Cycling around The Big Apple
With figures showing that 250,000 more New Yorkers regularly ride a bike versus five years ago and an estimated 450,000+ cycling trips made every day around the city (triple the number 15 years ago), it’s fair to say that the Big Apple has caught the cycling bug. In July 2017, alone, 70,286 trips were made on Citi Bike hires across the city – a new daily record.
It’s one of the most diverse, exciting cities in the world and for more and more people there’s no finer way to explore it. But, if you’ve not tried it before, knowing where to start can be a bit daunting. To help, we have dug out some of the most interesting ways of finding routes across the city, plus tips and secrets of getting on your bike in New York.
First up, you’re obviously going to need a bike, but if you’re not quite ready to invest just yet then Citi Bike is all the craze in New York. The bike share programme’s strap line says it all: ‘Faster than walking, cheaper than a taxi and more fun than the subway’. Choose anything from a day pass for visitors to annual passes for the more committed resident.
Other than your bike, it is worth investing in some good, visible, comfortable, all-weather clothing. If you are just starting out, the two most important items are a well-fitting, visible helmet and a good jacket. Helmets are required by law for children aged 13 but are recommended for cyclists at any age. The Proviz’s Reflect360 Bike Helmet, is both reflective and has integrated lights. For a jacket, consider the Proviz Switch, which is ideal for night and day riding and can be used for walking and other activities, too. The other essential piece of kit is a good lock – Citi Bike provides one if you are hiring through them – and make sure you lock the frame and wheels.
Know your cycling laws
Cycling might be on the up in New York but that doesn’t mean the roads are any less quiet. If you’re hitting the streets for the first time, make sure you are aware of any laws or regulations that you need to follow. New York’s biking laws are as follows:
- Ride in the street – never on the sidewalks (unless the cyclist is younger than 12 and the bike’s wheels are less than 26 inches in diameter).
- Ride with the traffic – not against it.
- Obey traffic signals – a cyclist is just as responsible as a driver for following basic road laws, such as stopping at red lights and stop signs. And be aware of pedestrians, vehicles and other cyclists.
- Use designated bike lanes wherever possible – however cycling is permitted on all main and local streets throughout the city, even when no designated route exists. If the road is too narrow for a car and a bike to travel alongside each other safely, then the cyclist has the right to ride in the middle of the lane.
- Use a white headlight and a red taillight – a horn or a bell are also necessary. Check out Hornit, which claims to be the world’s loudest cycle horn.
- Don't wear earphones – by law you are allowed to wear one earbud, but going without is a much safer option. You need to be able to alert people that you are coming, but you also need to keep your wits about you. You can’t do this while listening to the playlist you put together last night!
Other safety tips:
- Protect yourself. Wear a helmet (that fits!) and be visible – wear high visibility clothing during the day and reflective at night.
- Make sure that everything on the bike works before you set off. Bike servicing isn’t a requirement, but if you own one, it can be worth taking it in for an annual check-up. Keep the tyres pumped up, make sure your gears don’t slip and your chain is well oiled.
- Ride assuming people haven’t seen you. If you are passing a parked car, give the doors a wide berth in case someone suddenly opens one without seeing you. Make sure you use arm signals to alert other road users of your intentions.
- Ride in a straight line. It sounds obvious, but weaving in and out of traffic makes it harder for drivers to anticipate you and raises your chances of having a crash.
If you are just starting out, it’s worth following designated bike lanes, which are marked by green tarmac all the way to Manhattan's Central Park, Brooklyn's Prospect Park, Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx, or one of the many other city parks that feature bike-friendly, car-free spaces to ride - where ultimately you can enjoy a safer, more relaxing cycle. Manhattan's Waterfront Greenway also boasts stunning views (best enjoyed on foot or by bike).
There are many route finding apps that can help you plan your journey before you head off. It is a good idea to start out cycling in areas that you know well – perhaps you have walked or run them before or are just familiar with each road and route.
Enjoy a social spin with organised group rides from Rapha Clubhouses every week. Credit: Rapha Racing Ltd.
Cycling café culture
Like many cities, the cycling culture is huge in New York and cafés have become very cycling friendly. New communities have formed as a result, since hanging out in these cafés is a great way to meet likeminded people and get lots of tips on routes and share the general enjoyment of the sport. There are lots to choose from but a couple of our favourites include:
- The City Bakery at 3 West 18th has a big emphasis on the environment and offers cyclists a 15% discount.
- Red Lantern Bicycles at 345 Myrtle Avenue has a very relaxed café within its bike shop.
- Finally Rapha’s Clubhouse café at 159 Prince Street has lots of daily group rides, making it a hub of all things cycling in New York.
Red lantern Bicycles is a great spot to grab a bite to eat. Credit: Red Lantern Bikes
There are also lots of clubs, websites and organisations that can help you explore further:
- New York Cycle Club is the city’s largest bike club with 2,000+ members. It offers all pace levels, weekend trips, a nationally-recognised spring training programme, monthly meetings with expert speakers and other special events.
- Five Borough Bicycle Club bills itself as ‘New York’s friendliest bike club’ and has rides for all levels.
- We Bike NYC is an all-female cycling community, providing a safe space for women to ride together regardless of skill, speed or riding style.
- Bicycle Habitat going strong since 1978, this is bike shop also holds events, such as maintenance and repair classes and also offers bike rentals.
Good luck and enjoy!
Image Copyright: Man cycling through New York Copyright: moodboard / 123RF Stock Photo