Like many big cities, the Big Apple has become increasingly bike-friendly in recent years. New bike lanes on reconstructed streets and easy availability of public bikes have made pedaling through New York City a popular activity for tourists and residents alike.  

Indeed, New Yorkers are turning to bikes as a better way to commute to work and a fun option for getting around during their downtime. Let’s not forget the best part: It’s also an exhilarating form of exercise for all ages. Of course, tourists are taking note too because what better way to experience the city than through the freedom the open road affords? To learn how and where to access public bikes in NYC, this is a good primer. But before you hit the pavement, here’s a quick guide to the ins and outs of cycling in NYC and the best routes you’ll want to ride.

parked bikes in nycSafety First

While the thrill of biking can be exciting, it’s important to safeguard yourself from potential accidents and hazards you might come cross on city streets—especially in NYC where autos are abundant, and traffic can be commonplace when rush hour gets rolling. While the city’s Department of Transportation provides an extensive list of do’s and don’ts, we’ve culled together a few key highlights. They include…stay in your lane (ride in the street, not the sidewalk); go with the flow (ride with traffic, not against it); and read the signs (stop at red lights, obey all signage, and stick to marked bike lanes and paths). Additionally, if you’re venturing out in the evening, make use of a white headlight, red taillight, bells/horn, and reflectors to ensure you’ll be seen once the sunlight recedes.

biking over bridgePicking Your Paths: Manhattan

Whether east or west, the up-close sights you’ll get from the seat of a bike will really immerse you in city life. Let’s start with Hudson River Park, a waterfront gem that runs from 59th Street down to Battery Park. Flowers, piers, and iconic attractions abound on this path. Conveniently, you can always park your bike, take a break, and indulge in some awesome experiences along the way that will fill you up for adventure, including a food tour in Greenwich Village during the day or a premier dinner cruise in Chelsea during the evening.

Next up, we’re off to the other side of town and the East River Waterfront Esplanade. This public greenway runs from Harlem down to Battery Park, traversing along the East River where you’ll discover the waterfronts of Brooklyn and Queens, plus signature structures like the United Nations Plaza and the Brooklyn and Williamsburg bridges. Of course, while on this route you can always make time for must-see attractions that offer impactful glimpses into NYC and its history, including the Seaport and the Financial District. The latter is where the 9/11 Memorial and Museum is located, a tour of which is something both locals and tourists take to heart.

With Manhattan’s east, west, and south covered so far, we’d be remiss not to mention an enchanting path you’ll encounter in the north—and Fort Washington Park definitely fits the bill. Encompassing approximately 160 acres running along the Hudson River near Riverside Drive from 155 Street to Dyckman Street, this lush area in Washington Heights is full of gorgeous greenery and is also where you’ll run into the Little Red Lighthouse (of children’s book fame)—the only lighthouse in Manhattan. It features meadows, wooded areas, and dramatic cliffs perfect for leveling up your social media posts.

Picking Your Paths: Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens

While Manhattan is one option for biking, there are also numerous paths to choose from in the outer boroughs, as well. Let’s begin with Brooklyn, which boasts the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway offering 26 miles for riding without the stress of traffic. In addition to neighborhoods like Bay Ridge, Red Hook, and Sunset Park, riders will also catch a glimpse of sites such as the Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Naval Cemetery Landscape, and Plumb Beach (among others). Add to that excellent views of the Manhattan Skyline, Jamaica Bay, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and more, and the journey is hard to beat.

taking a rest from riding bikes in nyc

And what about Queens, the Bronx, and maybe something in between it all, you ask? Don’t worry, those locales have some wonderful places for bike riders to relish, too. The Bronx has a majestic green space of its own with Crotona Park, complete with a lovely lake and lots of trees, while the Queens cemetery belt is a destination rich in history with more than 5 million souls interred there and expansive space for cycling. Meanwhile, Randalls Island Park (which is a remarkable sight when you travel by tram) is situated on the East River between East Harlem, Astoria (Queens), and the South Bronx. It offers waterfront views on the western shoreline where trails for cyclists and pedestrians make the ideal spot to savor it all.

No matter which routes you choose, cycling is a fantastic way to explore NYC and take in all it has to offer, so grab a bike and get ready to ride!