New York on Bicycling Mag's list of Best cities for cycling

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Anonymous's picture

"The latest issue of Bicycling Magazine has its annual Best Cities for Bicycling issue, and New York is listed at #3. I was surprised that it was listed at all, or not listed as one of the worst. So I started thinking about the reasons why and why not rank it so well.

Pros: Great bike culture here, with nationally known organizations like TA & Recycle a Bicycle, great bike clubs, one of the largest bike tours in the world, the bicycle film festival. All of these things that make NYC a great place to bike stem from the cyclists themselvs. There's a cool greenway system, which is government-sponsored.

Cons: Well, you know. The city's indifference to, and frequent hostility towards cyclists. There's the crackdown on critical mass, which has ensnared many cyclists who weren't even participating (and who got their bikes confiscated); there's the wink 'n nod approach to traffic enforcement, especially double parking in bike lanes. The refusal to ticket drivers for infractions that hurt or kill cyclists; seizing parked & locked bikes; ticketing business owners for bikes locked in front of their establishments. The ticket blitzes in which cyclists receive tickets for not having bells, and tickets for imaginary traffic infractions. Then there's the building & property owners who discourage commuting by banning bikes inside most office buildings. Heck, a high-ranking NYPD official here even got the magazine's ""wheelsucker of the month"" award last year. How did Bicycling Magazine overlook all these things?

New York is ranked just behind Chicago, which has a similar bike culture to ours, but a government that is MUCH more pro-cycling than ours.

So, sound off, does NYC deserve the ranking that Bicycling gave it?"

Anonymous's picture
Robert Shay (not verified)
NYC tri-state area....

I've ridden for years in NY, Chicago, LA, and Baltimore, MD. NY and the surrounding tri-state area is by far the best area - no question. It has well organized groups of bicycle enthusiasts and the terrain within cycling distance ranges from flats to mountains.

Anonymous's picture
rb (not verified)

I agree, 3rd is a joke - and that stupid 'Bicyling' ranking changes every year with the wind. Riding on the other side of the GWB (and Westchester) is nice, but, depending on where you live, takes 45 min.+ of city junk miles and potholed hell(through you're above-mentioned hassles) to get there. X 2, that's 1-1/2 hrs of your ride. the main thing the city has going for it are the 2 parks, and the ability to ride in them before or after work (and that's certainly not exclusive to this city). As cycling cities, Portland, Denver, Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, are just a few I can think of that blow NY away.

Anonymous's picture
DvB (not verified)
Third? Yeah, sounds reasonable . . .

". . . if the universe of ranked cities comprises only metropolises in the upper-Mid-Atlantic region of the East Coast of the United States.

I mean, aside from the crud weather nearly six months of the year, insane motorists, beyond-aggressive cab drivers, incredible congestion, the total lack of a place in Manhattan to ride at speed save the same boring six miles of rollerblader/stroller purgatory, pervasive theft, and an apathetic local government, it's great.

Bicycling Magazine . . . well, I'm sure they're nice guys, but, well, let's just say this isn't the first time they've been so wrong that it's just plain comical. I've lived in NYC for five years now; I plan on moving this year partly to escape a place that I feel is a sorry excuse for a ""cycling city."" I lived in DC for five years prior to NYC and -- in matters pertaining to cycling -- DC was markedly better in nearly every way. Of course, I'm talking about actually riding a bicycle here, not enjoying ancillary ""benefits"" like film festivals and large bike tours.

Hope I get to do River Road this weekend. Can't wait for the half-hour, hope-I-don't-get-hit-by-a-bus-or-someone-opening-his-car-door slog up Riverside, the run through the gauntlet near Columbia Presbyterian, and -- of course -- the sound of my cleats as I carry my steed up and down the pedestrian steps of the GW bridge. Ah, paradise.

They say you don't leave NYC, rather, it kicks you out. Well, okay, I get it. I know when I'm not wanted.


