NYC Newbie needs some help

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Anonymous's picture

Ok, so I just move out to New York from the Desolate Waste (Montana) for Grad school. I am desperately in need of tips for surviving a ride in the City. Tips for enjoying the ride would be good to but Im just letting you know that my expectations are low, especially cause I'm new to road riding. I live in the middle of Manhatten, so suggestions for good rides would also be appreciated.

Anonymous's picture
George (not verified)
Welcome to the Big Apple

Fox, it might be a good idea to slowly acclimate yourself to city riding. Try the Greenway on the West Side and Central Park (especially during the 'carless' periods). You may have to share the road with runners, dog walkers and other cyclists (of all abilities) but it's a good way to get started before you start vying for road space with taxis, buses and trucks. Join a club ride and get out of the city and get some miles under your belt on the road. As you become more experienced and comfortable on a road bike, the (Big) Sky is the limit (yes, the pun was intended... sorry, it's genetic).


Anonymous's picture
Joe (not verified)

"If you are riding with clipless pedals, learn to clip in and out instantly BEFORE you get on the NYC streets. Prop your bike against a wall and practice.

Ride early (6 a.m.) and ride late (8 p.m.). Avoid rush hours until you get more accustomed to traffic.

Slow down in traffic. Find a speed at which you are comfortable, then slow down another 2-3 mph. I find that I have many more close calls when I am ""speeding."" Slowing down gives you more time to react to the unexpected.

It will be winter soon. Get a loud bell or horn to warn pedestrians. Buy a bunch of lights.

Manhatten? Learn to use spellcheck. Your professors will appreciate it."

Anonymous's picture
Wayne Wright (not verified)

Start by riding in Central Park, and riding on city streets to get there and back. The West Side Greenway is nice, but it's teeming with unpredictability. Car traffic is actually more predictable than the mix of walkers, skaters, dogs and other cyclists on the Greenway. Other suggestions:

- Ride in the left-most lane on avenues and to the left on one-way streets.

- Don't skirt the edges of a street or avenue; establish position in a lane and hold your ground.

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

- ALWAYS yield to pedestrians.

- Treat redlights like yield signs.

- Make yourself heard. Pedestrians tend to listen for traffic instead of looking for it.

Anonymous's picture
Sienna (not verified)
left side

Wayne, I've always ridden on the right. Why the left side?

Anonymous's picture
Evan Marks (not verified)
Improving your odds

Ever notice how close some drivers pass when you're on the right? That's because they have no idea where the right side of the car is, so no idea where you are.

If you're on the left they have at least a vague idea.

Anonymous's picture
fendergal (not verified)

"One reason to ride on the left side is that buses usually stay on the right. Best to avoid buses; they have a habit of speeding up to pass you, then slamming on the brakes for a stop. That's a classic maneuver that drivers of all stripes do time and time again. (I think it's because they misjudge a cyclist's speed.)

Look for clues as to what people (whether drivers or pedestrians) will do next. Is the car slowing down, and the driver seems lost? Expect that car to make the unsignaled turn. Has a taxi pulled over? Look for the passenger door to fling open. Is a pedestrian talking on a cell phone? Don't expect them to look up when crossing the street.

Also, if you're going to pick a path in between pedestrians, try to do it so their back is to you (meaning, walking away from you). There's less chance they'll see you and get startled, and do the ""deer in the headlights"" reaction.

Another classic New York situation: you're flying down an avenue, the light is still green for you, but the wave of traffic has passed, and pedestrians start crossing the street. They're looking only for cars, and don't see you the cyclist. No point in getting PO'd at the pedestrians. Just pick your way around them the best you can, without endangering yourself or others.

And wear a helmet!"

Anonymous's picture
Hannah (not verified)
fewer car doors

If you ride to the right, you have maximum exposure to the possibility of parked car doors opening, since every car has a driver. Not every car has a passenger, so you have less chance of being doored if you're on the left side of the road and thus the right side of parked cars.

That said, on relatively lightly trafficked one-way streets I tend to weave back and forth so that at intersections I'm not in the way of turning vehicles.


Anonymous's picture
Sienna (not verified)

Thanks for the explanations; that all makes sense.

Let me add my own tip regarding a different situation. My nearest-death experience came when I was on a cross street, rushing to get through a light on Madison that had just turned red, as a taxi was coming down Madison, not stopping, anticipating the green. Since we were both going through red, it would have been hard to say who was at fault... but it wouldn't have mattered much...

Anonymous's picture
don montalvo (not verified)
a few more

i used to take summers off to ride. did some messenger work during that time to make a few bucks (fixie, no brakes). learned a lot about surviving on the streets. here are a few more:

- be aware of what's going on all around you...make it a habit to look left/right/back

- look drivers in the eye...use your arms to get thier attention if you can

- when there's a double parked car ahead, first look back to see what the traffic situation is...then signal to the upcoming drivers that you're about to begin veering out...hold your line (and stay far enough out so you don't get doored by the idiot in the double parked car)...then slowly veer back.

- friendly waves to drivers gets you brownie points

- vehicles are bigger than you are...never take unnecessary risk

- don't be afraid to tap on a car that comes too close to get the driver's attention...they usually apologise once you get thier attention


Anonymous's picture
Rob (not verified)
getting started cycling in New York

You might want to look up your school's cyclng team. NYU and Columbia both have big ones, if you're attending one of those schools.

Anonymous's picture
Ron Gentile (not verified)

Here are two websites with lots of concise, useful information for those new to cycling in traffic:

Anonymous's picture
carl (not verified)
rides beyond NYC

No one mentioned it directly, but do join some of the weekend NYCC rides. Or if you do your own, you can get to suprisingly great riding just across the GWB and up the Palisades (US 9W, River Road) and up to Piermont, Nyack and beyond.
Many of us car-less NY'ers also use the train,to get to some very beautiful and challenging riding up the Hudson Valley (Bear Mt, Storm King Hwy, Harriman, Cold Spring), upper Westchester and nearby CT. The Rides library gives you a sense of lots of these rides

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