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:


Brooklyn Bridge
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.

Difficulty: Medium.


Manhattan Bridge
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.

Difficulty: Easy.


Williamsburg Bridge
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.

Difficulty: Hard.


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.

Share This Page

About the author

Polina Yamshchikov - Flirt Poor

Polina is Siberian by way of Alabama, and therefore cannot pronounce "fire" or "iron" correctly but despite this can still woo men with her cooking skills and enormous Russian cheeks. She can usually be spotted on the streets of Brooklyn either yelling into a cell phone in one of five languages or swilling gin at an inappropriate hour of the morning.

10 Comments

  1. Glenn says:

    I live very close to the Queensborough and Triboro Bridge (WHICH HAS BEEN RENAMED THE JFK BRIDGE). To help facilitate your analysis, I could try to run across these bridges in the next week.

  2. Get in there, Glenn. Let me know how they are.

  3. lionfish says:

    I run over Queensborough quite regularly when I’m training for a marathon and I would rank it as being more difficult than Williamsburg (I also bike over it almost every day as part of my commute to work).

    There is a long, steady incline on the Queens side that doesn’t flatten out until you’re well over Roosevelt Island. The “flat” section is relatively brief before you start the descent into Manhattan, which is pretty steep (marginally better than the incline on the Williamsburg bridge, walker/runner side entrance in Brooklyn).

    Traffic wise it is not too bad. More traffic than Manhattan, but less than Willliamsburg. Bikers and pedestrians share the same side of the bridge (north side) and technically the bikers are supposed to use the south lane and pedestrians use the north lane, but that rarely is the case (for either group). Should note that there tend to be quite few more “serious”/spandex clad cyclists using Queensborough b/c of it’s proximity to Central Park and easy access to the westside and getting up to 9W.

    One thing to be aware of on the Queensborough is the hairpin turn at the base of the bridge on the Manhattan side. There is a lot of construction going on for both sides of the base and makes for some potential near misses with runners/walkers/bikers etc. Tourist travel is minimal.

  4. Nate says:

    One time I walked across the Brooklyn bridge and it was approximately 9000 degrees (C) and I almost died.

    So maybe I should stick with the easy bridges? Wait, I don’t even live in NYC. But that story is totally true.

    I tried to find a clip of Ernie singing “The George Washington Bridge Song,” but to no avail… :(

  5. Lionfish, what a helpful analysis! I’ll have to check that situation out next time I go running.

    Nate, lock it up.

  6. alanna says:

    I’ve never run over the JFK/tri bridge, but I’ve biked over it from queens to randal’s and from randal’s to the bronx. I felt it was a moderate, but long incline and a safe ride, as you are almost caged-in. However, Randal’s Island is creepy and, unlike the car portion of the bridge that is one long section, the pesdestrain/bike pathway ends and dumps you out on the middle of the island. I took the bridge at least three times and I would not feel comfortable doing it alone.

    PS – Bridge distances would be really helpful next time.

  7. Candice says:

    Thanks Polina – do you have the distances of or recommended running paths that include the bridges. Seems like a great way to spice up my outdoor runs!

  8. cannondale_rider says:

    lionfish got it right, but neglected to mention the view of the Roosevelt Island tram that one receives from the pathway… although currently the tram is “undergoing renovations”

  9. Quinn Skylark says:

    I live in North Brooklyn and have done a 3 bridge, 3 borough run. Staring out in Greenpoint, head towards queens and over the relatively small Pulaski bridge (steep but short incline). Then truck on over to the Queensborough. The incline is not terribly steep, but quite long which makes it FEEL steep. It’s a great relief hitting the apex though and coming down the other side. You can stretch your legs and let the incline propel you forward. From there its a long run down 1st avenue and into the Lower East Side where you’ll hit the W’burg Bridge. I stopped off at a store for a bottle of water along the way. The W’burg one is quite steep, and HARD after the miles you’ve already run. But I have a policy about bridges. I can never stop on a bridge. Never. For any reason. Even if I am running at a turtle’s pace. There is no stopping. The decline here is tougher because exhaustion could be setting in. What I did was veer down Bedford until I found a health food store, where I bought a coconut water. Walked a while drinking it, then started to run and made it the rest of the way home. All in all about 12 grueling miles. But worth it! You’ve hit three bridges (Pulaski, Queensborough, and W’burg) and three boroughs (Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan). Do it!

Trackbacks for this post

  1. The Willy B Challenge | The Rise, NYC

Leave a Comment