P.S. On a lighter note, I thought I'd share that my post was halted due to my use of a ""profane"" synonym for feces. You know, the one that rhymes with ""wrap."" Hence my use of the highly unsatisfying ""crud"" above. Gave me a smile."

Anonymous's picture
Ivy (not verified)
I am the best cyclist in New York City!*

"How did they define ""city""? Is there a population threshold? Did they take into consideration only riding within the official city limits, or was nearby riding also taken into account? What was the basis for their ranking (e.g., quality of roads, bike lanes, cycling clubs, bike ""culture"", cyclist fatality rate, etc.)? It's hard to assess the ranking without more information about the methodology.

*Sample size restricted to women born on October 17th who live on West 89th Street and like to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast."

Anonymous's picture
John Z (not verified)
Good Point

NYC was third best city with a population over 1 million. Per the 2000 census, there are only 9 American city with a population over 1 million:

1 New York
2 Los Angeles
3 Chicago
4 Houston
5 Philadelphia
6 Phoenix
7 San Diego
8 Dallas
9 San Antonio

Anonymous's picture
April (not verified)
Even better then

"If that's the definition of ""city"", where does San Francisco fit in? How about other ""non-city"" such as Boston, Seatle, Altanta, Pittsburgh, Washington DC, which are all ""smaller"" than San Diego???

Still, it's great to know NY comes out 3 out of 9 and beats LA, the quintecential ""auto-city""!

Such a joke ""Bicycling"" is."

Anonymous's picture
John Z (not verified)

"Apparently, Bicycling Magazine simply used the same definition of ""city"" (over 1 million) as the Census Bureau. These I provided above. If you are interested in the largest ""metropolitan areas"" these are following:

1 New York--Northern New Jersey--Long Island, NY--NJ--CT--PA
2 Los Angeles--Riverside--Orange County, CA
3 Chicago--Gary--Kenosha, IL--IN--WI
4 Washington--Baltimore, DC--MD--VA--WV
5 San Francisco--Oakland--San Jose, CA
6 Philadelphia--Wilmington--Atlantic City, PA--NJ--DE--MD
7 Boston--Worcester--Lawrence, MA--NH--ME--CT
8 Detroit--Ann Arbor--Flint, MI
9 Dallas--Fort Worth, TX

Note the top three do not change and this list is in factor more arguable than ""city"" which is actually definable.

Anonymous's picture
rb (not verified)

it's a good thing they limited it to:
1. cities over 1 million, NOT COUNTING surrounding urban area.
2. American cities, and not 'North American'

Anonymous's picture
Carol (not verified)

I received an email from Bicycling Mag letting us know about the ranking and including a press release. Here's a portion of the PR that describes their criteria:

To determine its list of the top 21 U.S. cycling cities, Bicycling started with a list of more than 250 cities and determined the winners and finalists using criteria that weighed factors such as:

· “Cycling-friendly” statistics (numbers of bike lanes and routes, number of bike racks, city bike projects completed and planned)

· Bike culture (number of bike commuters, popular clubs, cool cycling events, renowned bike shops)

· Climate/geography (the quality of roads and trails for riding, and how frequently mother nature lets riders enjoy them)

Bicycling also surveyed experts at national bicycle groups such as the League of American Bicyclists, the Thunderhead Alliance and the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA), while also polling more than 600 Bicycling readers.

“Rankings such as ours often provoke a lot of debate, which is understandable and, actually, welcome,” said Madden. “Because the riding conditions and levels of cycling enthusiasm in these cities are so outstanding, they all deserve to gain some recognition as America’s biking treasures.

“But the selection of Portland as the country’s best city for cycling turned out to be maybe the easiest part of this process for us. It’s been the top U.S. city in each of our previous three rankings (2001, 1999 and 1995), and cycling has only continued to improve there. The number of cyclists has tripled over the past ten years, city traffic congestion is down because of it, and it’s the only urban area that’s been able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the past four years (which they’ve done significantly) while national levels have risen 17%.”

