Answers to your FAQs: Your guide to riding a bicycle in NYC
Cycling in New York City is a joy on so many levels. And, when you think about it, two-wheeled transportation is the most care-free and efficient way to get around a congested town like ours. With the launch of Citi Bike share, it’s easier and more convenient than ever. Fortunately, NYC offers lots of resources to help cyclists navigate the streets (and bike lanes!) in safety and comfort. We’ve compiled a list of quick answers to the questions that we hear most often, along with links for more information. Have a question that’s not answered here? Please send us a “velo hello” here.
LEARNING // COMMUTING // PLANNING // FINDING A RIDE
I didn’t ride a bike when I was a child. Where can I learn as an adult?
- Bike New York offers a free, 2-hour “Learn to Ride” group class for adults who’ve never ridden a bicycle, or who are coming back to it. You’ll learn balancing, starting, stopping and steering, as well as everything you need to know about helmet fit and adjustment. Register early. These are popular!
Is there someone who can give me private lessons?
- City Bike Coach provides both group and one-on-one instruction for beginning adults and children, plus group classes for traffic skills, bike handling and group riding.
- Terry Chin, a photographer in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn teaches bicycling part-time. Since 1982, he has helped hundreds of adults learn to ride. No e-mail — call 718-680-5227 for information.
My child is ready to graduate from training wheels. I could use some help teaching him/her to ride.
- The same resources as listed above offer classes and instruction for children. There’s also plenty of good information online, including this excellent Wiki on urban cycling with children.
I’m more advanced, and I’d like to learn how to ride in a pace line.
- For recreational cyclists who want to build endurance and speed and improve their road skills — including learning to ride in a pace line — the New York Cycle Club offers Special Interest Group or “SIG” training every spring. The progressive series of weekend SIG group rides is organized by level from C (beginners) to A (advanced). It’s free to NYCC members, and it’s a great way to meet other cyclists in the city. NYCC also offers early-morning pace line rides led by experienced cyclists in Central Park. Check the schedule on the website. Finally, if you’re interested in learning about bicycle racing in New York City, contact the Century Road Club Association, the largest organization of its type in the U.S. Log onto their website to learn about organized races, training events and coaching.
I love my local mechanic, but I want to learn to fix my own flats. Where can I learn basic bike maintenance?
- Bike New York teams up with Recycle-Bicycle, to teach classes in basics like fixing flats, adjusting brakes and derailleurs, lubing a chain and adjusting seat and handlebars. Some are open to women only. Check the schedule.
There’s also a more advanced section where you can delve into hub and headset adjustment, plus replacing brace and gear cables, brake pads, chains and more.
Help! I don’t know where to begin!
- No problem. We’ve written a series of posts that follows one bike-curious New Yorker through the process of researching and buying a bike, selecting gear and a helmet, locking up, learning street skills, storing a bicycle indoors and traveling with a bike on public transit. Look up and click on the navigation that says “City Cycling 101.“
Where can I pump up my tires?
- Keeping tires properly inflated helps assure a safe (and uninterrupted) ride. You’ll find a compressor hose outside most bike shops. Note that the compressor heads at many bike shops fit Schrader rather than Presta valves. Be prepared by carrying a tiny valve adapter in your pocketbook.
I’d like to commute by bike, but I don’t feel comfortable riding in traffic with cars. How can I learn the ropes?
- A good place to start is to download Bike Smart: The Official Guide to Bicycling in New York City from the NYC Department of Transportation. The booklet is loaded with information and tips that will help you navigate NYC streets safely and with confidence.
- Bicycle Commuting 101 - Bike New York offers a free workshop to help beginning commuters get started. It stuffs more inspiration and practical knowledge into one hour than anyone could have thought possible. (We know; we’ve taken the class!) You’ll learn how to pick a bike, what to wear, how to lock up, ride safely at night, and more.
- Bike Train NYC – This new option gives like-minded commuters a way to travel together for safely — and sociably. Bike Trains roll from Manhattan and Brooklyn locations several time per week.
