The Jamaica Bay Loop
The 20-mile loop around Jamaica Bay is one of the lesser-known New York City cycling gems. The route, in Brooklyn and Queens, is mostly on dedicated bike paths or along streets with bike lanes, with some variations possible for increased speed.
A major advantage of this loop is that it can be done without stopping for lights or traffic as it is primarily along the Belt Parkway and the waterfront. The route is mostly flat though it includes three long bridges, including the Marine Parkway Bridge and the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge, and several shorter ones, with climbs and descents. Because of the route’s proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and Jamaica Bay, it is frequently subject to significant winds, primarily north and west. As the route is a full circle, you’ll experience the wind from all angles.
Some of the highlights of the route include:
the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, a prime location for viewing birds and bird migrations,
Floyd Bennett Field, a decommissioned pre-WWII airfield where many aviation records were broken (including by Amelia Earhart) and where Howard Hughes began and completed his July 1938 record-setting circumnavigation of the globe in ninety-one hours.
close to JFK Airport;
Fort Tilden, key to protecting New York Harbor during WWI and WWII, and
Jacob Riis Park, a wonder beach area previously a U.S. Naval Air Station in the 1920s
Getting there: A good starting point for the Jamaica Bay loop is from the east end of Emmons Avenue in Sheepshead Bay at the corner of Brigham Street, just before Plumb Beach. (See Map Link.) This location is about 11 miles south of Manhattan, and 6 miles south of Prospect Park, and close to the Sheepshead Bay stop on the Q and B subway lines.
Route Map: The New York City Department of Transportation, in conjunction with Regional Plan Association and the Jamaica Bay Greenway Coalition, has produced an excellent Map and Guide to the route that includes attractions and activities along the route, bike shops, and a lot of other useful information.
Cycling the Jamaica Bay loop at all different times of the day and night in all seasons has presented countless remarkable photo opportunities. These are some of my favorite photos showing the scenery and moods along the route.