a beginner’s bike ride in manhattan: west side

Riding a bicycle in Manhattan, especially if you’re a beginner or new to the city, can feel intimidating, what with impatient motorists, “salmoning” cyclists and, oh yeah, pedestrians heedlessly tapping away at their smart phones.

Even when cruising the growing network of bike lanes that help drive the popularity of cycling as fast, cheap and eco-friendly urban transportation, sharing the streets with cars, pedestrians and other cyclists takes some getting used to.

Recently, several readers and friends have asked where in Manhattan they can practice their road skills and gain confidence without having to stress too much about traffic. One good option is the stretch of the Hudson River Greenway that offers a continuous, flat and mostly protected ride from Battery Park to the George Washington Bridge, with plenty of New York City sights and sweeping panoramas.

Practicing on a Protected Path

I mapped this approximately 20-mile round trip from Bleeker Street in the West Village to the George Washington Bridge for my friend Ashley. She’s a newcomer to downtown, just bought a bike and is still feeling a little wobbly in traffic. (A close encounter with a bus didn’t help either.)

View Interactive Map on MapMyRide.com

Along this course, cyclists are sheltered from the road, but sharing the path with other riders, pedestrians and skaters demands the same focus and skills needed in traffic. In addition — mostly below 59th Street — motor vehicles bisect the path, so there’s experience to be had with traffic signals and pedestrian crosswalks. (Note that on some fair-weather weekends the path may become congested at the southerly end, leading to some frustrating stop and go.)

Two for the Road

Joggers - Hudson River Greenway
135th Street

Although this route is an almost completely straight shot, I was reminded on a recent ride that there are two points where riders must jog right for about half a block to continue on the path. Northbound, they are:

At 135th Street – You’ll know you’re there because you’ll see an NYC Department of Sanitation facility on the left. Follow the green signs.

Fort Washington Gates
Gates at Fort Washington

At Fort Washington Park ball fields – You’ll know you’re there because you’ll see a set of iron gates. Turn right.

A great way to enjoy this ride while building city cycling skills is to enlist a group of friends. Another confidence booster: This route offers beginning cyclists plenty of services and support.


Hudson River Greenway Blackbook:

Rent a Bike

Bike and Roll – 44th St. at Pier 84 (near the Circle Line). Hourly and daily rentals of every description, including bikes with child carriers and road bikes, plus guided bike tours.

Waterfront Bike Shop – West Street, between Christopher and W. 10th St. Offers rentals, sales and service.

Refuel and Caffeinate

P.D. O’Hurley’s – 44th St. at Pier 84. Seating indoors and out, casual menu. There’s also a concession stand just to the north of the Circle Line terminal.

Pier-i Café – 70th St. Outdoor restaurant and coffee bar. Open May through October. Thereafter, hours dependent upon weather. Faves: Pastries from Balthazar at the coffee bar, and the Old Bay Seasoning French fries at the restaurant.


•    West 12th St. – Free-standing public restroom

•    23rd St. – Inside Chelsea Piers

•    44th St. – Pier 84 to the north of the entrance to Bike and Roll

•    75th St. – Free-standing public restroom

NYC Bike Map

Download the NYC Cycling Path Map 2010.

79th Street Boat Basin - Hudson River
The view north to the 79th Street Boat Basin from the Hudson River Greenway path. photo: velojoy
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  • Wow, this is an amazing comprehensive guide for a beginning cyclist! Great route suggestions and tips, and fantastic resources like the downloadable maps and guides. I also really like the virtual tour you’ve provided with your wonderful photos. Thanks!

  • WOW – this looks like a perfect ride/way to spend a day. Due to a collision face first with the boardwalk at Long Beach – I haven’t ridden in almost two months (fractured eye socket/nerve damage…)I need a really scenic fun ride to get me motivated! THANK YOU FOR SHARING THIS!!!

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