Us folks at Local Expeditions love bike riding in New York City and are always hankering to share tips about it for tourists! By Local Expeditions team member Lisa Haas.
Times have changed. Riding a bike in NYC today is WAY different than it was 20 years ago. So if you are a hesitant tourist desiring a bike ride, hesitate not. As long as you are willing to follow the traffic rules and have some previous bike riding experience in another city, please #DoWhatLocalsDo and join us Big Apple cyclists!
I’ve been riding a bike for fun since I was a kid – going down a dirt path alongside the ditch that ran for miles in the Colorado suburb of my childhood on hot summer days to sneak off to the 7-11 for a Slurpee. And for a collective 30+ years in my adult life, I’ve used my bike a great deal for commuting. But when I moved to NYC two decades ago, this one-of-a-kind urban jungle presented a huge bike riding learning curve that not only took skill, but a whole lot of nerve!
Riding in a bicycle lane in the early 90’s was practically unheard of – as there were few, if any to be found in the five boroughs. So, riding down a street, inches away from fast-moving vehicles was par for the course. I was lucky to have a friend who was a bicycle messenger and she showed me how to hold my own in traffic, with it, or against it.
Nowadays, I would never dream of riding against the traffic, nor do I need to as NYC is filled with bicycle lanes, many of which are strictly reserved for cyclists and which have their own unique traffic lights.
Number one tip: Get the Free NYC Bike Map
The totally amazing Free NYC Bike Map is available in many locations including nearly every bicycle store and public library in the city. The legend shows you greenways, protected bicycle paths, bicycle lanes, shared lanes and suggested routes (when no bicycle lane is available). You will see from this map you can bike to just about anywhere, including all the way to Coney Island. You can enjoy laps around the enormous (Central and Prospect) parks as well as dozens of little parks found everywhere. You can ride from the southern most tip to the northern most tip of Manhattan along the Hudson River! You can ride all the way out to Corona-Flushing Meadows Park in Queens, and if you wear yourself out, take your bike on the subway to come home.
Need a Bike for Days on End?
If you plan on taking multiple all-day bike rides, having a weekly rental would be ideal. Check out this Yelp page, which lists many rentals in interesting parts of the city beyond the “tourist trap” options.
Looking for something hassle free for quick rides? Try our NYC CitiBike program! This is bike share program has 8,000 bikes available spread out over 500 docking stations across Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Jersey City. It’s designed for short trips with convenience and affordability in mind. A one-day pass is $12 and a 3-day pass is $24. If you’ve never used a bike share program before, take our Local Expeditions Citibike DUMBO tour where we walk you through the Citibike process, lead you on an amazing ride over NYC’s TWO greatest bridges (Manhattan and Brooklyn) AND give you a walking tour in DUMBO, Brooklyn. (Check out a short video about Citibike DUMBO from our Local Expeditions founder, Nancy Blaine.)
Mainstream Touristy Convenience
Pinched for time? You will find at Columbus Circle several businesses renting bikes by the hour that you can take for a spin in Central Park. And, the Central Park Conservancy recommends BikeRent NYC, which operates locations at the southwest and southeast corners of Central Park.
Infamous Do’s and Don’t’s
~Wear a helmet.
~Follow the traffic laws and rules.
~Beware of pedestrians around Macy’s, Times Square and Columbus Circle who cavalierly walk in the bike lanes – despite the sidewalk available for their use! (Most bike rentals, including Citibikes have bells so you can ding them a warning.)
~Beware of car and cabs that are pulled over to let a passenger out – sometimes people will open their door right into the bike lane without looking.
~Lock up your bike if you are walking away from it, even for a few minutes. (And if you have a long-term rental, it’s best practice to bring it inside with you overnight.)
~Be aware of your surroundings and you will have fun!
~Ever ride the wrong way on a one-way bike lane.
~Ever ignore any of the traffic rules. Just because you are on a bike doesn’t mean you can run stop signs or red lights. (I’ve had a bicycle accident two times in 20 years – and it was with another cyclist crossing against a red light. Luckily no one was hurt!)
~Ride at night without lights – a white one on the front and a red one on the back. (Citibikes have built in back lights!)
While you are riding a bike in NYC, please enjoy the green, growing and sustainable bike friendly culture we developed with an environmental conscious in mind. And visit us again on our Local Expeditions blog for ongoing tips for visitors and local alike!