|Brooklyn Bridge, Tillary Street entrance|
Brooklyn Bridge - Of the three bridges, the Brooklyn Bridge is by far the most popular for tourists. The pedestrians and bikes share a path down the center of the bridge, separated only by a thick white line (which is often completely ignored by the camera wielding hoards). The multi-year renovation project is near completion (June 2013) which will allow for almost completely unobstructed views across the entire length.
|Nearly unobstructed view from the Brooklyn Bridge|
For a leisurely stroll, as stated above, the Brooklyn Bridge is not a pleasant experience. Similar to the Millennium Bridge in London, unless you hit it on the morning commute, before the tourists arrive, you'll wind up encountering a number of stationary, picture-takers and angry bicycle commuters yelling at said picture-takers to get out of their lane. Of course, for tourists, with its history, beauty, and nearly unobstructed views of the Manhattan skyline, the Brooklyn Bridge is a must-see. But, please do be aware of path etiquette and stay on the appropriate side.
The Manhattan Bridge provides for separate paths for pedestrians and bicycles with the pedestrians on the south and the bicycles on the north. The view, though iconic and, I believe, the one used for the New York, New York hotel and casino in Las Vegas, is marred by a chain link fence the entire length but, with some patience and ingenuity, good pictures can be had.
|view through the links of the Manhattan Bridge|
|Williamsburg Bridge, Houston Street|
The Williamsburg Bridge shares many traits with the Manhattan Bridge but, in most cases, executed better. For example, trains also use the Williamsburg Bridge but instead of being at the same level as pedestrians/cyclists they are located lower, changing their presence from one of irritation and nuisance to novelty and joy. On the Manhattan side, the pedestrians and cyclists share a path upon entry for a bit before separating and continuing as on the Manhattan Bridge, with cyclists on the north and pedestrians on the south. However, rather than being relegated to that side for the duration, there is a connection in the middle allowing for intermingling of the paths and pausing to take pictures, etc. without becoming an obstacle to others. Similarly, there is a large viewing platform on the Brooklyn side, allowing for pictures of Manhattan without blocking the path.
Overall, I think it's lovely that there are three free and convenient methods for pedestrians and cyclists to cross the East River from Lower Manhattan. Whilst each has their faults, the benefits and value easily outweigh them. I'm looking forward to experiencing them by bicycle (though I'll probably do an early morning bike ride across the Brooklyn Bridge).