Bike Riding in New York City: Rides, Rentals and Resources
Bicycling is having a real renaissance in New York City. We're seeing more bike paths and more nice places to bike, plus more resources and programs to make biking easier, more affordable and fun. Find out below some of the best resources for New York City Bikers from the best places to bike with kids, where to get New York City bike maps, bike rentals, free bikes to borrow and more.
One of the best ways to start your biking research is by going to the New York City Department of Transportation Website for bicyclists, where you’ll find a downloadable New York cycling map; tips on carrying bikes aboard subways, trains and the Staten Island Ferry; and where to go to get free helmets.
Your next stop should be the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation’s Bicycling and Greenways site. Greenways are paths or trails that connect parks and neighborhoods. They are designed for biking, walking, and skating. There are a number of advantages to riding on a greenway. First of all, it is one of the safest ways to ride, since it is especially marked for bike use. This is an important consideration if you’re cycling with children or teens of beginning skill levels. And you may enjoy a much better scenic view with the greenways, than by just picking your own random path. Download the 77-page Brooklyn-Queens Greenway Guide, which highlights a trail that begins in Coney Island, Brooklyn and ends in Fort Totten, Queens. This booklet tells you all the major attractions you’ll see along the way (like Nathan’s Famous, The New York Aquarium, Prospect Park Zoo, The Brooklyn Children’s Museum, The Forest Park Carousel, The Queens Zoo, and The Hall of Science).You’ll also get ideas on where to stop for a bite and take restroom breaks.
The New York City Mountain Bike Association has information on some other popular New York riding spots: Highbridge Park in Inwood, Manhattan; Cunningham Park in Queens; and Wolfe’s Pond Park in Staten Island. Each has its advantages: Queens’ Cunningham Park has wide trails recommended to beginners. Staten Island’s Wolfe’s Pond Park gets points for its pleasing natural atmosphere (ponds, woods). And Manhattan’s Highbridge Park provides an exciting experience for more expert riders with its heart-pounding freeride trail.
Now that you’ve practiced some, it’s time for a ride or two. The Second Annual Tour de Queens (July 12th) begins in Flushing Meadows Park and runs for 24 miles. It’s for every rider, regardless of age or skill. If you’ve never been to Queens before, this is a good way to get introduced to the area and its unique culture. You’ll get the chance to see neighborhoods filled with history and lovely parks. Advanced registration (which starts May 26) is recommended, but there is limited registration the day of the ride. Click on tourdequeens.org for more info.
And Queens isn’t the only borough doing a bike tour. There’s also the Fifth Annual Tour de Brooklyn on June 7. It runs about the same length as Tour de Queens (23 miles), beginning and ending in Coney Island, with a stop in Prospect Park. This tour includes a ride through Flatlands, Bensonhurst, and other Brooklyn neighborhoods off the typical tourist map. (Brooklyn isn’t all about Williamsburg and Park Slope, ya know.) You’ll also get to see the famed Green-wood Cemetery, final resting place of such notables as artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and actress Lola Montez. This tour is currently full, however 500 spots will open up the day of the ride at 8 am.
Few people know about Governor’s Island, the small piece of land located about half a mile away from Manhattan that is accessible to the general population in the summer. As part of Free Bike Fridays, you can borrow a free bike there, for an hour on Fridays. Or take along your own bike Friday, Saturday or Sunday. The exciting news is that this year there will be more free bikes available for use than last year, so you have a good chance of scoring one.
You can also get free bike rentals the whole summer through the Downtown Alliance Bike Around Downtown program, but there is a catch: Only 30 bikes are available for use during specially scheduled times. Still, with neighborhood kids in summer camp and parents in the Hamptons, you might have a shot. Go to www.downtownny.com/bikearound to learn all about it.
If you’re looking to bike elsewhere and want to rent a bike, Bike New York devotes a whole page to biking rental resources in New York City.