New York City is filled with unique and interesting places to explore in all corners of the city, but sometimes it can be an intimidating place to get around. When we’ve needed a break from the constant traffic, subway delays, and busy sidewalks, one of our favorite alternatives to getting from point A to B has been riding our bikes. Not only is it a great form of exercise, it can often be the fastest way to get around the city! With that being said, there are better routes to ride your bike in the city than others, so check out the list below for our favorite spots based on scenery, access to fun pit stops (a.k.a food, shopping – you name it!), and safety.
UES to Brooklyn Bridge (and back!)
As stated above, the NYC traffic is constant, which generally doesn’t bode well for cyclists trying to share the road. However, one of the things that surprised us most after moving here was both the number of bike lanes available for cyclists and the length of road that these bike lanes extended along. It’s common to find bike lanes that stretch for miles along the same street or avenue, allowing you to traverse a major portion of Manhattan without having to worry about keeping up with the traffic. A good example of this is the bike lane that runs along 2nd Avenue (southbound) and 1st Avenue (northbound) between the Upper and Lower East Side. In fact, you can ride along a dedicated bike lane from 125th Street all the way to the entrance of the Brooklyn Bridge! Feel free to make a few stops along the way as you skirt the edges of Koreatown and Chinatown, and bike through the heart of Midtown and East Village. If you arrive to the bridge and are feeling adventurous, there’s even a bike lane that can take you across the bridge and into the trendy streets of DUMBO in Brooklyn (if you opt for this, be prepared for a slower ride as you navigate the throngs of pedestrians walking in your lane).
Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge
Also along the East Side, the Queensboro Bridge extends from the Upper East Side at 60th St all the way across the East River and Roosevelt Island to Queens, right along its border with Brooklyn. The Queensboro is easily accessible from both sides of the bridge, with exits from the 1st Avenue and 2 Avenue bike lanes in Manhattan and the Vernon Road bike lane in Queens. It may not look like much from a distance, but the ride across the bridge provides a surprising distance of just under 2 miles across and elevation change of approximately 100 ft. It’s well worth a break at the halfway point to check out the East Side skyline, close up view of the tram, and birds eye view of Roosevelt Island. From the Queens side of the bridge, you have many options at your disposal including a short bike ride north along Vernon Road to reach the Roosevelt Island bridge, with access to the Island itself, as well as bike lanes into Brooklyn to explore the food markets of Williamsburg. From the Manhattan side, you have access direct access via connecting bike lanes to the Upper East Side, Midtown, and Lower East Side.
Hudson River Greenway
The Hudson River Greenway is one of the most scenic and popular trails in Manhattan for biking, running, walking, or any other non-motorized transportation you can think of. It has both a dedicated bike lane and pedestrian lane in both directions, allowing for a safe environment for everyone to enjoy the many parks and piers of the Hudson River. It can provide one of your longest Manhattan rides in a bike lane, extending a 13.7 mile stretch from the southernmost point of Manhattan, Battery Park, to the most northernly, Inwood Hill Park. Along the way you can stop at the One World Observatory, 9/11 Memorial and Museum, Chelsea Piers, Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, as well as the George Washington Bridge. In addition, there are a number of trail side restaurants and outdoor patios to enjoy a mid-ride beverage. Be prepared for some crowds, however this is one of our favorite rides and one you shouldn’t miss!
Last but not least is a bike ride through one of the most iconic parks in the world, Central Park. In the heart of Manhattan, Central Park offers breathtaking greenery and relief from the bustling concrete jungle of NYC. There is a full size road that wraps around the entire circumference of Central Park dedicated to pedestrians, cyclists, and service vehicles, and is off-limits from public vehicles. Completing the loop will provide close to a 6 mile ride, however there are options to make this shorter if desired by turning onto the road the cuts across width of the park, connecting the east and west side at 72nd Street. There are a couple rules to keep an eye out for as you make your way around the park, which include no biking on the smaller pathways that wind into the park itself, and that you must ride in a counter-clockwise direction around the park. However, there are countless areas of the park to take a break and walk your bike onto the grass for a mid-ride snack and to enjoy some piece and quiet in the sun.
Although these are our favorite bike rides in the city, there are many others that wind through the smaller streets of Manhattan as well as the parks and suburbs of the other NYC boroughs. No matter where you go, don’t forget to pack some water (as it can get quite hot in the summer), fix a bell to your handle bars to let others around know your coming, and be wary of your motorized road companions. We’ve had countless adventures biking through NYC and hope that you can enjoy the same while exploring the big city!