City Island via the Hudson River
(Inwood Park, and the Mosholu/Bronx River/Pelham Parkway Bike Trails)
City Island is an anomaly.  Cross the bridge that spans Eastchester and Pelham Bay and you know with every sense you possess that you are on an island in the Long Island Sound. Looking closely, you may even be able to discern Execution Light to the northeast and Stepping Stones Lighthouse to the south. But listen to the voices and the intonations, or smell the aromas wafting from the nearby seafood
restaurants that are everywhere, and you are still clearly and emphatically  in New York City -- the restaurant capital of the world.

Originally the home of  Siwanoy Indians, City Island was first established as an English settlement in 1685. It's location insured it's success and it became an important ship building and yachting center during the 18th and 19th centuries.

In 1896, tired of life in the 'burbs, the good folk of City Island voted to succeed  from Westchester County and to become part of New York City. 

During the world wars, the local commerce shifted from yacht building to the construction of submarine chasers, P. T. Boats, landing crafts, tugs, and mine sweepers. 

After World War II, yachting and sloop building returned to the island, and many successful America's Cup winners, like the Independence, the Enterprise, and the Courageous were built locally. The area is rich in nautical lore and  to learn more you can visit the City Island Museum at 190 Fordham Street, Sundays and Wednesday,1 to 5 PM, and by appointment: 718-885-0008.

But probably the coolest thing about City Island is you can get there by a bike trail  that starts along the Hudson River.  The entire trip is 97% traffic free and you can end it with a monstrous seafood dinner, and a relaxing subway ride back. Of course, if you are really pumped, you can skip the train and peddle the return trip and make it a 50 mile day.  But I am getting ahead of myself . . .

Pretty much head north anywhere on the west side bike trail.  The bike trail is more or less intact and runs from the battery to the G.W. bridge area.  True, there are a few places where it bottlenecks down to a single-lane, dirt ditch, but for the most part the west side Manhattan bike trail is 98% complete, auto free, and a joy to ride.

The first problem area is right above the 79th Street Boat basin.  There is a sign which describes the terrain as dangerous and tells bicyclist to detour around. But truthfully,  while   the area is very narrow, with some pretty good sized holes and buckled cement layers, it is negotiable, especially during daylight hours, if you go slow and don't mind an occasional walk  where it bogs down. As your watch the traffic flow, it becomes pretty 

obvious that about 60% of bicyclists followed the detour, while the other 40% ignored it, carrying over the small stone  barrier and sticking to the trail.  I suspect the sign is there for liability reasons -- also,  because the path is so narrow, it is simply easier to separate walkers and bikers. I suppose a third choice is to carry over the barrier and simply walk the bike, as the whole problem area is only about 4/10's of a mile.  The detour itself is really not that bad and actually takes you through a lovely section of Riverside Park.  But typical of detours, the sign for the detour tells you where the detour begins but nowhere does it point the way back to the bike trail, so I've   heard a few complaints from people being unable to rejoin the trail. The trick is simple. As soon as you take the detour, right after the hill up into the park, stay completely on your left  and take the first turn that looks like it is headed back to the water.
The next problem area is the massive North River sewage treatment complex and park.  The bike path appears to end here, but is actually just cut in half and continues on the opposite side of the park.  This was initially pretty confusing, but since I've put up these pages there has already been several improvements.  If you note the map below, you will see two separate routes. Currently, the way around this very necessary and life improving facility/behemoth, is to, immediately after the bike path ends, continue on through the parking lots and hang a  right on 133rd Street, immediately after the Fairview 24 hour supermarket, followed by a quick left on Twelfth Avenue, and then another left at 135th Street and take the D.E.P.  access road under the park.  Previously, however, there were problems with this road, and the D.E.P. controlled property was off limits -- unless you had a special visitor's path.  I have heard conflicting stories ranging from the road being closed because of liability issues to ego conflicts between the city and state agency controlling the area. Whatever the reason, the conflict seems to have been resolved and the access road is now open to the public. 

However, if for any reason the road is closed, the alternative route is described below the map.  Also, please note that the "official" route takes you on to 12th Avenue immediately after the bike path appears to end.  I dislike that route because it puts you on 12th Avenue for a  longer time in a spot where the traffic is particularly bad.  My route takes you through the  parking lots, skipping most of 12th Avenue, and past the Fairview market where I generally stop for a snack. 
 


