New York is one of the most walkable cities in the world, thanks in part to Manhattan’s grid-pattern layout. But with more than 1,200 miles of bike lanes and routes—many of which have been added in the past decade—it’s also quite bike-friendly. Two-wheeled transit is an increasingly popular and accessible way to navigate the City while taking in some extraordinary vistas on your way. Bonus for visitors: you can squeeze in more sightseeing in a shorter amount of time.
Below is a beginner’s guide to getting around town by bike, with basics on how to rent some wheels, explore the City via one of our recommended routes and ride safely.
Find a Bike
The easiest way to rent a bike is through Citi Bike, a bike-share program in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens that provides thousands of bicycles at its stalls. A one-day pass is $12 for an unlimited number of 30-minute rides. (If you go over 30 minutes, you will be charged $4 per 15-minute increment.) If you’re in town for a weekend, the best deal is the three-day pass, for $24. To find out more, just stop by one of Citi Bike’s easy-to-spot blue kiosks and bike stands or download their app.
You can also rent a bike from one of the many local businesses that offer daily and weekly rentals. In Midtown, Bike Rent NYC provides bikes in and around Central Park. Unlimited Biking offers both tours, family packages and single bike rentals at their locations in Midtown (close to Central Park), Harlem, Brooklyn Bridge (Manhattan side) and on the Hudson River (at Pier 78). Finally, you may see folks on the street handing out flyers for rentals, but beware: some of these are not legit operations. Check online first to make sure they are on the up and up.
Another option is a guided group tour that covers certain areas and neighborhoods. Most tours come with a bike—though some are BYOB (bike, that is). For tours around Central Park, one of the most bike-friendly parts of NYC, there’s NYC Central Park Bike Rental. Brooklyn Bike Tours provides a variety of routes through the scenic borough.
When biking in an urban area, riders should be extra alert and aware of their surroundings—particularly on busy roads, near parked cars and at intersections. Cars, trucks, pedestrians and bikes all share the street, and bikers must follow the same rules of the road as other vehicles. That means if you run a red light, you could get a ticket. Remember as well to always ride with the flow of traffic, stay off sidewalks, hand-signal before making turns and yield to pedestrians.
In New York State, helmets are not legally required (save for kids 13 and younger), though they are strongly encouraged for all riders. In terms of devices, it’s illegal to have both earbuds in when riding a bike—even having just one in is not the best idea—and texting or talking on your cell is a recipe for disaster; you’re best off stashing your phone while navigating the city streets.
If you’re going to be stopping off somewhere during your ride, make sure to lock up your bike; companies typically include them with the rental (with a Citi Bike day pass, you’ll just dock your bike at a station—no lock necessary).
Three NYC Routes for All Riders
Now that you have your bike and know the basics on safety, the final question is where to go. In a city as big as New York, the vast number of routes and options can be a little intimidating. So we’ve put together three bike tours that are a good introduction to riding around the City. Note that if you’re using a Citi Bike on routes 2 and 3 below, you’ll need to dock your bike along the way and pick up a new one to avoid incurring extra charges.
1. Brooklyn Greenway—Atlantic Avenue to Greenpoint
5.5 miles, 30 minutes
One of the newest bike paths in the City starts at the foot of Atlantic Avenue and heads through one of the most scenic green spaces: Brooklyn Bridge Park. It’s a beautiful ride along the East River to the landmark Brooklyn Bridge. After that, you have to navigate some local streets (Old Fulton and Front or York) to get over to historic Brooklyn Navy Yard. From there, a dedicated bike lane continues north past the Williamsburg Bridge, where you can stop by the new Domino Park. Keep pedaling on Kent Avenue’s bike lane to East River State Park, where you can take in the Instagram-worthy views of Manhattan. Kent turns into Franklin Avenue as you enter Greenpoint; speed toward your final stop on this route, Transmitter Park.
2. Central Park Loop—Columbus Circle to Columbus Circle
6 miles, 45 minutes
This is the greenest ride you’ll find in NYC—it makes a big oblong circle through Manhattan’s largest park on the main roadway (which, since mid-2018, has been closed to motor-vehicle traffic). Entering at Columbus Circle on the southwest corner, you can make a counterclockwise loop through the entire park in less than an hour. Or you can take your time, turning off the main drive at various points to see some of the park’s signature attractions and beautiful spaces; the Great Lawn, the Delacorte Theater and adjacent Belvedere Castle are just some of the many sights to explore.
3. Hudson River Greenway—The Battery to George Washington Bridge
11 miles, 1 hour
The longest of the three treks, this journey starts where Manhattan does, at The Battery. From there, take the bike path up the west side past the new World Trade Center and alongside the scenic Hudson River. You’ll ride by the West Village, Chelsea and the towering Hudson Yards complex. You’ll want to slow down or stop to take in the hulking USS Intrepid, docked at 46th Street, and the stunning tetrahedron-shaped Via building on 57th Street. Continue by riding right by the river alongside the Upper West Side or heading through the greenery of Riverside Park on 72nd Street. Farther north, Riverbank State Park features a host of athletic facilities, good for a break. Your ride comes to a scenic conclusion at Fort Washington Park’s Little Red Lighthouse beneath the George Washington Bridge, a perfect spot to take in the view and catch your breath.