I want to bring my bike to work. What’s the deal with building access?
- The Bicycle Access to Office Buildings Law that went into effect in December 2011 helps support bicycle commuting. It requires office buildings equipped with freight elevators to provide access to bikes if a leaseholder requests it — unless an exemption is filed. Check out everything that tenants, building owners and individuals need to know about the law here.
Can I take my bike on public transit?
- Combining cycling with public transit is a great way to extend the reach of your commute, escape a cloud burst or get home if a mechanical problem has cut our ride short. Fortunately, we’ve got lots of transit options in New York City. We’ve listed links below, but rules vary, so it’s best to check before you travel — especially if it’s a holiday weekend.
- NYC Subway: You can take your bike on the subway 24/7.
- Avoid rush-hour trains because its tough to navigate through crowds.
- Lettered versus numbered lines tend to have bigger stations, giving you a better chance to find an agent on duty.
- Front and back cars are your best options when traveling with bikes.
- Be courteous to fellow passengers (i.e. keep smudgy tires away from that guy’s pressed chinos!)
NYC Buses and Express Buses: Folding bikes only. Be sure to fold before boarding.
New Jersey Transit Trains: No permit required. NJ Transit recently expanded their Bike Aboard Program to enable cyclists to board trains with bikes at all stations. Read more here. (Effective July 1, 2012)
Where can I find links to other options for transporting my bike by public transit.
- Go to the Bikes Aboard page of the Transportation Alternatives website.
It’s hot outside. How can I ride my bike to work without looking like a sweaty mess?
- Hacks for hot-weather riding:
- Skip the sweat-inducing backpack and use a basket.
- Hold off on applying makeup until you get to work.
- Keep some products or accessories for helmet-head fixes in your purse or at the office.
- Pack an extra outfit. (It’s summer, you can fit those clothes in your bag!)
- Carry a terry washcloth or moist towelettes for a quick “cat-bath” in the ladies’ room.
- Drink water! Staying hydrated is healthy, and also keeps your complexion looking vibrant.
There are so many bicycling websites! Is there a central listing that I can check for bike-related events?
- Go to bikenyc.org to find an extensive, searchable calendar of events, plus bicycling tips, resources and special deals from bike-friendly businesses around town.
Is there a place where I can find real-time updates on road conditions and other ‘breaking’ news?
- If you’re a twitter user, monitor the very active #bikenyc hashtag for news, advisories and conversation about cycling in the city.
How can I plan the safest, fastest bike route to where I need to go?
Ride the City – Based on the New York City Cycling Map, this app helps you find the safest routes by avoiding roads not meant for biking, and by maximizing use of protected paths and other bike-friendly streets. (There’s also a “Direct Route” option.) Just enter your location and destination, and bike lanes will be indicated in the directions.
Google Maps – Although bike lanes are indicated on the map, Google generates the most direct route, not necessarily the safest. Click the bicycle icon above the boxes where you input your location and destination.
HopStop – This public transit app has continued to upgrade its bicycle directions features. It routes you along bike lanes where possible. Click the bicycle icon below the boxes where you input your location and destination. In addition to directions, you’ll find trip time, calories-burned and CO2 savings plotted. You can also discover locations of restaurants, shopping and attractions along the route.
I’m new to the city. Where can I find a ride?
- Start by asking a bicycle-loving friend or co-worker to ride with you. It’s is a good way to get acclimatized to the bike lanes and to the fun of riding a bike in New York City. The following organizations provide listings for a wide range of regular rides and special events:
- WE Bike NYC (women’s empowerment through bicycling, for all levels)
- New York Cycle Club
- 5 Borough Bicycle Club
- Check out these NYC-based facebook pages: Get Biking! (group) and We Bike NYC.
- bikenyc.org is the central listing for all things biking in NYC, including all kinds of rides, clinics and special events.
I want to ride indoors to keep fit. Where can I find a spin class?
Check this site for a listing of area spin classes offered by gyms and studios.