If the access road is closed:    Make the right on 133rd Street, the left onto Twelfth Avenue, but instead of making the right turn on 136 Street, note the macadam path on the sidewalk (see map) and walk your bike over the curb. The path spirals up to the street above and will bring you out one block north of the entrance to the park. Cross over into the park, but don't head towards the water.    Instead, hug the land-side edge of the park and head north. Keep going until you run out of park.   Around the carrousel, to your right, is the elevator tower that will take you back down to ground level and the bike trail. If the elevator is not working, the stairs will take you down, albeit in a more grunting and sweating style.

Back on the Bike Trail
Once back on the bike trail, after the North River park complex, you will pass the volley ball courts on your right.  Immediately after the courts,  the road splits and the fork you are on continues straight, taking you into a baseball field -- do not go this way.  You must make the sharp right at the split, which doglegs past a huge broken and overgrown gate before swinging left and continuing north.  From here it is smooth riding to  the Little Red Lighthouse.

Just before the bridge,  the path splits and the left fork takes you towards the lighthouse while the right continues north. Throw your bike into your lowest gear and get ready for a climb. As you pass under the G.W.  bridge the road swings up and to the right and then up and to the left in a kind of rounded switchback fashion -- see map below. 




When you reach the top, get on the sidewalk and continue north towards the footbridge. The bike path runs directly into the foot bridge -- but do not take the bridge.  Instead, slightly to the right of the bridge's base, the trail swings around and continues north.  This section of the trail is little known and obviously very little used, and while it is a bit rough, it is one of those secret sweet spots of New York.  When the trail ends a mile and a half later, on top of a small bridge, take the stairs on your left down and around and under the bridge, continuing north to the intersection. Crossing over,  take Staff Street (a very hard left and not to be confused with the entrance to Riverside Drive) north to where it intersects with Dyckman Street, which you follow towards the river. 

At the entrance of Inwood Park -- on your right side -- you will notice a golden gate: this is the start of the next section of trail.  Peddle forward, bearing right until you come to a footbridge that takes you over the railroad tracks.  Prior to the bridge, you will pass a turn off to the left, which takes you towards the water's edge and several spectacular views of the Hudson River, the Palisades, and the old railroad swing bridge.

So, after all your scenic detours, and after crossing the railroad footbridge,  you will find yourself on a rather surprising, but negotiable section of trail -- that is if you continually keep to your left.   This section of Inwood park is a very pleasant maze of hiking and mountain biking trails, and while I have personally ridden all of them with my really heavy, self-built touring bike, I think I could loose several readers if I

recommended the other trails to rider's without mountain bikes or mountain biking experience. 

So, please, keep to the left by keeping the water to your left. You will know you are on the correct course if, after about ten minutes -- baring digressions -- you pass under the Henry Hudson bridge.  After that it's all down hill -- well, literally speaking, but certainly not figuratively -- as the best, as they say, is really still to come.  If  you haven't worn out your breaks on the decenscion, please try to stop at the display at the base of the hill. This is Shorakkopoch  -- a marker for the home of the  Reckgawawanc Indians and supposedly the site where Peter Minuet, in 1626, purchased Manhattan island for trinkets and beads then worth about 60 guilders.

If your follow the water around you will soon be looking across to the giant C painted on the cliff wall via the Columbia rowing team. To your right you will note said rowing team's boathouse -- a favorite spot for all who have paddled around the island. 

Follow the water around and out of the park, exiting on 218th Street.  Take 218th street 4 block and take a left on Broadway.  Visible ahead is the Broadway bridge which crosses the Harlem River.  Cross the bridge and continue north, taking a right on 230th Street.  The 5 blocks on Broadway are very short, but the traffic here is frantic, so be careful.  One block after 230th Street crosses the Major Degan Expressway, we make a fast dogleg, one block north and then a right on Albany Street, following that to the left on Kingsbridge Avenue.


Follow Kingsbridge until it runs into Sedgwick and another left.  From here you can either follow Sedgwick around the top of the  reservoir, or even more pleasant is to take a hard right on Giles street into Fort Independence Playground, which follows the water around the tip of the reservoir and avoids the busses on Sedgwick.  Either method brings you to where Sedgwick has just rounded the top of the reservoir.  At this point, get on, or stay on, the sidewalk that parallels Sedgwick and continue straight.  In the distance you'll notice a highway running perpendicular to Sedgwick and a park set beyond the highway -- head for it.  At the intersection of Sedgwick and Moshulu Parkway, cross over to the narrow park bordering the highway and make a hard right.  This is the Moshulu section of the trip and it's mostly a macadam bikeway-pedestrian walkway, with a few sections of concrete sidewalk towards the end.
 
