The best bike rides in Brooklyn from the woman who has cycled them all

By

Jacqueline VanDusen at Floyd Bennett Field, one of her favorite places to bike in Brooklyn (though it is currently closed). The cyclist is nearing the end of her goal to bike every inch of Brooklyn. Photo: @brooklynbybike

This is an excellent time to be biking. Particularly for someone who is cycling every inch of Brooklyn. Today marks the three-year anniversary of Jacqueline VanDusen’s ambitious project to bike every block in the borough, a journey she is documenting on her Instagram, @brooklynbybike.

It’s been a joy biking in Manhattan or typically congested areas of Brooklyn like Atlantic or Flatbush,” says VanDusen. Not only is there less traffic right now, but there will also be 40 miles of car-free streets come May, when the city opens up streets and widens sidewalks for pedestrians and expands bike lanes for cyclists, with the ultimate goal of freeing up 100 miles from cars. There are new hazards, VanDusen notes, like an abundance of trash and broken glass, but because bike shops are considered essential, it’s still possible to get a (contactless) tune-up or a flat tire fixed.

Though her feed is filled only with photos of blue-sky days (I’ve sprinkled some of VanDusen’s beautiful streetscapes below), she goes out in all kinds of weather, year-round, and has clocked nearly 4000 miles on the saddle so far. Editing photos, planning routes, and organizing the data of her rides are all part of the project, and in fact, mapping out her progress is one of the perks. The full-time Creative Director says “the project has definitely helped to expand my skills in retouching and data visualization.” 

She anticipates that she’ll be done by September, and hopes by then that she’ll be able to have a proper celebration. “I’d love to have an impromptu outdoor party/ride at the end of the summer. I’ve made so many friends during this and their support keeps me going,” she said.

Her methodical survey of Brooklyn is reminiscent of Matt Green’s trip around New York. The subject of the documentary, The World Before Your Feet, Green has been walking every street in the city since 2012. The two are good friends, of course. “Matt Green is one of my favorite people. He is quite possibly the most unique person I’ve ever met and walking around with him is always hilarious. He definitely got me to notice the smaller details that you’d miss while cruising around on a bike,” she said. “His project is so much more impressive than mine and I admire his ambition.”

So no, she won’t be following in his footsteps, and has no plans to tackle another borough the way she did Brooklyn. “It’s where I’ve called home for almost 14 years,” said VanDusen, who has lived in Bushwick, Midwood, Clinton Hill, Bed-Stuy, Bensonhurst, and now Williamsburg. “I want to keep the energy alive in my area as we bounce back from the pandemic.”  

Below she shares her inspiration for the project, her favorite bike rides in Brooklyn, and the most surprising things she’s seen during her yearslong tour.

I went back to your first posts and saw hashtags like #fitnessgoals. Was this the initial inspiration for your adventure or was it just part of it?

I think my love for Brooklyn and seeing new things was what inspired me the most. I’ll be honest though, the added benefits of biking were definitely a plus. It’s pushed me to be more active in general. 

What do you feel you are taking away from this journey? And are you turning it into anything like a book?

After doing this for 3 years, I feel very comfortable talking about Brooklyn with regards to history, culture and cycling. I hope to continue to learn and explore even after I finish the project. Yes, I would love to design a book that tells the story in a non-digital format. I set out to design neighborhood-focused books back in 2010 and now I feel like I can do it properly. 

What are the most beautiful or surprising things you’ve seen?

I love watching the seasons change by what’s in bloom. It’s a beautiful transition of cherry blossoms and magnolias to roses and sunflowers followed by the sobering reality of winter with the changing leaves. I find little gems every ride, whether it’s a gaudy mansion or a retro storefront.

What are some rules of the road learned over your years of biking Brooklyn? 

To be blunt, everyone is selfish. Pedestrians don’t pay attention, cars are impatient and cyclists do whatever then can to get from A to B. We all break the rules and we all blame each other. Bike lanes and helmets can’t fix stupid…no matter who is at fault. 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

The last adult movie house in Brooklyn. Kings Highway Cinemas is located in the predominantly Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Midwood (Homecrest, kinda). I THINK it might be for sale? I’ll look into it. . History: This 650-seat theatre opened in 1936 and has undergone quite a few transitions. The cinema famously showed the XXX film “Thoroughly Modern Millie” for an entire year in the 60s. In the late 1960s, the owner converted the space into a triplex featuring straight porn, gay porn and obscure foreign films. According to the internet, it’s been operating like this up til recently, but with a 4th screen. $12 gives you access to all screens. . . #madison #homecrest #sheepsheadbay #midwood #marinepark #farragut #midwood #gravesend #kingshighway #xxx #adultfilmhouse #theatre #theater #cinema #facade #signage #oldnewyork #adultmovies #southbrooklyn #brooklynhistory #newyork #newyorkcity #brooklyn #nyc #nyc_explorers #explorebrooklyn #ilovenewyork #seeyourcity #what_i_saw_in_nyc #sign

A post shared by Biking Brooklyn NY (@brooklynbybike) on

Your project is coming to an end during the Covid-19 crisis. What has that been like for you? Are there things you’re seeing on your rides that you are documenting but not sharing?

This virus has been a blessing and a curse. Yes, I get to bike almost every day which is my favorite thing to do….but on the other hand, a lot of what I’ve seen as far as social distancing has been sad. I bike a lot through low-income and/or religious communities who either deny that this is a problem or just don’t care. I generally avoid commenting on it, because it’s not my place. I can report things to 311 and keep myself safe, but I can’t make people listen. 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Biking Brooklyn NY (@brooklynbybike) on

Has the pandemic affected your ability to ride or get your bike repaired in any way?

The trash and broken glass is getting out of hand. I’m getting flats, dodging trash cans and swerving around cardboard boxes. I think cyclists are very fortunate that we are still able to do what we do. I was able to get a brand new bike from Priority Bikes during this because they have contactless pickup. I’m still able to get a flat fixed at Sun & Air with contactless drop-off. As far as getting around…so many less cars! I hope the city government will rethink bike commuting after this pandemic. 

What are your favorite bike rides?

I would say zigzagging through the historic districts in Stuyvesant Heights or Crown Heights….or the arches of Mill Basin or flying down the runways of Floyd Bennett Field [Note: The field is currently being used as a parking lot for MTA buses during the Covid-19 crisis and is closed to the public for now]. Also I like zigzagging through Manhattan Beach and having a picnic on the beach.  

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)