Portland and nearby Eugene give Oregon two entries on the Best Cycling Cities list, a number matched by Arizona (Phoenix and Tucson) and Colorado (Boulder and Denver). California had three cities (San Diego, Davis and San Francisco) represented on the list, the most of any state.

Anonymous's picture
rb (not verified)

Thanks, Carol - judging by all the misinformation on this message board, you'da thought they gave the criteria in the magazine. (I haven't seen it). 3rd of 250?. I don't think so.

Anonymous's picture
Christy Guzzetta (not verified)
NYC #1

Right, Bicycling Magazine is all wrong ranking NYC as the 3rd best cycling city in the country.

NYC is number 1!

Anonymous's picture
john grandits (not verified)
great cycling city

NYC is a great cycling city. There's not much that can match the thrill of flying down 7th ave through time sq, racing in central park, and being in complete isolation on hills like bradley, tweed, etc. Where else can you find more intensity/energy than New York. I understand that riding through traffic can be nerve racking, but it's great for handling skills, and cars/cabs here are more aware of cyclists than in most places. In addition to traditional cycling we have a great messenger scene. I worked as a messenger for yr and it was a great experience. Have nothing but respect for most of the people....they know how to ride. This industry is often overlooked by traditional cyclists.

Anonymous's picture
Naima (not verified)
I agree! (nm)
Anonymous's picture
Carl Kulo (not verified)
New York on Bicycling Mag's list of Best cities for cycling

"I think NYC well deserves #3. First off, NYC is not in the same population category as better cycling cities like Portland and Vancouver. I've tried to ride around places like Atlanta and Houston and it's just auto-sprawl hell.

Second, the option we have of riding from Manhattan to ocean or mountains (while maybe not the same caliber as LA or SF) is still quite possible in even a days ride. As for the many riders who have to ride through ""crap"" to get to good rides - this would be true in any large American city. We, however, have subways and commuter trains that usually allow us to bypass these areas if we so choose.

And NY's urban light makes it more possible to ride at night here, than just about anywhere.

Finally, I have been awed many times by riding from places like Hook Mtn and Bear Mtn, or the ferry ride back from Atlantic Highlands after mountain biking in Hartshorn and Sandy Hook, and then ending up back at one of the most photogenic skylines in the world! Awesome!

FYI, I am a daily bike commuter on the West Side Bike Path.

Anonymous's picture
chris o (not verified)
Why not

I don't have many cities to compare it to. Certainly in Portland and Seattle cyclists receive greater respect from the general public and drivers. But here we have some great things, namely Central Park, the West Side Greenway, and River Road.

I can do a 40-mile round trip to the Alpine station in Palisades Park where, using CP and the Greenway, almost the only time I am in traffic is crossing town from the east side to the west side.

I can cross the following bridges by bike: George Washington, Henry Hudson, Broadway, Triborough, Williamsburg (I liked the bumps (jumps)), Manhattan, Brooklyn and a host of others. I can take the East side greenway to the 103rd St. foot bridge (or when closed to the Triborough bridge near 125th St.) and ride around Randall's Island for a couple of hours. From here, I can dip into the Bronx, Queens (3 stairwells - cyclocross!), and Manhattan via bike paths on the bridges.

And alas, I can get some thrills driving through, with and around traffic. Where else can you ride through one of the great parks in the world, with greenery, scenery, and horseshit, veer to the right, and and in seconds be riding down 7th Ave. into one of the most famous if gauche places in the world: Times Square.

Anonymous's picture
Rich (not verified)

Sure, NYC has some nice places to ride, great clubs, etc. But lots of cities have nice places to ride nearby. There are other places with less traffic, nice scenery, and far fewer suburbs to traverse before reaching a REAL rural area. I've lived elsewhere also, as have some other posters here, and I think that being a cyclist in NYC is less easy than other places I've lived.

