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Anonymous's picture

I recently moved to the east side from Oregon, where I used to commute to work by bicycle. I am curious to know if bike commuting is feasible and popular in NYC. My commute isn't all that long -- about 30 blocks -- but I am wondering if traffic and parking will make it more trouble than it is worth.

Also if anyone has thoughts about how I get onto the east side bike path from the east 50s I'd live to know -- I have seen people biking along the fdr highway but haven't been able to figure out how to get on the path.


Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
Some tips

"I have been commuting since May and could give you a few tips but it would be easier by phone. Send me your number if you like, and a time to call during the day.

Note that there is no bike path on the east side from about 35th St. to 63rd, because of the UN. If you have to go south on Second Ave., stay on the right side until you pass the 59th St. bridge traffic. Same thing as you approach the entrance to the Queens Midtown tunnel around 37th St.

The ""Resources"" page on the NYCC site also has a lot of information."

Anonymous's picture
Sarah (not verified)
Me too!

I am interested in the same topic and would frankly love to hear tips from veteran commuters (incl. what thoughts they have on what kind of bike, if any, is ideal for commuting). I realize a phone call might be easier for some of this but I bet there's a wide audience for this info so here's a vote for trying to put the tips on the message board.

Thank you in advance.

Anonymous's picture
Christian Edstrom (not verified)

"I think the perfect commuter is an older road bike, preferably 1980's Japanese or American tourer or sport-tourer, with braze-ons for a rack and fenders, and using ""standard-reach"" eg 47mm-57mm brake calipers.

These bikes will have room for fenders under the brake calipers with up to 622mm/28mm (700c x 28) tires, and will allow you to easily mount a rack.

Additionally, these bikes will typically have horizontal drop-outs, which will allow you to run it either fixed, single-speed, derailleur, or hubgear.

Bikes to look for are:

Miyata 1000, 615GT, 610, 310, 215ST
Univega Gran Turismo
Fuji Touring or Finest
Trek 520, 620, 410 (actually most Treks from 1980-1986)
Specialized Sequoia (1981-85) and Expedition
Bridgestone RB-T

Most of these are old enough and unfashionable enough to be cheap and don't scream ""quality bike!"" to thieves. But, especially prior to 1985, when it was 250Y to the dollar (instead of the current 110), Japanese bikes were amazing values -- double butted tubing, forged aluminum components, light weight, good paint.

And to echo everyone else, lock that bike up safely, preferably inside. Even if you only spend $150 on a commuting bike, you'll spend some time to set it up just so, and the frustration of losing it will be high!

I love these old bikes, so feel free to ask away!

- Christian"

Anonymous's picture
Judith Tripp (not verified)
Accessing the East River path from the 50s

You either have to go to 63rd Street, or to 37th Street.

Anonymous's picture
Isaac Brumer (not verified)

"Welcome to NYC! Yes, bike commuting is possible and popular here. First stop: ""TA"" is NYC's leading advocacy for cyclists and offers links and resources for commuting. Also, pick up a NYC bike map for preferred routes. The bikeway is not contiguous, so expect to ride in traffic."

Anonymous's picture
Andrew Jackson (not verified)

Not sure where you're going to on the E side, but I commute from 32nd/2nd down 2nd to Houston; there is traffic but it's tolerable and it's much much quicker than going off 2nd at 37th and getting on the bike path. Just a thought.

Ask your building / office manager if there is a place to store bikes while you're at work. If you have to lock it up outside, remember not give any potential thieves a reason to look twice at your bike. No quick release anything, nothing shiny, etc. Get a bike with as few moving parts as possible to increase durability-- I think single speeds are ideal for commuting here. There's a reason all the messengers have single speeds or fixies wrapped with electrical tape or spray painted pink.

For instance, I commute daily using a 1982 Raleigh that's been converted from a three speed hub to a single speed. The street value, without the three speed hub, is about $15. I lock it up outside, including at nights near my apartment, with a kryptonite lock. I am able to stash it behind some boxes at work and nobody seems to care.

Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
I second the single-speed

"I got a Specialized track bike in May to commute to work, Midtown to downtown, about five miles each way. Since then I have ridden the subway five times total. By November my bike will have paid for itself.

Bike commuting is absolutely the best way to get around town! Except during a snowstorm or downpour. I don't know what I'll do when winter comes around--maybe turn to more seasoned commuters for advice.

