Brooklyn and the Gowanus Canal

Today I took my first bike ride through Brooklyn.  I was nervous, riding a bike I’m not used to in a city I’ve never ridden in full of cars I don’t trust.  I was pleasantly surprised by the ease of riding around Brooklyn.  There’s a certain leap of faith you have to make when riding on city streets no matter where you are, and it’s the same here, but it doesn’t feel any worse.  NYC is putting in lots of bike lanes, and once I found those, I felt more comfortable than I do even in New Orleans, at least so far.  I rode just from Park Slope to Cobble Hill, but I already feel like I understand the map of this place better than I did even when I lived here.  This is my favorite part of biking–you trace out your own map and build place for yourself.  Take the Gowanus Canal, for example, which I crossed on my bike this afternoon.  I remember crossing this canal daily on my commute from Brooklyn many years ago, but I don’t remember it ever making as much sense–in terms of location, role in the life of the neighborhood, smell, even–as it did today.  Bicycling changes the experience of place in profound ways as you cut your own path rather than relying on the one set out by bus and subway lines (though I love public transportation too).  The town is crawling with cyclists, all mapping this city in their unique ways.  I have five more days to make my own map, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

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