Dispatch From the Trail – Second Edition
July 7, 2021
By Lenny Librizzi
This trail is a 25 mile loop bicycle ride on Staten Island. It is not part of the Empire State Trail because Staten Island was not included in that 750 mile statewide trail.
I regularly ride some version of this route as it gives me an opportunity to pass and maybe stop at some of the best outdoor locations Staten Island has to offer. The route includes the North and East shores and Mid Island. It could be expanded to circle the whole island if you have the time or energy for a 40 to 50 mile adventure. I completed the route going clockwise from about the 12 oâ€™clock point. I make a habit of checking wind direction as it it nice to have the wind at your back on your return home. The route works in either direction.
Bicycling on Staten Island can be a challenge at times but there are many marked, on-street, bike lanes, some lightly travelled roads and off street bikeways. Approximately half of this route is off road. The ride visits 2 of the 3 parks included in Gateway National Recreation Area, Fort Wadsworth and Miller Field. The highest elevation is in Fort Wadsworth with spectacular views of the New York City skyline and the Verrazano Bridge.
You will pass directly under the bridge though there is no bike pedestrian access to the bridge. There could be a simple low cost bridge path by converting the right lane on the Staten island bound lower level to a car free lane. A little bit of editorializing but a guy can dream especially while enjoying the car free ride.
A stretch almost 6 miles follows the shore from Fort Wadsworth to Cedar Grove Beach. At Cedar Grove there are opportunities to birdwatch, see butterflies and on this ride I glimpsed an Adult Eastern Spotted Newt. It would not sit still long enough to be photographed. This entire stretch has a series of swimming beaches.
Another attraction on this ride is Historic Richmondtown
which is an assemblage of some of the oldest buildings in New York City. I took this ride on July 4th so there were all kinds of interpretive activities by staff dressed in period costumes. An ice cream shop on the grounds is a cool summer treat.
From Richmondtown there is a tricky crossing to the grounds of St. Andrews Church where it might be best to walk your bike. Here you will find another attraction for history buffs, an historic graveyard. At the rear of the church grounds there is an entrance to LaTourette Park and a gravel trail. This trail includes fields, streams and woodlands. Here is a small section:
Keep an eye out for wildlife in the park. I saw several rabbits, dragonflies and a monarch butterfly on this ride and there are there are numerous birds flittering through the trees and small mammals, reptiles and insects skittering in the woods and fields.
There is also a model airplane field along this trail. On the day of my ride someone was doing trick maneuvers with their radio controlled plane. This trail ends at Richmond Avenue, a wide 8 lane road. There is a crossing signal but watch for turning cars. The next section the ride is a 3 mile bike highway or technically a cycle track which parallels the road but is completely separated from traffic.
On one side of this cycle track is the Staten Island Mall and the other side is the former Fresh Kills landfill which is slowly becoming Fresh Kills Park. Another dream bicycle infrastructure improvement would be a short connector bridge or cycle track into the new park which boasts a 5 mile loop road.
Wetlands and wild areas including Graniteville Wetlands can be found on the northwest part of this route. There are a number of roads that could use bike lanes along this stretch. Connections exist to the bike paths on both the Goethals Bridge and the Bayonne Bridge for a side trip to New Jersey or an opportunity for New Jersey cyclists to enjoy this ride.
One particularly high traffic corridor on Forest Avenue will be made easier by a planned 1 mile bike boulevard on Netherland Avenue.
Richmond Terrace, the road that hugs the North shore, is not bike friendly but offers several opportunities to see the shoreline and visit parks along the way. This route follows quieter alternate streets.
Snug Harbor is near the end of the trip which includes interesting wildlife and plantings like the Great Egret and the Gooseneck Loosestrife pictured here. Snug Harbor also includes several museums and galleries including the Staten Island Museum and the Noble Maritime Collection .
A great 25 mile route, this ride takes somewhere between 2 and 3 hours or maybe longer if you spend some time at any of the the attractions mentioned. Enjoy the ride!