My bike has a freewheel on one side of the rear wheel and a fixed gear on the other. I will only use the single for riding in traffic, as it seems too dangerous otherwise. The bike has a front and rear brake, and I use them both.

The track bike is a good choice for commuting because it's fast and FUN, has few stealable components, and is easy to keep clean. I used to have a heavy beater bike, but hated riding it and so never did.

For short visits I lock the frame and rear wheel to a post with a heavy chain and American lock, and for long visits I also secure the front wheel to the frame with a Krypto cable. Neither lock is impregnable.

Two-way streets can be crazy, but traffic doesn't move as fast. On one-way streets, I prefer riding on the left side, it's easier to make contact with drivers and make sure they see you. (Always assume they don't.)

I talk and gesture to drivers and pedestrians a lot, and generally try to be courteous, as they behave better when they see you as a human being, not a damn bicyclist. I will take a whole or half lane when necessary but don't hog the road when it's not. Drivers get enraged when they think you are being spiteful.

When drivers do stupid things (like swerve into the bike lane when I'm in it), I catch up with them at a light and say something like, ""Do you know you almost hit me back there? You should be more careful."" Even if they deny seeing you or try some other evasive measure, most people have a conscience and might even think about it next time. The psychopaths we can do nothing about.

Unless they're driving in a professional capacity, in which case you are morally obligated to report them. When seriously and deliberately threatened by such a driver, memorize the license plate number (I say it over and over to myself until I can write it down), and notice the time of day and the location. As soon as you get home, go to the Taxi & Limousine Commission Web site. Describe the incident objectively as you can; filling out the complaint form will take you about 10 minutes. They will send you a court date by mail; you can count on spending about two hours for the hearing. Take a long lunch break and do your civic duty.

Obviously, for reasons of time and fairness, going to TLC court isn't something you want to do for every minor infraction. However, I have gone twice over the past three years to report cab drivers who were clearly trying to intimidate me and ""teach me a lesson"" and who stood to do me (or someone else) grave bodily harm.

In both cases, on relatively empty avenues these drivers came up behind me and honked, and then passed at very close distance. One of them did it at high speed--and did it twice. That guy, who was renting the cab by the day from New Jersey, never showed for the hearing, and his license was suspended: good riddance. The other guy got a lecture and had to pay a few hundred dollars in fines--not enough to put him out of business (which he didn't deserve), but enough to give him a reason to be more courteous. ""Bikes have a right to use the streets,"" the judge told him.

On another instance, I simply called the limousine service manager and asked him to talk to the driver about respecting the rights of bicyclists, saying I didnt want to go the TLC. He thanked me for calling and said he would do so.

Of course I am not always so calm and collected, but bike commuting is even teaching me a little patience."

Anonymous's picture
Yogi (not verified)
Some basics about commuting in NYC.

Use a cheap beater/ used bike (so you won’t be too upset when they steal it) if you have to lock it outside.

Use 2 different kinds of lock. Put a piece of paper with your name and address in the seat tube in case the cops recover your bike.(yeah right!)

Quick release items are quickly gone. They’ll steal the air out of your tires if they need it.

Crowded places does NOT equal secure parking.

Don’t leave bike unattended for even 5 seconds, bike are stolen in City Parks all the time when people turn their backs. I was in a bike shop on 6th Ave and 15th street years ago when someone toke off with a customer’s bike that he had INSIDE the store.

Having said all that, bike commuting in NYC is the fastest, cheapest, and healthiest(?) way to get around town. If it’s a 30 blocks commute, I might walk for 20 minutes rather than bike for 5/10 minutes, but it’s nice to have the option.

I find one way streets safer to go across town. Always go with traffic, but expect food delivery bikes to come at you from all direction, even when on foot. Car doors/ and drivers who don’t see you are your most dangerous hazards.

Enjoy, It’s a blast!

Anonymous's picture
Megan Smith (not verified)

If your location in the East 50s is close enough to the Park, you can always zip across on the lower loop, exit at Columbus Circle, head down West 60th then zigzag to West 59th (I would avoid West 60th like the plague) downhill to the Greenway, you'll have a very pleasant, almost carless and certainly less stressful ride than the usual midtown shlep. I commute this route in the opposite direction from Penn Station every morning and wouldn't change for the world. Lots of folding bikes---Bromptons, etc.,---and the majority of riders are commuting. The only temptation is to keep going up the Greenway on nice days!

