After much anticipation and excitement, I finally rode my bike from New York to Philadelphia for Bastille Day weekend. After riding from Long Island City to Manhattan to catch a PATH train to Newark, the ride covered two states, and each state offered a very different experience.
The New Jersey part of the ride, from Newark to Pennington, was cycling nirvana after completing the first five miles, from Newark to Springfield. Those first five miles along Springfield Avenue went through some relatively blighted parts of the city with some pretty poor roads to match, but thankfully, traffic was light for a weekday morning, but I swear I must have watched every signal turn red as I approached it. The rest of the ride was on some very pleasant back roads. There was one significant climb in Springfield but once I crossed I-78, it was an exhilarating downhill.
I rode through the first quarter of the ride at a pretty good clip, averaging close to 16 MPH, and it was much faster than I had anticipated. For example, I had planned to reach my first breakfast stop in South Bound Brook around 9:30. I arrived there around 8:30.
After eating breakfast, I followed the Raritan and Millstone Rivers along Weston Canal Road but encountered a road closure. My planned route had me head north on the Manville Causeway, but the bridge that spans the Millstone River is closed for repairs. I had to detour by continuing south on Mettlers Road and then west on Amwell Road. The benefit of this detour is that I came upon a duck crossing, and to my surprise, the drivers of New Jersey patiently waited until every duck had crossed and without a single one of them blasting their horns.
I had arrived at the fifty-mile mark, in Hopewell, by 10:30 AM.
I figured that if I kept that pace, I could arrive in Philadelphia as early as 2:30 PM. While that might sound great, it presented a logistical challenge. My friends weren’t due to arrive until much later in the day, around 5:00 PM at the earliest, so I decided to take my time once I arrived at the New Jersey–Pennsylvania border, 62 miles from the start, at about 11:30 AM. I slowly walked my bike across the Delaware River, toured the Washington Crossing historic site, took some photos, and made a few phone calls.
A little after 12:15 PM, I headed out on the Pennsylvania section of the ride. My route basically followed the Delaware, keeping the river on my left. For the first four or five miles, through Yardley, the ride was absolutely pleasant. But once I crossed Trenton Avenue, into Morrisville, the ride became much uglier. First, there were long stretches of industrial sections and the roads were in terrible shape with potholes. Second, because I was riding between the Delaware River, I-95, and the Northeast Corridor rail lines, my route was dotted with various distribution centers. That explained the endless stream of eighteen-wheeler trucks passing me as I headed towards Philadelphia. At one point, I had to turn on to a short section of Tyburn Road in Morrisville and to get on what seemed like a highway on-ramp to ride over a railroad. Compounding the danger was that the bridge was undergoing construction so there was no shoulder for me to ride next to high-speed traffic. I had to wait for a sufficiently long break in traffic and sprint for about a half-minute until I reached the first off-ramp. That was the most death defying riding I had done in a long time.
As if merging onto a highway with no shoulder wasn’t bad enough, I had to salmon on a narrow road with high-speed commercial traffic barreling towards me. For whatever reason, the eastbound lane of Bristol Pike east of Tullytown just ends. My route sheet instructed me to continue riding, and I did so because there was no other way for me to continue riding, other than to ride on, US-13, an actual highway. There was however a three-foot-wide shoulder on the left side of the road. As soon as I saw that, I carefully rode my bike like a velocipede on that narrow shoulder.
Finally, much like the beginning of the ride in Newark, the ride went through some blighted neighborhoods, and despite the presence of bike lanes on Torresdale and Aramgino Avenues, the roads were in terrible shape. Much like the beginning of my ride through Newark, it seemed like every stop light I approached turned red.
I arrived in Philadelphia’s City Center just before 4:00 PM. I checked in to our weekend rental, and immediately grabbed a shower. I needed it!
The last bit of the ride, just under forty miles, took me about three hours to complete. It was so absolutely stressful, especially compared to the New Jersey part of the ride, that upon returning to New York, I began searching for more pleasant routes from New Jersey to Philadelphia. It appears that the best way to do that is to ride a bit north of Washington Crossing and cross the Delaware River at Lambertsville, New Jersey, continue to New Hope, Pennsylvania, and approach the city from the northwest. I’ll take that next time.
And, yes, there will be a next time. I had a great time in Philadelphia, and if you know a better way to get there, other than by bicycle, I’d like to hear it!