I guess the question is why rank NYC up there with other cities whose GOVERNMENTS do a lot more on behalf of cyclists, whose GOVERNMENTS lack the schizophrenic, love-hate relationship with cyclists that the NYC Gov. has with cyclists here? I wonder if other cities mentioned in the rankings have police departments that clip locks and seize bikes? Or allow motorists to park on bike paths and bike lanes?

Anonymous's picture
todd b. (not verified)
nyc #1

for all of the reasons previously mentioned, i too feel nyc is just an incredible place to be a cyclist. somebody posted earlier about the ability to ride at night here. this point should not be ignored. there is probably no other american city where riding after dark is the safest, most interesting and just plain fun. in most other places you better have a really good light system in order to see where you're going and to be seen, whereas in the city that never sleeps, there's no need for any elaborate stuff (maybe a blinky light in you choose).

another great cycling aspect to nyc: critical mass! TONIGHT, 7:00 pm union square (no lights needed, although required by law).

Anonymous's picture
Isaac Brumer (not verified)
NYC and Cycling

"Having traveled extensively around the US, I'm with Bicycling on the NYC area's higher ranking.

An example of why: I've been spending lots of time in suburban Philly and noticed several things: 1. Roads (outside Philly) are either narrow with no shoulders or 4-6 lanes, still with no shoulders. Neighborhoods are often of the ""bunch of culs-de-sac"" nature, where you can't bike/drive through them, so all traffic (cyclists included) are forced onto the above roads. Many intersections are signed ""no pedestrians"" (which essentially takes away the right of way for peds crossing) which betrays a ""cars first, cars only"" official mentality. I see few cyclists. Spoke with someone who is active in a club and she explained that the members do not ride in the area, rather they drive quite a distance to ride elsewhere.

I've seen a whole lot worse. ""Sprawl"" metropolises, where the primary means of transportation is the car, and the geography reflects it. Few people with choices live inside the traditional city, no one with choice travels any other way than by car.

Contrast with the ""not too crazy"" interconnecting side streets in the boroughs or the laid back (or at least well shouldered) and interconnected roads of Bergen and Rockland). People with means and choices actually choose to live in the city, and the primary means of getting around is not the private car. The streets of NYC, designed for horses and buggies, actually serves to moderate the impact of car traffic, as well. Then there's the presence of a ""critical mass"" of recreational, discretionary, necessity, working and activist cyclists who provide safety in numbers as well as a voice in the public square."

Anonymous's picture
John Z (not verified)


As a long time resident of both Philadelphia, in my opinion your observations are incorrect. First, let me ask what part of suburban Philadelphia are you familiar with. If, for example all one knew about the New York suburbs was Nassau County, say Levittown, one's cycling experience would not be very representative of the entire region.

Anyway, I have been thinking about the Philadelphia - New York comparison for cycling so here it is.

When I first moved to Manhattan from Philadelphia (I was born in New York City, grew up on Long Island's North Shore), by single biggest concern was accessibility to quality cycling. So, right away, with specific knowledge of Philadelphia but only general knowledge of New York, I had concerns that I would not be able to enjoy the wonderful cycling experience Philadelphia has to offer.

1) Given that Philadelphia is a smaller city with much less suburban sprawl (New York City is in fact the most ""sprawling"" city in the US), it is quite easy to get outside the city with few junk miles. Since the city is situated on a peninsula and the Schuylkill River is easily crossed (the lower Delaware River, the Hudson River is not), cyclists have many more options for leaving the city. During the week, New York Cyclists are essentially dependent upon Central Park, Prospect Park and River Road. Not so in Philadelphia. There is also technical mountain biking in Fairmount Park -- legally. So, on ""accessibility to quality cycling,"" Philadelphia wins hands down.

2) Once outside the city, the Philadelphia suburbs (Delaware, Montgomery, Chester, Bucks County) offer better cycling than the immediate New York suburbs of Bergen, Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk Counties. The roads are in better condition, the counties are less densely populated, there are fewer cars and the drivers are honestly less hostile to cyclists.

