How to: Cross the Williamsburg Bridge for Williamsburgers

Tuesday, August 18, 2009
By steven
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[Updated on June 28, 2011 to reflect the most recent biking routes! + See comments below]

A recommendation to current bikers: If you live in North Williamsburg, take Roebling Street over Grand Street.

How to Take Roebling If you live off Bedford or in Greenpoint you already take Roebling. If you live off Lorimer or Graham, try going west through the BQE directly to Roebling or Metropolitan Ave to Roebling St over the Leonard to Grand St route. Benefits include less cars, less stoplights, cleaner and smoother roads (repaved July 2009!), it’s residential, and though slightly longer distance-wise it’s faster time-wise. It’s safer.

Why Grand St is worse
Take Grand St if you must (ie. it’s closer or you live in Bushwick), but it’s a crappy route with a dangerous blind bend in the road. Other drawbacks include the amount of blind pedestrians, drivers speeding blindly to reach the BQE, illegally parked cars and big-rigs always in the bike lane, and broken glass. Getting on the bridge, you hit the sudden incline on the overpass bridge and then find yourself biking over spilled cement puddle mounds.

Coming off the bridge is worse. There’s that crappy underpass where everybody bikes illegally in the wrong direction down the one-way street. It’s a recipe for disaster because you have to then diagonally cut through a 4-way intersection from a blind bend in the road. Be unlucky once and you’ll slam into cars speeding the light, or more likely into another biker going the correct direction down the road. Lastly, after the underpass you’ll speed downhill on the overpass to be greeted by a number of potholes at the Rodney St intersection, then again at Union. WTF.

Now, How to Generally Cross the Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan.

1. You’re technically supposed to take the sidewalk on the street that leads to the bridge bike entrance, and leave the street for the bikers coming off the bridge.

2. At the fork, stick to your right and take the NORTH pathway. There are signs for this now, and road markings. Pedestrians are to take the SOUTH corridor pathway only but they follow this only half the time. Bike in the right lane; pass people on the left and give a verbal notification (“Passing [behind you] on your left!”). Pedestrians would be better off sticking to the south pathway… hopefully they’ll catch on someday.

3. When you begin biking on the Manhattan slope side, you’ll notice 3 lanes now. One for pedestrians, and two bike lanes for bicycles.

Note: The Williamsburg bridge has the steepest incline of all the main bridges, meaningĀ  you’ll work harder to get up top, and you’ll roll down much quicker. If you’re going slower than the traffic, bike on the right so fast bikes can pass you on your left. Also, when making turns or cutting across lanes, look over your shoulder behind you to make sure you’re clear to turn.

4. Your Manhattan Destination:

Here’s a PDF map from the DOT of routes once off the Williamsburg Bridge

Anything below Houston street:

-Biking along Delancey (ie. Kenmare) will bring you to as far as Lafayette St. Go south if you want to resume on Broome St, or North if you want to take the Prince St bike lane.

-If you take Grand St, when you come off the bridge to the Manhattan entrance (the island in the street), turn left (looking for traffic first), and wait for the proper signal to bike South two blocks to Grand St. Turn right and the bike path goes as far west as Chrystie/Forsyth St.

West Village/Westside (Chelsea and north)/Nolita:

-At the Manhattan-side entrance (the island in the street), turn right and on the proper signal, take the Clinton St bike lane north 4 blocks to Houston St. (If you want the Lower East Side, you can turn left before you hit Houston.) Turn left on Houston and bike along to destination. Houston is a clear, *wide*, and smooth street to bike on, except when it encounters congestion between Bowery and NYU.

For Chelsea and any neighborhood on the west side north, you can take Houston ALL the way to the west side highway, or turn right on 6th avenue. IFC Film Center is the mark for w4th st and 6th ave. A few blocks after this You’ll see a diagonal street on your left called Greenwich, which is a safe smooth shortcut to 8th avenue. 8th Avenue has a dedicated bike lane & bike traffic light for safety. Cars can not turn when bicycles have a green light. Great!


How to Cross the Williamsburg Bridge into Brooklyn.

1. Reaching the Bridge:

A.// DELANCEY is a safety nightmare.

If you’re coming from the north (most likely down Allen St), until you’re comfortable biking in traffic you may want to walk your bike for this one. However if you want to bike directly on Delancey alongside traffic, biking on the inside lane works best to get onto the bridge. I almost never do this anymore, option C is safer.

B.// GRAND ST BIKE PATH (coming from the south). If you’re coming from the south and taking the Grand St bike route to Clinton St (two-way), be careful when you bike up Clinton towards Delancey. That intersection has a very confusing traffic signal because the signals for both traffic directions (east-west) + (north-south) face you. There are 3 stoplights on Delancey right before the bridge to slow down cars, a good percentage of the time cars will ignore the red lights and still speed through so beware.

C.// SUFFOLK ST BIKE PATH (coming from the north).

If you’re coming from the East Village, you can take either the 2nd ave bike lane or Ave A south. 1 block past Houston, turn left onto the Stanton St bike lane. Take this all the way to Suffolk St bike lane which will bring you to the Williamsburg bridge.

2. Once you reach the fork, take the left (NORTH) pathway once more to return to Brooklyn. The SOUTH pathway is now a dedicated pedestrian zone. You’ll know you’re on the right side because of the traffic lane markings, and that you’re looking towards midtown. The SOUTH decline is an uncomfortable, bumpy roller-coaster which is tougher to brake on (you have less control) and it abruptly ends in a cross-street.

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