BROOKLYN — Like the daffodils sprouting in Prospect Park, the cyclists pedaling onto Brooklyn's streets are a sure sign of spring.
Two-wheeled travelers have plenty to look forward to this season. New bike lanes and bike parking are making riding safer and easier, and new cycling events will help riders explore the borough and test their pedaling prowess.
"There's no better time to get on a bike in Brooklyn," said Eric McClure, an avid cyclist and founder of Park Slope Neighbors, which advocates for better bike infrastructure. "A bike is the best way to get around Brooklyn. We're relatively flat topographically, so it’s a fast and efficient way to get around the neighborhood, and it’s easier than ever with the new bike infrastructure that's in place."
Here's a look at new additions, and some old favorites, in Brooklyn's biking scene as the borough cruises into prime bike time.
The city's long-delayed bike rental service, Citi Bike, is finally rolling out, and riders will soon be able to hop on wheels at kiosks scattered throughout the city. Riders can rent bikes with the swipe of a card at the kiosk (it's $9.95 for 24 hours) or pay $95 for an annual membership that gives them unlimited rides.
However, there have been some glitches. A West Village co-op recently sued to get the dock outside 99 Bank St. removed, and a Fort Greene kiosk was plastered with anti-corporate stickers to protest Citi Bike placement in historic neighborhoods.
But the kiosks have gotten a generally warm reception, and were welcomed eagerly when they were spotted in early April on Monroe Street and Classon Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
The service officially launches on May 27, and memberships are available for sale now.
The city's Department of Transportation is creating new bike lanes across the borough.
Brooklyn's Community Board 6 recently approved a proposal for a bike route connecting Van Brunt Street to Valentino Pier in Red Hook. There are also new bike lanes planned on 14th and 15th streets in Park Slope.
Forget chaining your bike to some poor tree. Parking your bike once you arrive at your destination is easier than ever.
New bike corrals were installed last year in front of Park Slope's Gorilla Coffee on Fifth Avenue, and similar on-street bike parking is planned at Rose Water restaurant on Union Street in Park Slope and on Columbia Street in the Columbia Street Waterfront District.
While neighbors in Crown Heights decried the corrals as harbingers of a hipster takeover, other neighborhoods have clamored for them. New bike corrals are slated to add 45 on-street bike parking slots in Williamsburg, in front of Williamsburg Cinemas, Marlow & Sons cafe, and at Frost Street and Meeker Avenue. Trendy pizza joint Roberta's is also looking to add a bike corral.
Serious cyclists will test their mettle on June 8 when Red Hook Criterium comes to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Fixed-gear track bikes are mandatory at this hardcore contest, which takes place at night. Riders will make 26 laps around a .75-mile course that race organizer David Trimble described as "spectacular."
"It is both fast and technical," Trimble said in an email. "The main feature is a cobblestone chicane, which is located right behind Building 92." Trimble says the race is designed to open up the Navy Yard to the public and show off Building 92, the exhibit and visitors' center.
The Criterium has been held in Red Hook for the past six years, but expanded this year into a series of races. After the two races in Brooklyn, it will move onto Barcelona, Spain and Milan.
In July, get a glimpse of Brooklyn's waterfront cycling future when the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative hosts a 40-mile trek from Greenpoint to Rockaway Beach.