A Runner’s Guide to NYC Bridges
I’ve already written about the benefits (most of which include getting laid, but also that it’s FREE) of running outside instead of in a gym – so obviously we’ve come to a juncture where you are quite convinced about that necessity but unsure of where to start. Right? Good.
I like bridge running because it’s beautiful enough to distract you from the searing pain in your legs and breezy enough to keep you from sweating like an 300-lb. tourist in Central Park in July. And it’s generally quite challenging! But not all bridges are built the same. I suffer across these multiple times a week, and this is what I’ve learned:
General Info: This is the most recognizable and therefore most photographed (and tourist-trafficked) bridge in the city, which also makes it sort of a pain in the ass to run. But it makes up for what it lacks in personal space by great views and superior feelings as you run around the mortals who are merely walking across. The pedestrian path is elevated above the roadway and shares space with a bike lane.
Incline: Not steep but not flat – it rises and then falls with grace and there’s a middle portion that is even with the water.
Best quality: Views. The BK Bridge offers lovely skyline views and acts as a great vantage point from which to observe the architectural marvels of the bridge itself.
Worst quality: Traffic. Clogged with tourist-morons who seem to lack even a rudimentary understanding of foot traffic.
General info: Sort of like the Brooklyn Bridge’s wiser, gainfully-employed older sister, it sits alongside it and watches ruefully as its petulant sibling gets all the attention. The Manhattan Bridge is also beautiful, maybe more so than the BK Bridge, and generally pretty desolate. This bridge serves as the crossing point for the Q, N, B and D trains. Since it shares space with trains, the foot-and-bike paths are separate and fenced off on the sides of the bridge rather than down the middle. The foot path is on the south side.
Incline: The bridge starts higher up than most in the city so as a result, the incline is gradual and fairly easy to master.
Best quality: Solitude. Hardly anyone takes the Manhattan Bridge across given its proximity to the Brooklyn Bridge.
Worst quality: Noise. As trains cross over the bridge they generate a ton of screeching and rumbling which can drown out even the loudest Ludacris jam coming through your earbuds.
General info: This bridge spans between Bedford Ave. on the Brooklyn side to the mouth of Delancey St. across the water. This makes for trendier pedestrian traffic than its two bridge sisters down south. Traffic patterns have obviously been planned out a little better by city engineers on this bridge, which separates pedestrians and bikers for much of the journey across and elevates both paths above car and train traffic. The J, M and Z trains rumble across occasionally.
Incline: GOOD GOD HOW IS IT POSSIBLE THAT THIS BRIDGE IS SO GODDAMN STEEP? IN BOTH DIRECTIONS?
Best Quality: People watching. You see some interesting cats crossing in between the Lower East Side and Williamsburg. There’s also great graffiti to be seen on the pedestrian side.
Worst Quality: The incline is killer, but that’s not a terrible thing. Your thighs will thank you.
George Washington Bridge
General info: Across the island and way up North, this bridge stretches in between Washington Heights and Jersey. This bridge definitely isn’t as pretty as the three that service lower Manhattan but it gets the job done for the broke-asses who enjoy cheap rent in the hood on the top side. I know it doesn’t really make sense to run TO Jersey, but you get the satisfaction of leaving it in your dust on the return. It’s also longer than the East River bridges because the river it crosses, the Hudson, is wider.
Incline: Given its length, the slope is very very gentle.
Best Quality: Peace. The part of Jersey that it leads you towards is actually a park, so it’s lovely and wooded. And generally people don’t walk across this bridge much, and the span of water it’s over is quite wide. It’s a nice jog.
Worst Quality: Immediate views. Woods/Hudson river aside, the bridge itself is actually pretty ugly. And the foot path is right next to traffic instead of elevated like the other bridges in the city, so cars and trucks are always in your immediate sight line during a run. It’s pretty unfortunate.
Difficulty: Medium. Despite its lack of slope, the length provides a challenge.
Has anyone run the Triborough or Queensborough bridges? Are they great or horrifying?
Photos courtesy of britannica.com, wikimedia, bridgeandtunnelclub.com, and studenthousing.org.