New York City is home to many obscure places and things, such as secret tunnels and an abandoned smallpox hospital. Now, here’s another interesting thing to add to the list: the Kissena Velodrome, New York’s only remaining cycling track, in Flushing.
The Kissena Velodrome, a 400-meter outdoor track is located on Booth Memorial Avenue at Parsons Boulevard in Flushing’s Kissena Park. It is complete with bleachers and sharply banked curves, providing a place for bicyclists to race and ride consistently without cars. In addition, bikers cannot coast or ride bicycles with brakes.
Robert Moses built the velodrome in 1962 for the 1964 Olympic Trials. When it started to deteriorate, the city renovated it in 2004, partially thanks to the efforts of the Kissena Cycling Club. Still, the track hasn’t been maintained too well; the surfaces are uneven. Yet, the velodrome continues to draw individual cyclists from all over New York City, some of whom know it as “the track of dreams,” as well as groups like the Kissena Cycling Club and the Star Track racing program.
It even draws 19th century groups like the League of American Wheelmen (now the League of American Bicyclists) and the Century Road Club. In fact, during the summer, the Kissena Velodrome hosts the “Twilight Series” races, which must end before nightfall since the track has no lights.
Photo via Flickr by Seth Werkheiser
There used to be other velodromes in NYC before World War II, such as the stadium-sized ones in Harlem and Coney Island (which was torn down in 1955 to make way for the Luna Park housing cooperative), where energetic crowds would gather to cheer on celebrity bicyclists. There was another in the Bronx, which was destroyed in a fire in 1930, as well as an indoor bike track in the first version of Madison Square Garden.
Cycling’s popularity peaked in the early 1900s, and started to decline during the Great Depression. According to the American Track Racing Association, there are only 26 velodromes left in the country, so New Yorkers should be sure to cherish the one we have right here in Flushing.
Next, read about the The Top 12 NYC Nature Trails For Fall (and Year Round) Exploration and 10 Routes For NYC Bikers to Know (5 to Use, 5 to Avoid). Get in touch with the author @sgeier97.