Cycling in NYC is often the quickest and most efficient means of getting around town. But it’s also a wonderful way to kick back, slow down and explore the byways of the city.
That’s the jumping off point for J.P. Partland’s new book, Where to Bike, New York City, an excellent companion to recreational cycling in the Five Boroughs plus Northern New Jersey. With 58 routes, meticulously cataloged and mapped, this guide, part of a series by Australian publisher BA Press, is an important new resource not only for visitors, but also for New Yorkers who want to enjoy the adventure of getting to know the neighborhoods and sights of their hometown.
“Most of my city rides were to places, not rides where the point was to take a loop within the borough,” writes Partland. “It’s a big world, but we don’t stop to check out our own back yard, myself, included.”
Partland, a native New Yorker and writer, whose owns bicycle wheels – road, track, off-road and commuter – have touched every borough and bridge, set out to celebrate cycling not as a destination, but as a journey. Thus, many of his routes trace the edges of the city and parks. “Anyone can wheel onto a street or avenue and take it somewhere without a guidebook,” observes the author. Partland is interested in introducing the roads less traveled.
From the industrial Red Hook section of Brooklyn to Wave Hill within the leafy confines of the Riverdale section of the Bronx, there’s a route here for every level and interest. Most are loops of fewer than 10 miles. And what’s great is that someone has already done all the work of plotting the courses for you.
In a conversational and informative voice, Partland enumerates the reasons why more than 200,000 New Yorkers travel by bicycle in the city each day: NYC is mostly flat, compact, equipped with a growing network of cycling infrastructure, diverse and ever changing. In advance of setting out, readers will find thoughtful and practical tips on how to prepare, what to carry along and cycling safety advice from an insider’s perspective.
There are also MTA maps, NYC/NY State and NJ State bicycle rules and regulations, and local and national online bicycling resources. The index contains a comprehensive list of bike shops and rental locations.
What I like best about this guide is its user-friendly organization and layout. Each of the six main sections, coded by color, begins with information about the borough, plus a map with schematics of each route.
A rich At-a-Glance overview of each ride includes categories (urban, suburban, children-friendly, for example), rating of difficulty, distance, elevation, terrain, traffic conditions, nearest public transit, and suggestions for food and drink and local attractions. Next comes a prose description of what to expect on the ride, then a turn-by-turn ride log, and a detailed map.
Choices for All Levels
Rides range from a 9.6-mile, mostly flat loop of Lower Manhattan to a 20.3-mile exploration of the Rockaways in Queens, to a challenging, hilly 42.6-mile ride over the George Washington Bridge through Rockland County to Nyack. N.Y. There are also several mountain biking venues, including 6.5 miles of trails in Cunningham Park in Queens.
Images shot by Partland and by author and photographer Matt Wittmer help illustrate rides and convey the overall flavor of cycling in New York City. The approximately 6 in. by 8 in., 320-page spiral bound book on coated paper is perhaps not as compact as some other guides, but the stiff, wrap-around cover makes a tidy package for tucking inside a backpack or basket.
Where to Bike: New York City, J.P. Partland, BA Press, 2012, $29.95
Photos: Top, Little Red Lighthouse at the base of the George Washington Bridge, velojoy. Center, book cover, BA Press. Bottom, page spread, velojoy.