Don't get confused by the physical structure.  The Moshulu section only runs about  a mile before running into a short section of concrete sidewalk, which leads directly to the more traditional "macadam" bike path of Bronx Park.  Remember, the bike path is continuous, but was engineered around the preexisting infrastructures of Moshulu, Bronx River, and Pelham Park and Parkway, and as such, there can be some small areas of confusion as you segway between the sections.
 


That said, follow the macadam bike path of Moshulu through the concrete sidwalk section at it's end.  Immeadately after the concrete section, the path makes a hard left onto the more traditional madadam of the Bronx Park section.  Follow the path until you get to a very distinct "Y" intersection.  Take the left fork and follow it through a slow, easy "S" turn  which takes you to a small stone bridge that crosses the Bronx River.  Do not take the sharp right immediately after crossing the river.  Instead, proceed through the underpass, which takes you under the highway.  After the underpass, the road splits. Take the right hand fork and continue until you come to a trifurcation.  At the junction, take the middle path. Continue along until the bikepath is cut in half by Theodorde Kazimiroff Boulevard. This is a nasty crossing as cars are coming from multiple directions via both an entrance and exit ramp that are merging with normal street traffic -- so be careful.  As soon as you cross, you will note the pathway continues on the other side with another bifurcation.  Take the right turn at this one and at the next one.  About 6/10 of a mile later,  soon after passing a small ball field on your left hand side, the trail curves around to the left and out of the park.   As you exit the park, you will be in the turn of an intersection between Bronx Park East & Pelham Parkway North.  As you ride forward, you will note a greenway between the street, Pelham Parkway North, and the highway, The Bronx and Pelham Parkway.  This greenway is the next section of trail and will take you all the way to the two bridges that cross onto City Isle.

As you've been riding, you've undoubtedly have noticed the  bright yellow, spray-painted messages and huge "C" symbols on the roadway.  These yellow markings are from past Centineal rides.  Many of them are going in our direction, but not all of them do.  So use them as confirmation of direction, but not for changes in direction

 

 The Pelham Parkway biketrail is divided into sections by a few crossing city streets.  The sections are short at first but get longer as you go along.  The first section is a little more then a block before it crosses the old Boston Post Road/Route 1.  The path continues right across the street, but it is a little hard to see as it is a little left of where you'd expect it to be, and in fact continues diagonally left before curving back in a right diagonal direction.  The  next intersection is Pelham and White Plains Road, where you can catch the IND # 2 on the far left corner.  After this intersection, you will pretty much breeze through the next couple of crossings as they are so easily negotiated I haven't bother listing them on the map, least the plethora of details confuse rather then clarify.  Approximately 1.6 miles from the beginning of the Pelham section is the Stillwell Avenue crossing.  Stillwell Avenue looks like all the other crossings and you will be tempted to cross there, be careful: the bike trail does continue on the other side -- but it is the wrong trail.  At Stillwell, you must make a right and cross the highway, rather then continuing straight and crossing the smaller access road.  After that, you are home free.
Once across the highway the bike path continues to the left.  As you go, there are a few small turn-offs to the right.  Skip these and continue to follow the trail in the general direction you've been traveling -- east! 
As you get closer to the last turn off, you will start to notice another park, to your right, on the other side of the highway. When you pass by the 30 foot monument on your right (in the park on  the other side of the highway), you will notice a huge grass hill straight ahead.  These are your landmarks. When you come to the next intersection, cross the highway to your right, and take the left on the biketrail.  (Taking the right on the bike trail will take you to the footbridge and the IRT # 6 subway.)  Continue on and a few minutes later you will cross the first bridge.  Just stay on the trail and follow the signs and in 20 minutes you will be pondering the massive amount of choices you have for a seafood dinner.

Returning is easy.  Get back on the bike trail and follow it in the reverse direction.   Shortly after you re-cross the second bridge (from our returning perspective), continue straight rather then re-crossing the highway.  Five minutes later you will see a massive concrete footbridge that takes you across the high way to  the IND # 6 train. Enjoy your ride back. 

If you are considering doing the whole 50 miler round-trip, please give yourself adequate daylight time, as Bronx Park, the crossover at Inwood Park, and the section between Inwood and the GW Bridge become dangerously dark for riding.  It's rideable, but you'll wonder about your common sense at a few spots in the return adventure.

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