Ocean Parkway – Site of the first Bike Path in the United States

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Ocean Parkway was designed by the same minds who gave us Manhattan’s Central Park and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. In the mid 1860s, Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted endeavored to create a series of pathways that would connect the crowded Brooklyn street grid with the borough’s open spaces. According to the NYC Parks Department, they envisioned street lined boulevards similar to the ones in Paris and Berlin.

Foch Boulevard France

Foch Boulevard, Paris – The inspiration for Ocean Parkway

As a result, Ocean and Eastern Parkways were built.

Construction  on the Ocean Parkway began in 1874 and was completed in 1876. It quickly became the place to be seen. The main thoroughfare became the spot for pick-up horse and carriage races. In fact, it was soon called the Ocean Parkway Speedway by the local jockeys.

These unofficial race tracks existed until 1908 when open betting was banned.

While the jockeys and carriage-racers were having fun, the cycling community felt that they were missing out on utilizing the space. As a result, the Good Roads Association and other sports fans campaigned for the creation of a bike path.

 

Drawing of Ocean Parkway Opening

Ocean Parkway’s Bike Path on Opening Day (Artist’s Rendition)

On June 15th, 1894, their dream became a reality. The Ocean Parkway Bike Path opened and became the first of its kind in the United States. It is reported that more than 60 bicycle clubs from New York and New Jersey attended the opening.

Ocean Parkway bike path, 1896.

Cyclists on the Parkway, 1896.
New York Public Library.

Nevertheless, local law enforcement were still concerned about illegal racing and betting activities. Hence, cyclists were restricted to speeds of 12 mph on the bike path and 10 mph on the parkway.

ocean parkway bikepath 1894 nycparksgov

Bikers Utilizing the Bike Path; Bridle path on the right; Carriages on the parkway on the left

Today, as Vaux and Olmsted intended, Ocean Parkway connects all of South Brooklyn.

ocean parkway google map

Ocean Parkway connects South Brooklyn to Prospect Park

It runs North to South and stretches 5.5 miles from Prospect Park to Brighton Beach.  It serves a major artery in Brooklyn by allowing traffic to connect to the Belt Parkway in the South and the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (via the Prospect Expressway) in the North.

 

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