3) Exurban Cycling. Here, it depend upon what kind of cycling you enjoy. If you prefer rolling farmland with endless back roads, covered bridges and general quaintness, South East Pennsylvania wins. If you prefer more mountainous cycling, then Putnam, Orange, Duchess counties and the Catskill is superior. New York also gets a plus hear because these areas are readily accessible by public transportation.

4) Organizations. Both cities are well represented by a variety of organizations, both in the city and in the suburbs. Draw.

5) Bicycle Culture. Up until recently, Philadelphia offered North America's most prestigious bicycle race, a world-class event truly supported by all in the city, cyclist or not. Internal politics have put this race in jeopardy, but the race has the full support of the mayor and PA's governor. There are other more subtle indicators that Philadelphia has a more engaged cycling community. Retail tells a lot, and all the other ""top"" cycling cities have at least one Performance Cycling retail store. I am not endorsing Performance Cycling, but for some reason Performance Cycling does not have a retail presence in New York. There are six Performance stores in/around San Diego, three in Chicago, two in Philadelphia. None in and around New York. The only conclusion I can draw is that Performance Bicycle does not see New York as a viable retail outlet. Honestly, my personal observation, not only comparing New York to Philadelphia but to several other cities I am familiar with as well (San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle), is that niche groups notwithstanding (Crit Mass) and 30,000 participant bicycle traffic jams, cycling as recreation is underrepresented in New York compared to other major cities further evidenced by police hostility toward cyclists.

6) Conclusion. The average cyclist would find Philadelphia a much more pleasant cycling experience than New York City. Others, with specific niche interests, would find New York a more ""interesting"" experience."

Anonymous's picture
Tony Rentschler (not verified)
Main Line rides


I grew up in Berwyn, but moved away just after graduating from high school. As a kid, I rode my bike all over the place, but never as an ""adult"" cyclist.

Do you have any favorite routes/rides in Chester county? My father lives in Paoli, but I never take my bike when I visit because I really wouldn't know where to ride there anymore. I know there's a bike trail running from Philadelphia to Valley Forge (and I think it has even been extended to Phoenixville), but that's about it.

What clubs do you know of/recommend in that area which might have nice ride libraries?


Anonymous's picture
John Z (not verified)


I lived in Berwyn for about a half dozen years after I graduated from Villanova. I first became interested in cycling when living there. I still maintain a strong relationship with Bean's Bikes in Paoli. In fact, we had a mechanical yesterday on our ride to New Hope and a quick call to Sean at Bean's Bikes provided directions to a shop in Princeton for repairs.

You are correct about the bike trail from Valley Forge to Center City, which is now complete all the way to Schuykill River Park, near where I lived in Center City. I am not sure about the west end toward Phoenxville now, but there was a dirt section from Valley Forge to Pawlings Road that was passable to road bikes. More can be found here Schuylkill River Trail.

As for routes around Paoli, how far are you looking to ride? One option is a southern loop past Ridley Creek Park (too bad the spring on Bishop Hollow Road is now closed) then out to Chadd's Ford area and back. Another is west into the heart of Chester County. The out-back from Paoli to Philadelphia is actually quite nice as well."

Anonymous's picture
Tony Rentschler (not verified)
Small world

It's very encouraging that you were able to sustain your enthusiasm for cycling while there - that speaks well of the area. As Isaac notes, many of the roads are narrow, and the busy ones would be no fun for cycling. However, many are simply not busy!

I will see if I can check out Bean's on my next visit.

I usually go down just two or three times a year, and only for a day or two at a time, so short rides are in order. My idea is to take a folding or speedily-packed demountable bike down on the Amtrak train and use that for my rides. Thanks for the ride tips - I'll make a point to investigate them in the near future.

Anonymous's picture
Isaac (not verified)

A: Montgomery-Bucks

cycling trips