The Best Way to See New York City: On a Bike

Top routes, tips and tricks for truly enjoying The Big Apple

Yahoo Travel Explorers—By Christine Amorose / C’est Christine

When it comes to transportation in New York City, most people opt for the iconic yellow cab or the affordable subway system. But I’ve realized that biking is one of the best ways to see the city: It can be a workout, but it can also be such a great way to discover new places and really enjoy the journey throughout the city. I commute regularly on bike, often use CitiBike for errands, and will take my two-wheeler on long rides on the weekends — for both work and play. It’s one of my favorite things to do in New York City, and I wish more people experienced it, so here are a few of my favorite routes, tips, and tricks.

Favorite Routes

Central Park Loop

(Photo: Christine Amorose)

The 6.1-mile loop is a standard for city cyclists of all fitness levels. An oasis in the middle of bustling Manhattan, the Central Park loop is a great way to cycle without worrying about taxi doors suddenly opening or dealing with car traffic. That said: There are lot of tourists in the southern end of the park, and not all of them are aware of the cyclists hurtling toward them. Still one of my favorites for all of the beautiful places that you can discover: there are so many ponds, lakes and intricate bridges that you won’t spot on a picnic in Sheep Meadow.

Prospect Park Loop

(Photo: Christine Amorose)

It’s like Central Park…but without the tourists. My boyfriend and I regularly bike down to Prospect Park to do the loop, and it’s my favorite way to relax after a stressful day. Prospect Park was designed by the same duo who did Central Park, so there are a lot of similarities — gently rolling hills, plenty of shade, and scattered lakes and ponds.

Related: What Happens When Bikes Replace Cars in NYC

Hudson River Greenway

(Photo: Christine Amorose)

One of the best ways to bike inside the city without dealing with traffic or stoplights, theHudson River Greenway basically stretches along the entire western side of Manhattan. To make a real day of it, I love biking all the way up to the Little Red Lighthouse under the George Washington Bridge and then on to Fort Tryon Park and the Cloisters (a castle-like outpost of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, dedicate solely to medieval art).

Governors Island

(Photo: Christine Amorose)

Governors Island is one of the few spaces in the New York City area where there are basically no cars! While the island is easy enough to walk around, it’s not that big. But it’s just big enough to make a few loops really enjoyable. And the views back to lower Manhattan are spectacular!

Related: Behold Manhattanhenge: New York City’s Most Awe-Inspiring Phenomenon

Manhattan Bridge

(Photo: Christine Amorose)

The Brooklyn Bridge might be the famous one, but oh em gee the crowds! And the Williamsburg Bridge is a necessity for commuters, but the slope makes it quite a workout. Manhattan Bridge isn’t much of a looker, but it’s my favorite bridge to bike across: fairly easy incline, good views, and it deposits you in the heart of Dumbo on one side (a great neighborhood to ride in) and in Chinatown (insane to bike ride in) on the other.

General Tips

Where to Get a Bike

(Photo: Christine Amorose)

Although I have my own bike, I’ve been using CitiBike since it launched in summer 2013. It’s a great supplement to having my own bicycle (i.e. I want to bike to work in the morning, but I have an event after work that I’ll want to subway home after or having a dinner date in another neighborhood after work). It’s $9.95 a day or $25 for seven days for unlimited 30-minute rides, and there are a ton of locations in Manhattan (less so in Brooklyn right now, but the network is expanding). Keep in mind that because you have to dock the bike in one of the locations every half hour, CitiBike is not a full-day rental option; it’s best for short rides or commutes. It can definitely get expensive if you go over that 30 minutes (an extra $4–$12 every half hour!), but if not, it’s a great way to pop between places.

Related: Biking to Wine Tasting: Yelp Ranks the Top Tours in the U.S.

There are other options for full-day rentals: Blazing Saddles rents bikes along the Hudson River and near Central Park (and offers bike tours), and quite a few bike shops in Brooklyn offer daily rentals. 

Wearing a Helmet

I know my mom is going to cringe reading this, but I don’t always wear a helmet. That said, I’ve seen plenty of collisions and I definitely think that wearing a helmet is a good idea. CitiBike doesn’t offer helmet rentals, but bike shops and Blazing Saddles will.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings 

Look, New York City has some crazy drivers and some crazy people. It pays to concentrate on what’s going on around you when you’re on a bike. Don’t wear headphones, pay attention to traffic signals, watch for parked cars (with passengers who might be getting out), and don’t be afraid to ring your bell or yell if you see a pedestrian in your path. I always think of my bike ride as a moving meditation simply because I have to focus so clearly on what’s happening around me — there isn’t any room in my mind for distraction!

Don’t Be Afraid to Stop

(Photo: Christine Amorose)

Compared to the subway or a taxi, one of the greatest advantages to biking in the city is seeing the city — and actually being able to stop and explore. I’ve discovered new parks, quirky museums, and beautiful doors while on two wheels, and I love going on rides where the only aim is to find something new.

Have you ever biked in New York City? Do you have any favorite routes or tips? 

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