Looking for open spaces, nature, history, and lots of exercise? Well, you don’t have to look far, it’s right within our city limits. There is a bike/pedestrian path along the Belt Parkway, and we’ll be looking at the section from Howard Beach to Coney Island. In between there are parks, beaches, historical interests, and lots of fun things to do.

Getting there is your choice. In my younger days I would leave my home in Maspeth and either take the Greenway which is a dedicated bike path that takes you thru streets that are not heavily trafficked, or you can ride down Woodhaven Blvd to Cross Bay Blvd. That route has more traffic and should be left for the more experienced riders. Make a right on 157 Ave. and continue to Saint Helen’s Church and there”s plenty of parking in the residential neighborhood and nearby is an entrance to the bikeway.

The ride is about 10 miles and is mostly flat except for the bridges over the inlets. Plenty of places to rest and plenty of spots to interest the whole family. Just don’t gloat too much as you pedal past all the cars stuck in traffic which is often the cars (ha ha).

First point of interest as you travel west is Shirley Chisholm State Park which was built over a large landfill and only opened a few years ago. Named after the Brooklyn Congresswoman, it is a great resource for the community. There are nature paths to walk and ride and great views of Jamaica Bay and
the ocean in the distance and in the other direction the lowlands of Brooklyn. Those old enough will remember the mountain of garbage that smelled to high heaven that was there for years. This is a big improvement. Now, the hills are green with plants and trees and there are plenty of hiking trails. Plenty of places to sit or fish from the piers, and parking is available.

Next comes another steep climb over the Fresh Creek Basin Bridge which is a new bridge built to prevent flooding after Hurricane Sandy. It is quite steep and a good workout to get over the hump but it’s a great relief to sail downhill. I like to let out a big WEEEEE!! after all that pedaling. A little further along the path and we come to the Canarsie Pier. A great spot to hang out and have a picnic and fish and use the bathroom.

As you continue westward you will pass the Jamaica Bay Riding Academy where horse rentals are available. This is a beautiful spot to ride a horse. The horses walk and gallop along the beach and thru wooded areas. It’s a great thrill but the ride made my butt sore, I’m used to bikes not horses.

The path winds westward and we come to Floyd Bennett Field, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, built in the 1930s as NYC’s first Municipal Airport. During WWll, it was a Naval Air Station. Many activities for the whole family can be found. There are tours of the historic tower and hangers with vintage airplanes, miles of nature and bike trails, even golf. Nearby across Flatbush Ave. is a marina for the boating enthusiasts.

Next, we pass by Plumb Beach, a good place to rest and walk along the shore and bathrooms are available. Back on the bike we come to one of the biggest destinations: Sheepshead Bay. Nice place to sit and watch the boats and plenty of good places to eat.

The path leads to the boardwalk and Brighton Beach and a great place to eat some Russian food and take a dip in the ocean. As we come to end of this trip we arrive at Coney Island, known for the amusement park and places to eat. It’s a good spot to relax and have a swim and get ready for that long ride back. Always consider that as far as you pedaled you will have to pedal back. Enjoy the ride.