New York City has seen huge bicycling-related improvements in recent years as a result of Janette Sadik-Khan, former commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation. In just 6 years, she built out 350+ miles of bike lanes across the city using the simplest tool you can imagine: paint. By painting bike lanes and pedestrian plazas, Janette rerouted the city’s traffic and drove up the retail value of storefronts in all of the reimagined spaces. During her administration, Citi Bike was also launched and now has 12,000 bikes throughout 330 stations across the city, as well as in New Jersey! Watch Janette’s Ted Talk about the city’s transformation here.
These lanes haven’t completely reduced the anxiety associated with bike riding around New York City, but they have certainly helped bikers to get more respect and visibility from drivers and pedestrians alike. The tinkering bike bell helps as well. Whether you are someone who rides everywhere, like me, or are going to explore the city with a few out-of-town guests using one of CitiBikes short-term memberships, here are a few of the safest and most scenic rides in the city. Whether you’re a leisurely coaster, or a break-neck, peddle-to-the-pavement speed demon, there’s a bike trail running along the city’s edge with your name on it.
The Hudson River Park Bikeway is apparently one of the most heavily trafficked bike trails in the country, but don’t let that scare you off. I’ve never seen the trail approach congestion, and bikers with a range of skill levels use and enjoy the trail. You’ll have to share the road with runners, walkers, rollerbladers, skateboarders and the occasional doggie cart, but the trail is very well maintained, and offers serene views of the Hudson River on one side, and landscaped green space and city views on the other.
The Bronx Greenway bike path connects many of the Bronx’s most scenic sites and parks. Start at Van Cortlandt Park and the path will take you past the New York Botanical Garden, the Moshulu Parkway golf course, and the historic Bartow-Pell Mansion and gardens.
This epic 40-mile path connects portions of Brooklyn and Queens, hitting a number of notable landmarks on the way including Coney Island, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in Prospect Park, and Citi Field in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. This is really a great rider’s route, as most of the trail winds through a succession of parks and areas that are otherwise away from traffic. The trail also goes through Cunningham Park, where you can visit the Mountain Bike Trailhead, which is a series of trails designed specifically for mountain bikers of all skill levels.
This 6 mile landscaped greenway offers amazing views of the Manhattan skyline, and will eventually stretch to 14 miles of bike paths connecting Brooklyn’s waterfronts.
The Jamaica Bay Greenway is a long looping trail that starts in Marine Park in Brooklyn, and eventually makes it way to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, and the Rockaways boardwalk (slated to reopen this summer after being badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy). This is a great trail for nature lovers as it winds through a number of protected ecosystems and nature preserves.
Each of these paths is linked through the larger New York City Greenway System, so you can really customize your route.
Perhaps you have a final destination in mind but don’t know the best and safest way to get there. Ridethecity.com allows you to type in your origin and destination and choose between safest or most direct routes. You can download the city’s 2016 bike map here, find other rugged inner-city bike ride maps on the NYC bike maps website, or check out Time Out’s recent article about bike shops, bike routes, and biking events throughout New York City. Please remember to always be safe and remain aware while enjoying your ride!