The bike path.
It might not be the most glamorous contribution to the world of cycling, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Just ask the Dutch.
So it might surprise you to learn that the very first bike path of any historical significance wasn’t built in Amsterdam or Copenhagen, but in 19th century New York; and you’re about to go riding on it.
When landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux completed their plans for the 5-mile, European-inspired Ocean Parkway in South Brooklyn, they were sure to include a wide pedestrian walkway along its grassy median. Of course at this time in the 1860’s, the penny-farthing was as far as biking technology had progressed, so the idea of an independent bike path didn’t seem entirely practical.
Fast forward to 1894, however, and things were about to change.
Find the Perfect Ride for Cycling the Ocean Parkway Bike Path: See Bikes in Brooklyn
With the popularity of the modern bicycle skyrocketing, a decision was made to split the Ocean Parkway sidewalk in order to accommodate both pedestrians and cyclists safely. The new separated bike lane was an immediate hit with New Yorkers looking for a leisurely ride from Prospect Park to Brighton Beach. Other major cities in both the U.S. and around the world quickly followed suit, and the rest, as they say, is history.
These days, the Ocean Parkway bike path continues to serve as the safest and most direct way for cyclists to make their way from central Brooklyn down to Coney Island. The bulk of its 5-mile length is smooth pavement, and there’s more than enough space to accommodate two lanes of bike traffic with ease.
“Safe” is a relative term, of course, and there is at least one significant stretch of concrete that’s in need of some serious TLC. Here you can simply veer off to the west and continue along Ocean Parkway’s peripheral residential road, which runs one-way south towards the beach. If you happen to be headed north towards the park, however, there’s really only one thing to do: navigate the bumpy terrain and make a mental note to leave the DOT a stern voicemail when you get home.
Once you arrive at the Coney Island boardwalk, the beach is yours. You can opt to continue pedaling west towards the theme park, or simply park your bike by the sand and take in those vast coastal views.
We could think of worse ways to end off a bike ride down one of the world’s most historic bike paths.