The run-up to the holidays can be stressful for New Yorkers. Crowded subways, tourist-clogged sidewalks and more errands to run than time to accomplish everything can take the fun out of shopping. (Did anybody else read the vaguely creepy article in the New York Times about how an uncomfortable retail environment may actually encourage people to spend more money?)
Editor’s note: Today’s guest poster, Julie I. May, commutes by bicycle, is involved in local safe-streets advocacy in Brooklyn and works as a photographic archivist for the Brooklyn Historical Society.
Jumping on a bicycle for a spin around the block has been known not only to cause joy, especially when traveling downhill, but also to lower blood pressure. So, as an everyday cyclist, my suggestion for turning down the volume on holiday stress is a neighborhood shopping excursion by bicycle with friends. My favorite destination? Franklin Avenue in Brooklyn.
The south-bound avenue runs from the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in Williamsburg all the way to Washington Avenue in Crown Heights. A striped bike lane gives way to a sharrow and then peters out around St. Mark’s Place. Regardless, pick it up anywhere north of Prospect Place and cruise along the six blocks that have become home to a mixture of relatively new shops, cafes, bars and neighborhood stalwarts like bodegas, salons and discount stores. Here’s a guide from my recent ride:
Top photo: Eclectic finds at Rosebud Vintage include home goods, as well as clothing and accessories.
There’s a relaxed vibe on a weekend afternoon along Franklin Avenue.
At 694 Franklin, Excelsior Bike Shop stocks everything a cyclist could want from baskets to bells to a whole new steed.
The Owl & Thistle General Store at 719 Franklin is a happy hunting ground for gift-shopping. Keri Cavanaugh, the owner, pointed out a great selection of bike-themed items like pillows, beer steins, whiskey tumblers, tea towels, socks, bookmarks, wrapping paper, bottle openers, cards, hair clips and more. She also sells A-line skirts she makes herself that are perfect for cycling.
A street scene along the way.
There are plenty of places to imbibe and nosh along the route. The biscuit sandwich from Taste Buds at #736 is satisfying fare.
On a cold afternoon, I was charmed by Little Zelda, a tiny cafe at #728 that serves an excellent cappuccino. Other options: Dutch Boy Burger at #766 for a hearty meal. If you’re on a cleanse, stop by Pine Tree Organic Land at #744 or Nam’s Fruit Market at #769. If a sip of ale or a cheery spirit is what you crave, The Crown Inn at #724 knows how to shake a drink.
Bike parking along Franklin Avenue is mixed; you’ll find some u-style bike racks dotted along the way, but you may have to improvise. A bright spot is the new bike corral installed in late November in front of Little Zelda. A corral replaces an on-street parking space with bicycle parking. Business owners may request installation of a corral from the NYC DOT. Three have been set up in Brooklyn within the past six months.
Good shops, restaurants and services all add up to a leisurely, yet productive afternoon. You can continue on to Eastern Parkway (above), where you’ll find a pleasant bike pathway to Grand Army Plaza, which will turn you toward whatever direction is home.
Photos: Julie I. May. Bike corral photo by Amy Sara Clark.