Behold, the Williamsburg Bridge: my favorite of all the bridges in NYC. It’s not the prettiest, most famous, or most traversed – but I love it fiercely.
Our love affair began innocently enough. Shortly after I moved to New York in January 2008, my weekends fell into a predictable pattern: one day spent in a Brooklyn coffee shop, and the other day spent roaming around the city.
On the latter day, I would walk out of my apartment with my camera bag and no destination in mind and let myself be drawn to anything that looked interesting along the way. My roommates always asked where I was going, and I’d always say I didn’t know. I never knew where I was going exactly, but I always knew what I was doing – so eventually I started responding with: “I’m frolicking!”.
THAT’S RIGHT – this is where the backend of my blog name comes from. Take note, because one day I’ll quiz ya on it! :P
Every frolic would inevitably funnel me to the Williamsburg Bridge. Next to the L train, it’s the most direct way for North Brooklynites to reach Manhattan. The WB and I got to know each other gradually as I walked across it on my weekly jaunts. Things got real serious, real fast once I started commuting to work by bike. Our weekly rendezvous became near-daily; I just couldn’t get enough.
Make no mistake, though – he made me work for his love. You don’t know leg burn til you’ve attempted to bike up the Williamsburg on-ramp on a cruiser. WOOF.
Have you ever ridden a cruiser? They’re extremely comfortable – and extremely slow. Grandfathers, unfit-looking folks, and girls in skirts whip past me as I chug along uphill. At first I was thoroughly annoyed at the limitations of my bike – then I realized that it gains ridiculous momentum going downhill. I end up flying past everyone going down the off-ramp and it is SO MUCH FUN. Slow and steady wins the proverbial race, y’all!
The Williamsburg Bridge hosts heaps of constantly-changing graffiti, though most of it is not particularly artful. The ramp on the Manhattan side has been adorned with hundreds of these colorful ovals for years now. They remind me of those nail polish samples you see at a mani/pedi salon. I love bright colors and painted nails, so this bit of art brings me much joy whenever I bike into the city.
I usually don’t get to admire the views as I’m biking across the bridge, but the north side in particular has some great ones. The Brooklyn side ramp yields views over the Williamsburg rooftops, while the Manhattan side looks out over the Lower East Side projects and FDR Drive.
The south side of the bridge is meant for pedestrians only, so you’re better able to capture the views from that side. On the Brooklyn half of it, you can catch a glimpse of the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges. Back in my running days, I’d time my runs so I’d end up crossing the Williamsburg Bridge around sunset. Once in awhile I’d get lucky.
I’m always fascinated by my fellow commuters and bridge crossers. Bikes, scooters, and skateboards dominate the north side path; runners, tourists, and Hasidic Jews have a solid hold on the south side path.
Down below there’s a whole other layer of traffic crossing the East River. The J and M trains rumble down the center every few minutes, while cars speed by on either side of the tracks. It seems like every third vehicle charging past is a yellow cab, which is almost remarkable since so many cabbies avoid trekking into Brooklyn.
On mornings when the cars are stop-and-go, I like to speed up on my bike and try to beat them into Manhattan. Know what the least-pleasant morning commute entails? A wailing ambulance stuck in traffic trying to reach the city. Nothing like entering Manhattan with ringing ears!
Crossing the Williamsburg Bridge is my absolute favorite, but he looks damn good from below as well. A quiet evening spent at Grand Ferry Park watching it light up from afar? BEST.