Biking is a great way to explore a new city or a familiar city in a new way, and perhaps no city is better suited to discovery by bicycle than New York City! No matter your skill or experience level, regardless of where you want to go or what kind of bike you want to ride there, travelers are sure to find an option that works for them (this is New York City, after all…).
Do You Have the Map?
Perhaps the most important part of biking around New York City is planning your route and bike rental in advance – you can get a much better deal if you book ahead (or even online); but don’t worry, if you’re a last-minute type, there are still plenty of places you can rent from.
New York City’s Department of Transportation puts out an indispensable map and guide to biking around the city. For example, you can see when Central Park has auto-free hours, or which bridges are bike-friendly and when (hint: take the Brooklyn Bridge).
The map also highlights possible bike routes. Some roads are drawn on the map with green lanes that are “protected” bike paths for cyclists, while routes with blue lanes offer a marked bike lane. Routes marked in purple have a shared lane, while pink routes are simply marked with green and white Bike Route signs. Some roads, marked in white, are prohibited (such as highways).
This handy map marks bike shops (plus which ones rent bikes), mass transit stops, and some attractions, like swimming and skate parks. Bike shops are listed by name, neighborhood, phone number, and address. Each shop is numbered, with corresponding number on the map, so it’s easy to figure out which one you’re closest to. Shaded background squares indicate whether each shop is a bike shop, bike shop with rentals, or bike rental place only.
Renting a Bike
It’s a good idea to call ahead when renting a bike. You may be able to book online for discounts at some shops. In addition to bike rental shops, bikes are available at “stations” throughout the city’s boroughs through the Citibike program.
Find out what’s included in your rental; some places include a helmet, bike lock, and map. Rental options can include a baby seat, kids’ “trail behind” wagon, tagalong attachment for child riders, or a tandem bike. Some shops have more than one location, which can allow you to rent from one shop and return your bike to another. Find out what kind of security deposit is required, and how much the replacement fee is if your bike is lost or stolen. You may be able to get a self-guided tour. Look for tours that indicate mileage, time, and recommended experience level.
In addition to in-person bike rentals, Citibike is a very popular program, with 500 pickup and return stations and 8,000 bikes across Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. Users can purchase a 1-day or 3-day pass ($12 and $24, respectively) and get unlimited 30-minute rides for one day or 3 days. Each additional 15 minutes is charged at a rate of $4. The Citibike program requires a $101 security deposit; the replacement cost of a bike is $1,200. Look for the Citibike app to make it easier to find pick-up and drop-off locations.
The Last Word
So next time you’re planning a trip to New York City, consider seeing the city by bike. It’s economical and healthy, and it’s an easy way to see New York from a completely different point of view. Take advantage of the ways in which the city makes it easier to navigate by bike, and enjoy the fresh perspective, and fresh air!