As beautiful as my ride down the Hudson River Greenway is, after a while, like anything else repeated daily, it gets a bit tedious. Sure, there’s been occasional new things popping up, such as the re-construction of the stairs at the end of the Greenway, the detour around the Fairway by the West Harlem Piers Park, a new path running through the southern end of Fort Washington Park while the park is being expanded and renovated, and other small day-to-day changes. For the most part, though, each day’s ride is exactly like the last.
There’s certainly advantages to having a predictable commute with virtually no traffic to watch. For one, I can concentrate on my cycling technique, such as doing high-intensity intervals or attempting to keep my speed up and my heart rate down through controlled breathing and a steady cadence. I can also just sit up occasionally and look around at the other people around me jogging, cycling, walking their dogs, or just going out for a morning stroll. But after a while, I was itching for a change.
This morning, I decided to change things up far more dramatically by endeavoring to ride all the way to work entirely on my bicycle and without using the Hudson River Greenway. The ride, available for viewing on my MapMyRide, took me for an 18.3 mile trip through various neighborhoods and towns in New York and New Jersey. Overall, this ride is certainly more dangerous and nerve-wracking at times, particularly riding alongside speeding New Jersey drivers, but it also has many of its own charms.
After crossing into Manhattan and through Inwood over Broadway, I transitioned over to Bennett Ave in Washington Heights, where I passed multiple synagogues and young men carrying tefillin bags exiting morning minyan. One middle-aged bearded synagogue-goer said good morning to me. I wonder if it’s still obvious I’m Jewish, even religious, from under all that Lycra.
I huffed my way up Bennett and Fort Washington Ave to the George Washington Bridge, where I was greeted with one of the more glorious views of the trip. Cycling over the GWB is a well-known and popular route for New Yorkers, and for good reason. Crossing the wide water gap between New York and New Jersey on a bike is a uniquely awe-inspiring experience, and might even have been pleasant if it wasn’t for the 8 lanes of stop-and-go rush hour traffic beside me. The route is particularly well traveled by those looking for a good workout on either the Henry Hudson Drive at the foot of the Palisades or Route 9W above. But both of these routes head north, away from the urban density of New Jersey’s waterfront communities, while I was heading south.
This was actually my fourth time going over the GWB and through New Jersey to work (but the first time I got there without using the Greenway). For the first three trips, I took River Road down to the water’s edge, eventually climbing back up the Palisades to avoid the tangle of roads at Port Imperial in Weehawken. For this trip, I planned a new route along the top of the Palisades, on Palisade Ave through Fort Lee, Cliffside Park, and Fairview. By staying high above the river and the towers at the river’s edge, one both avoids the steep descent and subsequent climb and is afforded majestic views of the Upper West Side and Midtown.
This road eventually links up with JFK Boulevard East, a picturesque winding boulevard over gently rolling hills along the absolute edge of the Palisades. I almost didn’t want to get off this boulevard to get on to the traffic-choked street grid of West New York and Union City, but I knew that if I stayed on, JFK Blvd E would eventually transition into a 6-lane highway merging with the Lincoln Tunnel. [On a later trip, I missed a turn and wound up on this highway, which turned out not to be as bad as I thought, but ending up on Hoboken's bicycle-friendly but very slow-moving street grid was worse.]
Union City’s street grid transitions seamlessly into the the street grid of Jersey City’s Heights neighborhood, a pleasant residential district which once housed Jersey City’s urban core. My route then turns towards the waterfront at Newark Ave, which takes one down busy commercial streets in Jersey City’s historic downtown. As the historic downtown transitions into the modern-day downtown, the roads become wider and the buildings taller. After a rapid descent, one arrives once again at the Hudson River waterfront, and my trip is complete. One hour 18 minutes, only about 10 minutes longer than riding all the way down the Greenway to the WFC ferry terminal.