Exploring New York City by bicycle is exhilarating, convenient, and a great workout. It can also be intimidating, even if you’ve been riding for years, and especially if you’re a newbie. But regardless of skill level, some thing are paramount for cyclists: smooth pavement, no cars, and a scenic view
Luckily, there are plenty of routes in the city that fit the bill, and will let you see the concrete jungle from a new perspective. (And thanks to bike-sharing it’s easier than ever to try it out without having your own two wheels.) Whether you are looking to hone your skills or simply see the sights, the list below has something for everyone—one in every borough.
If you’re just getting started, a few tips: Familiarize yourself with the city’s safety initiatives and bicycle laws. While cyclists aren’t legally required to wear helmets, you should do it anyway; there are free bike helmet giveaways and fittings throughout the season.
Don’t know how to ride, but really want to learn? Check out Bike New York’s free classes and workshops throughout the city.
1. Governors Island
New York, NY 11231
Ride length: 2.1 miles roundtrip
What it is: A well-paved, 172-acre island in New York Harbor with (almost) no motor vehicles in sight. The waterfront views of the lower Manhattan skyline, as well as the Statue of Liberty, may actually cause you to rub your eyes in disbelief.
Pro tip: Even if you don’t own a bike, there are Citi Bike docks, and Blazing Saddles Bike Rentals offers bikes, quadracycles, and tandems for those in need. Get there between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. on a weekday and they’ll give you a free one-hour rental.
2. East River Greenway
New York, NY
Ride length: 4.4 miles one way
What it is: Scenic! No traffic lights! Car-free! Bonus points! The East River Greenway boasts Instagram-worthy vistas as it winds below a stretch of the FDR Drive. Enter at South Street and Whitehall Street and head north, and you’ll cycle under three of New York’s most iconic bridges: Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg.
Pro tip: The Greenway extends beyond 37th Street and up to East Harlem, but you’ll need to ride with traffic to circumvent a 1.3-mile gap, so proceed with caution; hop back in the game at 60th Street.
3. Hudson River Park Bikeway
New York, NY
Ride length: 11 miles one way
What it is: The longest greenway in Manhattan is also one of the most trafficked in America, with nearly more than 5,000 riders every day. Its 11 continuous miles are smooth, protected, and filled with landmarks from Battery Park to the George Washington Bridge. This ride is great for visiting out-of-towners or those who are learning how to pedal around the city. (But bear in mind that serious cyclists and commuters use this as a throughway, too.) It’s also part of the East Coast Greenway, a 3,000-mile route that connects Maine to Florida.
Pro tip: An 11-block stretch of the pathway is currently closed above 59th Street; proceed with caution.
4. Old Putnam Trail
Bronx, NY 10471
Ride length: 2 miles one way
What it is: A tree-covered, protected, mostly dirt and grass trailway that takes you from the northern tip of the Bronx into Yonkers. Quite possibly two of the most beautiful miles that exist in this city, you’ll forget that you’re in New York at all. Because it isn’t paved, you’ll want to check the weather the day before, unless you’re looking to get a little muddy; road bikes can totally handle the terrain on dry days.
Pro tip: This route begins midway through Van Cortlandt Park, but if you enter the park at the southwestern tip, you can ride your bike along the running track to the start of the the trail. The best place to enter is at Van Cortlandt Park South and John M. Collins Place.
5. East River State Park to Gantry Plaza State Park
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Ride length: 2.5 miles one way
What it is: This path between Brooklyn and Queens offers an impressive view of the midtown Manhattan skyline when crossing the Pulaski Bridge, and the cityscape only gets better as you ride north. For the best (and most Instagrammable) view, ride over just before dusk, right as the lights of the Chrysler Building and Empire State Building start to come up. You’ll also be able to see the Queensboro Bridge off in the distance.
Pro tip: When leaving East River State Park, take a left onto the Kent Avenue bike path. This lane is separated from cars, but there is often a wayward wanderer (or five) meandering about, so now a good time to get comfortable ringing that bike bell.
6. Astoria Park
Astoria, NY 11105
Ride length: 1.2 miles roundtrip
What it is: A loop circling Astoria Park, running along the East River, that passes under both the Triborough Bridge and the Hell Gate Bridge. Take a minute to take in the view; it is truly spectacular. Aside from the water and the architecture, just across the River is Randall’s Island, home of the Frieze New York art fair and the FDNY training facility.
Pro tip: One of the city’s largest and oldest public pools, a WPA-era gem that dates back to 1936, rests right inside Astoria Park; maybe bring a bathing suit, too.
7. Shore Parkway Greenway to Coney Island
Ride length: 6.5 miles one way
What it is: A concrete and asphalt protected bike path that runs along New York Harbor, under the Verrazano Bridge and down Gravesend Bay. The route takes you to the American Veterans Memorial Pier, to enjoy sweeping views of the the harbor and the longest suspension bridge in America. Before you know it, you’ll be at Coney Island, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones, Nathan’s Famous, and vintage amusements like the Cyclone and the Wonder Wheel.
Pro tip: The best place to enter is at 68th Street and Shore Road, just south of Owl’s Head Park.
8. Staten Island Greenbelt Blue Trail
Staten Island, NY 10301
Ride length: 2.6 miles roundtrip
What it is: A wide forest trail paved largely with crushed gravel, the Staten Island Greenbelt Multi-Purpose Trail is very easy for beginners. The park itself is 2,800 acres—over three times the area of Central Park—and has over 35 miles of hiking trails through wet woodlands, wildflower terrain, and an upland forest. After your ride, check out nearby Historic Richmond Town, a neighborhood that has historic buildings and sites that date back to the 17th century.
Pro tip: The best points of entry are Forest Hill Road and Richmond Avenue, or Forest Hill Road and Rockland Avenue. If you’re taking your bike on the Staten Island Ferry, you’ll have to board on the boat’s lower level.