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Ocean Parkway Bike Path

By Dan Brenner

Posted on September 11, 2019

[The Ocean Parkway, Three Drives, Two Bicycle Paths and Sidewalks], circa 1894, V1986.250.1.78; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Stretching from the southwest entrance of Prospect Park to the ocean shore of Coney Island, Ocean Parkway spans just under five miles across the borough of Brooklyn. In 1894, the parkway became New York City’s first dedicated bicycle path, and the very first in the United States!

In 1866, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux proposed constructing two stretches of open public parkways to Brooklyn’s board of Park Commissioners, an extension of their plans for building Prospect Park. One was Eastern Parkway, the other Ocean Parkway. Greatly influenced by the more contemporary streetscapes of the time, Olmsted and Vaux found inspiration in such modernized achievements as the Avenue de L’Imperatrice in Paris, France and the Unter den Linden in Berlin, Germany.

The City of Brooklyn approved the construction of Ocean Parkway on May 11, 1869 but work didn’t get underway until 1874, once construction of Prospect Park was completed. After one year, the stretch between Prospect Park and Kings Highway opened to the public. The remaining sections leading to the Coney Island shore were completed and opened in 1876.

By 1894, the growing popularity of bike riding led the city of Brooklyn to split the parkway’s pedestrian path down the middle to better accommodate the cyclists, thus creating the first designated bicycle path in the country! On its opening day an estimated ten-thousand cyclists rode along the path. Two years later the bike path was widened!

During the 1950s and due to unregulated developments throughout the city, the northernmost section of Ocean Parkway was demolished and replaced with the Prospect Expressway. To ensure the rest would be preserved for future generations, Ocean Parkway was designated a New York City landmark in 1975 and added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

This image comes from the “Parks of Brooklyn, NY” album which is part of the William Schroeder, Sr. scrapbook collection (ARC.121). For more information please see our finding aid here.

Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. Interested in seeing even more historic Brooklyn images? Visit our Brooklyn Visual Heritage website here. To search BHS’s entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections; visit BHS’s Othmer Library Wed-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m. [email protected].

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