Anonymous's picture
Wayne Wright (not verified)
More NYC Bike Commuting Tips

I've been bike commuting in NYC since around 1990 or 1991. I think the hardest part to solve is where to safely leave your bike while you're at the office. Aside from that, I suggest you avoid the bike path and stick to the streets. The West Side path, for example, is fraught with bladers, tourists and other peds, all of whom are far less predictable than car traffic is.

Here are some other tips you may find useful:

Stay to the left on one-way streets and avenues. Drivers can maneuver around you more easily, and you’re less likely to get doored since you're adjacent to the passenger side of parked cars. Plus, bus traffic on avenues sticks to the right.

Don’t skirt the edges of a street or avenue. Keep at least an open car door’s width between you and the line of parked cars. If you're near the edge, drivers are too likely to take chances on getting around you and you might get side-swiped. Establish position in the middle of a lane and don't let drivers intimidate you into yielding that position.

Never squeeze between a double-parked vehicle and a line of parked cars. Go around the outside of the double parker.

Go slowly in stand-still traffic. It’s full of surprises.

Treat red lights like yield signs, BEING ABSOLUTELY SURE TO YIELD TO PEDESTRIANS WHO HAVE THE LIGHT IN THEIR FAVOR. Once crossing traffic has cleared, it’s safer to take off before the light changes, making it easier to establish position in a lane again. (This is a traffic violation, punishable by a $100 fine)

If you see a cab’s roof light go on, beware – they’re about to let out a fare – expect a door to open.

Ignore vehicle turn (or lack of turn) signals – watch the car’s front tires, which always point where the car is going.

Pedestrians are the biggest threat to city cyclists. They are very unpredictable and tend to listen for traffic, not look for it. Make yourself heard – yell ‘heads up’, bark like a dog, etc

I hope this helps, and good luck!

Anonymous's picture
Bob Mirell (not verified)

"I've just started commuting and its the only way to go. I live in the east 70's and have my business is on West 34th and 10th. Being host to the GOP convention 2 blocks from me was the inspiration for an alternate means of transportation. Cabs will be scarce at best and even if one is found, the trip could last an hour getting thru traffic. I go thru the park at 72nd straight thru to the west side bike path. Riding along the Hudson river is beautiful and calming. Passing the Intrepid and Carnival cruise ships takes my breath away. I invested in a Dahon folding bike because my building doesnt allow conventional bikes in the elevators. The bike weighs a mere 17 pounds and folds/unfold in 30 seconds. It has 8 gears (12-32 cassette and a 53 chain ring on the front) and I can comfortably cruise at 16-18mph. I'm 6'3"" and weigh 205 and its still a stable feel. I carry it folded to the elevator and nobody has anything to say about it. I bought a shoulder bag that the bike fits into in case the building complained about the bike even folded, but havent used it and havent had a problem. Its like carrying a small suitcase onto the elevator...nobody cares. In another three weeks the bike will be paid for by saving cab fare. It's a no-brainer."

Anonymous's picture
Isaac Brumer (not verified)

Bob, I've been wondering about a shoulder bag for Dahons. Where did you get it?

Anonymous's picture
Bob Mirell (not verified)
Folding bike bag


The shoulder bag is made by Dahon and I bought it and the bike from Glenn at Piermont Bike. It has a shoulder strap and folds up inside itself to convert to a belly bag that wraps around your waist when you're riding. Or it can hang from the handlebar or saddle. I think it was $40 or so.

Anonymous's picture
Ivy (not verified)
Agree to disagree?

Sorry Wayne, but I have to disagree with your assessment of the greenway/bike path on the West Side. I take the path from the UWS to Chambers Street. Before 9 a.m. on weekday mornings the path is mostly occupied by fellow bike commuters. On winter mornings the path is positively deserted. In the afternoon it is a bit more hairy, especially on warm, sunny days. Still, it is servicable and IMO preferable to City streets.

That said, like Central Park, it is to be avoided at all costs on the weekends.

If you call 311 you can request a free copy of the NYC Cycling Map. A lot of bike shops stock them, too.

Anonymous's picture
Evan Marks (not verified)
>> watch the car's front tires <<

"Beware of ""spinner"" hubcaps that continue spinning when the car stops (or sometimes do NOT spin when the car starts) - after you've seen them a few times you get used to them but initially they disrupt your intuitive sense of whether or not a car is moving."

cycling trips