How to Cross the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan

Crossing this Iconic Bridge is a NYC Rite of Passage

Brooklyn Bridge walkway
••• Photo credit: Anne Strickland–Fine Art Photography / Moment / Getty Images

New Yorkers have been crossing the iconic Brooklyn Bridge for more than 130 years, which is open to vehicular, pedestrian, and cycling traffic today. Crossing over the East River, the elegant bridge connects Downtown Manhattan with the Downtown/DUMBO neighborhoods in Brooklyn, passing over the East River en route. Traversing the bridge is an essential rite of passage for anybody who sets foot in New York City.

Here's everything you need to know about crossing the Brooklyn Bridge from its Manhattan side:

Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge

According to the New York City Department of Transportation, more than 120,000 vehicles, 4,000 pedestrians, and 3,100 cyclists cross the bridge each day.  

Whether you hoof it, bike it, or drive it, you'll be sure to enjoy it. (Note there is no subway service across the bridge today—elevated trains ceased operations here in 1944, and streetcars followed suit in 1950.)

The bridge accommodates six lanes of automobile traffic, and there's no toll for vehicles crossing the Brooklyn Bridge.

The wide, central pedestrian and bike pathway is shared, and elevated above the traffic whizzing by just below. To avoid a potentially dangerous collision, be sure to diligently observe the designated lanes for walkers and cyclists, which are only separated by a painted line.

The entire length of the bridge is just over a mile long—by foot, you'll need about 30 minutes to traverse it while going at a brisk pace, and up to an hour if you make stops for pictures and to enjoy the view (which you absolutely should).

Where to Access the Brooklyn Bridge

From Manhattan, the pedestrian and cycling access to the bridge is quite easy to access, with the entrance beginning just across from the northeast corner of City Hall Park, from along Centre Street. The closest subway stops are via the 4/5/6 trains at Brooklyn Bridge–City Hall station; the J/Z train at the Chambers Street station; or the R train at City Hall.

Once you arrive in Brooklyn, there are two exits, one that leads down into DUMBO, and the other into Downtown Brooklyn. To get back to Manhattan, get off via the staircase at first exit in DUMBO, which leads across Prospect Street to Washington Street, and take the nearby F train on York Street or the A/C train on High Street. (Or, you could take a walk to the East River waterfront and catch the East River Ferry back across the river.) Further along on the bridge, a descending ramp continues (a better option for cyclists) to let out onto Tillary Street and Boerum Place in Downtown Brooklyn (the nearest subway lines from that exit are the A/C/F at Jay Street-Metrotech; 4/5 at Borough Hall; or R at Court Street).

Early History of Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge

The bridge first opened to the public in 1883, in a dedication ceremony presided over by President Chester A. Arthur and New York Governor Grover Cleveland. Any pedestrian with a penny for the toll was welcomed to cross (an estimated 250,000 people walked across the bridge in the first 24 hours); horses with riders were charged 5 cents, and it cost 10 cents for horse and wagons. The pedestrian toll was repealed by 1891, along with the roadways toll in 1911—and the bridge crossing has been free to all ever since.

Unfortunately, tragedy unfolded just six days of the bridge's debut, when 12 people were trampled to death in the midst of a stampede, incited by a panicked (false) rumor that the bridge was collapsing into the river. The following year, P. T. Barnum, of circus fame, led 21 elephants across the bridge in an attempt to quell public fears about its stability.