8 mile beginner route
Starts at Van Siclen Ave Station, ends in Flatlands, Brooklyn.
A- Van Siclen Ave Station
B- BKLYN Blend Livonia
C- Shirley Chisholm State Park
D- Canarsie Park
E- Palermo Pastry Shop
F- Dolly's Ices
Downloadable turn-by-turn directions from Bike Map
Who doesn't love a landfill that has been turned into a delightful oasis for park starved New Yorkers? Something that I truly appreciate about this city is the ingenuity in transforming some of our unused landmasses into a place for all to enjoy, and Shirley Chisholm State Park definitely fits the bill of a great utilization of underused space. This was my first time exploring this former landfill transformed into a state park, and it was a fantastic experience. The state park is 130 feet above sea level and offers unparalleled views of the city, great bird watching opportunities, and paved and gravel paths for a variety of bike exploring (or bike skidding if you have thin tires like me). And as it wouldn't be a Rach Bikes route without some tasty food options, this route offers you three places to taste the flavor of East New York and Flatlands. If you are looking to check out a great State park while filling up on tasty treats and enjoying some protected bike infrastructure in Jamaica Bay, this is the route for you!
Getting to Shirley Chisholm was relatively low-stress, and I appreciated the pretty comprehensive bike network in East New York, as well as some of the wider streets not often seen in this city! To get over to the park, I recommend taking Riverdale Avenue instead of New Lots Ave (Google's suggestion) over to Van Siclen Avenue. It's a pretty straight shot down Van Siclen Avenue until you hit Seaview Avenue. Once on Seaview, you will turn onto Pennsylvania Avenue for a short while, but make sure to take the sidewalk over to the park entrance or you might end up going onto Shore Parkway! There is improved cycling infrastructure here to connect you to the sidewalk, but riding on the sidewalk is a little treacherous, and I wish they had thought to include improving the bicycle infrastructure to the park when they built it.
Once you cross over to the park, it's time to start exploring! Shirley Chisholm State Park was recently completed and completely transformed two former landfills. 407 acres of land have been reclaimed to complete the park, which now has 10 miles of biking and hiking trails, a bike library where you can rent a bike, waterfront access, and plenty of spots to picnic. There is a visitor's center right at the entrance and I recommend stopping there to grab a map and chat with the park workers about what there is to see. Upon recommendation from the park worker my friend and I headed off to explore Fountain Ring Drive, the outside paved loop of the park. This loop is great for biking as it is paved, and also great for birding (the friend I brought with me is an avid birder). On this path, we spotted buffleheads, double-crested cormorants, and a red-tailed hawk! It was exciting to see this former landfill generating a space for native plants to grow and for a variety of birds to call home. If you want to dismount your bicycle and explore some of the parks on foot there are multiple gravel trails that take you further atop the park with some even more spectacular views. Or you can attempt to take your skinny road tires on the gravel road like I did, which was fun until I attempted to go downhill!
After taking some time to ride the trails and check out the birds, exit the park to the left and hop onto the Jamaica Bay Greenway. The Jamaica Bay Greenway remains one of my favorite pieces of bicycle infrastructure in the city, as it hardly feels like you are in a city while riding on it! I love that it is fully separated from cars and surrounded by trees, though sometimes I wish it was a little bit further set back from Shore Parkway so I didn't have to be riding next to a highway for some portions. Following the Jamaica Bay Greenway, you can take some time to stop and check out Canarsie Pier, and then keep traveling through to Canarsie Park, where you will loop through to get to the two-way protected bike lane on Paerdegat Ave North.
The rest of this route takes you over to Flatlands for two options for something sweet! I have a friend whose grandma lives here and got some recommendations for her, though she mentioned that she doesn't feel comfortable attempting to bike here, and as I made my way over I can see why! Taking Flatlands Ave is the most direct way to get over to the first stop, but I am going to suggest that you take your bike on the sidewalk for this portion. My friend and I tried to ride just a few short blocks here and it was far from an enjoyable experience, as it is a multi-lane road with fast-moving car traffic, and it certainly didn't seem like car drivers were used to seeing bikers or at all tolerant of their presence! Once we turned onto E 56th Street, it was much more bike-able, but I would skip biking on the street on Flatlands Ave if you are a timid biker (or really, any level biker). It was fun to bike down E 56th Street as I haven't explored much of Flatlands before, the houses there are very cute and have a much different vibe than I am used to seeing in this city. Once you hit Avenue N, take a quick left to end up at Palermo Pastry Shop. Palermo Pastry Shop is one of those very old school Italian bakeries that are becoming rarer by the day, and it was nice to step inside a bakery with an interior that felt like a relic of old times with pastries that were fresh from the day. Since they had a card minimum of $20, we came away with a pound and a half of an assortment of Italian cookies, and pastries for ourselves as well.
If the sweets at Palermo Pastry Shop weren't enough for you, it's just a short jaunt down E 56th Street to get to Dolly's Ices, another recommendation from my friend. My friend and I were pretty satisfied with the pastries so we didn't end up heading over there, but if you pace yourself you could make this a two sweets stop! And hey, don't worry, you still have to roll yourself home so plenty of time to burn off the desserts.
Hi! I'm Rachel.
I'm creating curated bike routes in all 5 boroughs of NYC. Routes include downloadable route map, descriptions of the bicycle infrastructure, and suggestions on places to eat and things to see. Enjoy!