Biking in NYC

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve had my bike. I’ve mostly stuck to paths (and mostly the West Side Highway path), but I’ve done a little riding on the streets. Last night, I rode from my apartment west to the West Side Highway, down to the end of the island and across to the Brooklyn Bridge. I decided I didn’t want to ride that far, so I turned to ride back uptown. I noticed a bike lane on Centre Street and cruised up that through Chinatown until it turned into Lafayette.

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Lafayette and E. Houston

As I rode through the streets, I began to notice a few things.

  • There are bike lanes, but cars and delivery vans often park in them.
  • Walkers have no idea what to do when they see someone on a bike. There’s a lot of false starts as people take a step, see bikes and take a huge step back because they think you’re going to hit them. Even if you’re nowhere close. And not even in their path.
  • The bike lanes on Eighth Ave are pretty amazing.

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Do you see how the parked cars separate the bikes from the cars? This is so perfect for a scared cyclist (biker?) like me.

Caitlin posted yesterday about being nervous about riding on the roads in Charlotte, and she got some great advice in the comments, including looking for group rides (which I might try) and being confident that you have a right to the road, too.

Do you have any tips to get over a fear of biking in the city? Or any biking etiquette pet peeves?


15 comments on “Biking in NYC

  1. Rachel

    I HATE when bikers want to share the road, but dont follow the law. If you have a stop light, wait until it is green to go, don’t blow through it. I want to hit bicylists that run red lights and stop signs. Rant over 🙂

  2. Alex

    I never actually thought about riding on the streets in Manhattan and always figured only delivery guys or people who just want to ride a few blocks to/from work do that.
    Don’t you have to stop like every 2 minutes at a light? Or do you just keep going after a brief look(like 99% of walkers do) ?

    1. Theodora Post author

      @Alex: Once you hit a green light, I’m pretty sure they’re all on some sort of timer so you can cruise for a while, but yeah, it does suck when you get stuck at a light. At a busy intersection, even if there are no cars coming, I will still stay there until the light changes. At a less-busy intersection…I will keep going once I know there’s nobody else around.

  3. Liz

    Def try out some group rides, it will completely change your riding for the better. has some really great rides coming up! There are some great clubs out on LI that could also work if you don’t mind schlepping your bike on the LIRR.

  4. Allie

    I am still extremely nervous to ride a bike in the city; plus I don’t have anywhere to put one. And I’m one of those clueless people when bikes come; though I feel it is because some bikers follow the traffic rules, and some don’t, and you never know which type of biker it is! Sounds like a defensive biking in NYC class is a good start.

  5. Emily

    i’m impressed. i was nervous about dc traffic when i moved here, i would totally be scared to share the road in nyc. the fact you’re already out there is big props to you!

    i agree that group rides are an awesome way to get into riding…and ALWAYS obeying traffic laws on the bike!

  6. Maggie Maggio

    I have always been terrified of bikers in NYC, there are just too many who run red lights, ride the wrong way down streets, or do other reckless things (so don’t become one of them! haha). And all my fears were confirmed when I was walking and got hit by a delivery guy on a bike last month.

    My big bike pet peeves are people who don’t stop at red lights and people who ride on sidewalks.

    That said, I would love to be able to ride a bike in NYC but I just think I would be too terrified. I really admire you for just doing it!

  7. Leah

    HUGE Fear of biking. Living in Chicago–we do have an awesome lakefront path, but once it’s gorgeous out, that path has runners, other scary fast bikers, walkers and dogs! And I bike clipped in….meaning anytime I want to stop, I have to unclip, otherwise both the bike and I topple. I bike EARLY, early, in the am, when there are few people out. Unfortunately, once real marathon training starts, early will mean, on the path by 5am. Your confidence grows the more you do it; being clipped in doesn’t scare me as much, now it’s the aero bars on my new bike! Good Luck!!!

  8. Rachel

    You just have to know where and when to ride – rush hour is the worst and Columbus/8th & 2nd Ave are awesome. I love riding on the west side highway bike paths – try heading north to the GW bridge, they just re-did all the lanes. I was also pretty scared at first and still am, but it’s such an adrenaline rush to ride around the city! Good luck and always wear a helmet 🙂


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