Sometimes when I tell people that I bike everywhere I go in New York City, their jaws drop. “Everywhere?” they ask. “Surely, not into Manhattan!” they scoff. “But you stop in the winter, right?” These are the kinds of questions I get, but it’s really not as intimidating as it seems. And I’m no professional cyclist. I couldn’t even tell you the kind of bike I have! I can tell you that it’s got seven speeds, banana handlebars, and that when I got it off Craigslist, it was in good condition, and it still is, nearly four years later. I regularly take it in for tune ups, and I love it. I love getting around the city on this bike.
There are many pros: good for exercise, good for the environment, often faster than the subway or car. The biggest pro for me is that I get to discover new biking routes and see streets that I might never have walked down. So, here’s a little go-to guide for biking around New York City, for beginners and those that want to challenge themselves:
Start with Prospect or Central Park (Astoria Park is also nice, if you’re in Queens). Parks are great for getting used to biking with lots of people (but not a lot of cars), plus they’re BEAUTIFUL. You gotta get that dose of greenery in! Even though I’ve been biking around the city for years, I’ll still ride through the park to stretch my legs and take in some fresh air.
Find the streets with the safest bike routes!
1st, 2nd, 7th, and 8th in Manhattan have great bike lanes that are separated from traffic by parked cars. Kent, Dekalb, Willoughby, and a BUNCH of others have great bike lanes in Brooklyn. LIC and Astoria have a ton of bike friendly routes, as well. Google Maps is super great with choosing the safest and quickest routes for cyclists.
Manhattan Bridge > Brooklyn Bridge. The Brooklyn Bridge is wooden (i.e. bumpy) and full of tourists constantly walking into the bike lane. The Manhattan Bridge is far superior. I also highly recommend the Williamsburg and Queensborough bridges. Nice views, bike friendly paths, and often a faster way to get into the city.
Now that you’ve got those down, start exploring! I love biking into Brooklyn Heights and walking along the promenade. I know now to avoid certain streets in Dumbo and in Soho because of the cobblestone streets. I know to be loud with pedestrians in Midtown because they don’t see you coming, and to slow down in Greenpoint / LIC and just enjoy those views. Biking has helped me get to know this city better than I ever thought I would. So start doing it! I’ve seen great results with fitness, mental health, and my sense of place.
Most importantly: follow the rules of traffic. I know it feels like you’re half-car, half-pedestrian, but you should be acting like you are a car. Don’t run through red lights, don’t go the wrong way down a one way street! Be courteous of those around you. New Yorkers are busy, and we don’t like it when people get in our way.