Another gorgeous Sunday, another bridge checked off the list. That’s eight down, eighty three to go.
The Williamsburg, the Willie-B, the Billyburg – with one end in the Lower East Side and the other in Williamsburg, it is the bridge the unifies hip, young, New York City. Covered in rusting steel latticework, it isn’t a pretty bridge and its street art as advertising campaigns, coupled with its hip users, make it not quite the work-a-day hero the Manhattan Bridge is — yet it still has its charms.
First, it is highly used. I’m sure the City keeps statistics on pedestrian and cyclist use of the various East River Bridges. I’d be curious to know which is used the most. My guess is the Brooklyn gets the most foot traffic, but I’d bet that the Williamsburg is the most used by regular cyclist and running commuters. At rush hour, the bike lane can be as congested as the car lanes below.
Its also, like it cousin the Manhattan, utilitarian in design. That appeals to this yankee. Like the Manhattan (and unlike the Brooklyn) it carries trains in addition to cars, pedestrians, and cyclists. Its beauty comes not from its majestic design, but from its consistent use. On my sojourn today, I saw hip kids on vintage bikes, Hasidic families out for stroll, tourists taking pictures of art installations, young Dominicans on their way home from Pride, and runners of every stripe. No one was marveling at the aesthetics of the bridge (ok maybe the tourists were) — everyone was just looking to get somewhere else.
There is a real beauty in that.
From my neighborhood, I reach the Williamsburg by heading down Dean to Bedford, through rapidly gentrifying Crown Heights and Bed Stuy, and up through Hasidic Williamsburg. Pedestrian access to the bridge is easily located right on Bedford near South Sixth (bike entrance is further down near the South 5th plaza). Like the Manhattan, don’t be an ass and run on the cyclist side. No one will like you and you might get hurt. Exit from the bridge in Manhattan is shared by cyclists and runners and is located on Delancey near Essex.
From there, you can do as I did – head down Delancey to Bowery, left on Bowery and up and over the Manhattan Bridge home to Brooklyn. Or you could head cross town to the West Side Greenway. Or uptown on the East Side Greenway. You could stop and get dim sum, or matzo ball soup, or artisanal cheese. You could take your sweaty ass to the New Museum, or the Tenement Museum, or the Brooklyn Banks. You’re in lower Manhattan, the world is your oyster.