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A Guide to Cycling N.Y.C: Bicycle Routes / Paths

Getting Around


          Cycling Around New York City

Bike Lanes

New York’s ever-expanding bike network, growing from 250 miles of bike lanes 2006 to nearly 1,200 today, has made it so you can ride pretty much anywhere. Yet you won’t always have a direct route that runs entirely or even mostly along bike lanes. (As you get used to traffic patterns, you’ll also get better at riding on streets without them.) Plus, fewer than half (471 miles, to be exact) of the city’s bike lanes are protected—that is, they don’t have a physical barrier between riders and car traffic—meaning ordinary drivers, cops, delivery trucks, and cabbies will drive and park in your space. So even if you’re in a fully painted designated lane, don’t let your guard down. New York also has plenty of bike sharrows (shared lane marking), but can sometimes lead to more confusion between driver and biker. Don’t ever feel the need to only stick to streets with bike lanes, since cyclists have the same rights to the road as drivers.

Bike Paths / Routes

If you’re looking to get some laps in, you can always do loops in Prospect and Central parks. Just be aware that you’re sharing space with pedestrians, so been alert. The city also built a few off-street Greenways each borough if you’re in the mood for a distance ride. You can also find mountain bike trails, ranging from beginner to expert difficulties, in the city’s free parks in northeast Manhattan, eastern Queens, and southwest Staten Island.

For the commuter crowd, the west side of Manhattan has the Hudson River Greenway, a bike path that runs all the way from Battery Park to Inwood. There’s also a path along the East River. The Brooklyn Greenway doubles as a major commuting artery and the Brooklyn Bridge Park section will serve amazing views of lower Manhattan. 

For waterfront rides, try the newly rebuilt Rockaway boardwalk, which runs from Beach 126th Street to Beach 9th Street, and the Ocean Parkway bike path, which will take you from Windsor Terrace all the way to Coney Island. 

N.Y.C Bicycle Map Apps/ Technology

Subways / Buses

Sometimes—because of the weather or because something breaks or because you’re with someone who doesn’t bike or because you’re just very tired—you will take your bike on the subway. Which is fine: It’s legal and happens every day. My personal advice is to avoid it during rush hour at all costs. If you’re by yourself, alert the booth employee at a station, and they’ll open the emergency exit for you after you swipe your MetroCard. If you have someone with you, swipe them in and have them open the emergency exit. When you get on the train, don’t act foolish with your bike. Bring it into the car as far as it can go, and don’t lean it across seats if people won’t be able to sit. 

While cities around the world seem to have figured out the process, the MTA is only now experimenting with bike racks on buses. So unless you’re riding one of four lines (the Q50, Bx23, S53, or S93), the bus is no help to a New Yorker with a bike in tow.                                                              

Biking Bridges

Ranking of N.Y.C Bridges for bike-ability: 1) Williamsburg, 2) Manhattan, 3) Queensboro, 4) swimming your bike across, and 5) Brooklyn. Of course, you’ll have to cross one or another depending on where you’re going. But if you have extra minutes to spare and a choice between the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges, take the Manhattan

Bridges between Manhattan and the Bronx are smaller and flatter. Some have protected bike lanes, while others make you choose between a pedestrian path or the street. You can also take the Triboro Bridge from Queens, which will drop you on Randalls Island, which then connects to the Bronx on the island’s north side. Getting to Rockaway means taking either the Gil Hodges or the Cross Bay bridges. You’ll see signs on both telling you to walk your bike, since the pedestrian paths are so narrow. I’ve always ignored them and ridden carefully, but be aware that doing so could get you a ticket (advice that also applies to the Triboro).

As for biking into New Jersey, you only have one option right now: the George Washington Bridge.