By Sophie Ziner
You’d love to ride your bike in Newark, you tell me, but you just don’t trust our drivers. Listen, I hear you. But cycling in Newark is less risky and more pleasant than you might think, with plenty of options for cyclists of varying abilities. And, while it’s absolutely true that Newark streets have their share of hostile suburbanites in SUVs flying through red lights desperate to get back to the Caldwells, cops texting and driving, and people double and triple parking outside the BBQ spots on Bloomfield Avenue, there are also plenty of local people driving and riding with care and attention, invested in making our streets safer and friendlier.
Let me send you on five Newark rides and see if I can’t induce you to venture out to discover your own:
Branch Brook Park
Roll into the park at the Basilica entrance and fly down the hill past the roller rink. As you near Heller Parkway, take a deep inhale to smell fresh tortillas (where is that smell coming from? It’s so nice!) and when you swing back around along West Drive, look for this family who like to lounge in the grassy field by the creek.
You should do this ride when you feel like dealing with pedestrians, rather than drivers. Lots of people walk on the paved and protected paths in this park, so if you want a slow roll, this is your spot. As you cruise alongside the Passaic River, take a moment to appreciate its formidable, messy, complicated beauty—it’s not quite nature, but it’s also not not-nature.
You’re feeling a little more adventurous and want to leave the confines of a park but aren’t quite ready for the Ironbound at rush hour? Join me in Newark’s best impersonation of the suburbs: Upper Roseville (sorry Forest Hill, you’re too fancy and your potholes are too big). Let’s take Park Ave., so that you can check out this neat church:
Look, I know I’m technically taking you to Bloomfield, but we pass through a lot of Newark to get here. We’ll just go up through Branch Brook Park and take a left onto Heller. There’s some traffic on this route but there’s also this great café that my pal Dan likes called 23 Skiddoo that will make you forget Montclair even exists. Take a moment to stretch while you wait for your latte, I bet your hamstrings are pretty tight.
Keep your cherry blossoms, Branch Brook, for my money (what money?) Weequahic is the best park in Newark. We’ll take Elizabeth Avenue to get there, even though that bike lane is a joke, and enter the park from the Meeker Avenue entrance. Let’s take a few loops of the lake before we leave through the Grumman Avenue exit and roll over to the Salaam Ice Cream Parlor take-out window on Bergen street to fortify ourselves for the trip home.
Newark is full of resources for potential cyclists. We have a great shop, The Newark Community Cycling Center, where you can get: a new or used bike, your bike repaired, advice on your bike, entertained by cute kids, bike accessories, advice on your life, or lessons on how to fix your own bike, all friendly, inexpensive, and unpretentious. There are also some really great cycling groups. I mostly ride with the Newark Bike Club and sometimes the RBG Cyclists, or the Brick City Bike Collective, who run an annual ride through Newark each fall. Come join me on the roads, I promise you’ll find lots to like out here.
Sophie Ziner is a Newark resident with a good bike and bad attitude.
Featured image by Pexels