
- “Which NYC bridge is the toughest to bike? (by steepest climb and incline grades)” 48min.com. May 23, 2020. Accessed August 3, 2020: http://www.48min.com/culture/nyc-bridge-bike-with-toughest-steepest-climbs-incline-grades/#wburg
- Hu, Winnie. “A Bridge from Queens to Manhattan, but No Cars Allowed.” The New York Times. June 24, 2020. Accessed August 5, 2020: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/24/nyregion/nyc-bridge-bike-pedestrians.html
- “Queensboro bridge steep” Strava. Accessed August 8, 2020: https://www.strava.com/segments/5085887