10 Tips On Riding A Bike In New York City

Though officials are tight-lipped, rumor has it that New York City‘s much-anticipated Citi Bike share program will launch this month. As we previously reported, Citi Bike will provide residents and tourists with the opportunity to borrow from 10,000 bikes parked in 600 stations scattered across Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. Pricing for the privately run system will range from $9.95 for a 24-hour pass to $95 for an annual membership.

While Citi Bike is a welcome addition to New York’s transportation scene, tourists might be wary of tackling the streets of Manhattan, and for good reason. Between bumpy roads, unclear signage, reckless taxicabs and texting pedestrians, the city’s streets are not for the faint of heart.

But once you get over the initial fear, New York can be a magical place to explore on two wheels. We spoke with a handful of avid city cyclists, who shared their tips for staying safe while making the most of your bike share experience.

1. Research your route. “Study a map of NYC before you go out to get a sense of what areas are easy to bike,” suggests Eva Mohr, an avid cyclist whose biking e-commerce shop, All That I Want, launches this fall. Google Maps offers a way to search bike routes online and through its Android app. iPhone users should invest $1.99 in the Ride the City app, which generates a number of routes from “Safest” to “Direct.” The New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) also publishes a free City Cycling Map, available for download and in select locations throughout the city.2. Obey the traffic rules. “Bicyclists have the same traffic rules as motorists,” says Alison Lucien, founder of Eleanor’s NYC, a bicycle accessories shop for women. “The ticket for running a red light on a bike is the same as for a driver, with the exception that bicyclists do not have to pay the surcharge.” Laws on riding recklessly and against the flow of traffic also apply.

3. Wear a helmet, advises Mohr. If you plan to do a lot of city biking, it’s worth the luggage space to pack your own safety gear. NYC’s DOT reports that in 97 percent of biking fatalities, the rider was not wearing a helmet. Though bike share programs in cities like London, Boston and Washington, DC, report low levels of accidents and fatalities, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

4. Dress brightly. Wearing bright clothing can attract the attention of motorists, especially at night. Plus, “neons and bold prints are all the rage in fashion, so it shouldn’t be hard,” says Lucien.

5. Follow bike lanes, but remain alert. “Unlike in established bicycle countries like Holland, the bike lane is not well respected in many areas – by vendors and crowds who treat it as a private sidewalk or by delivery vans and cabs that pull into it without warning,” says Nona Varnado, who designs urban cycling and multi-sport apparel for women and blogs about biking culture at The Bird Wheel. “It’s getting better all the time, but a bike lane still requires staying alert.”

6. Don’t be afraid to make some noise, advises Lucien. “Ring your bell and shout out, ‘heads up!’ when pedestrians walk out in front of you.”

7. Beware of taxis. “Watch out for cabs that stop on the side of the street and be prepared for doors to open unexpectedly,” says Mohr. “If you are riding a cab yourself, always make sure to check for cyclists first before opening the door.”

8. Watch out for pedestrians. It’s common for unaware pedestrians to step into the road without looking both ways, especially when they’re preoccupied in conversation or tapping away on their smartphones. Large vehicles like trucks and busses can also hide these sneakers. “While you pass a bus, keep your hands on the brakes at all times,” suggests Lucien.

9. Wear clothes you feel comfortable in. While flowing dresses and flimsy sandals may be popular summer attire for women, they’re often impractical for the rigors of city biking. “If you wear a dress, use a skirt garter not only to protect your clothes from getting dirty, but also to prevent the dress from getting tangled in the spokes,” advises Mohr.

10. Once you get comfortable, feel free to venture off the beaten path. “Smaller neighborhoods and side streets are best seen on a bike and tend to be less busy,” says Varnado. “This is where the real NYC is. By riding a bike you can see amazing things you’d never experience any other way.”

[Flickr image via Missy S., Citi Bike image via Citi Bike]

Video Of The Day: ‘Line Of Sight’ Trailer From The 2012 Bicycle Film Festival

While most eyes are on the Tour de France, there’s a much more intriguing form of cycling that’s quickly becoming a phenomenon: underground bicycle messenger racing.

Yes, it’s a real thing, and it appears to be spreading. Filmmaker Lucas Brunelle spent more than a decade profiling and documenting messenger cultures around the world, and he recently released “Line of Sight,” a 60-minute documentary film that premiered Saturday at the 2012 Bicycle Film Festival in New York City. According to the description:

This is bike riding like you’ve never seen before, in gripping first-person perspective through the most hectic city streets, on expressways in Mexico City, over the frozen Charles River, under the Mediterranean Sea, across the Great Wall of China and deep into the jungles of Guatemala.

Sounds much more gripping than the winding, tree-lined roads of France.

Video Of The Day: Crazy Bikers Race Down Glacier

It appears as though crazy bike stunts and dangerous urban bike courses just aren’t enough of an adrenaline rush anymore. In Saas-Fee, Switzerland, bikers push riding to the extreme as they pedal down a glacier in a death-defying race. A handful of the 142 riders mounted cameras to their bikes and helmets so us less adventurous (and perhaps more sane) types can get a feel for the crazy race. Riders reached speeds over the 80 mph mark as they dashed over ice and snow from a starting height of 3,500 meters to 1,700 meters. This year’s winner, Charlie Di Pasquale, completed the race in 7:31. Anyone out there up for giving it a try next year?

Round-the-world bicycle race begins tomorrow

The World Cycling Racing Grand Tour, the first round-the-world bike competition, gets underway tomorrow. From Greenwich Park in London, ten competitors have signed up for the event which will send them on a month’s long odyssey that will cover more than 18,000 miles and span multiple continents — just before returning to where they started in time for the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

The competitors in the event are given quite a bit of leeway in terms of determining their route and strategy for the race. They are required to cover a minimum of 18,000 miles, and GPS devices will be used to track their progress and ensure that they are adhering to that rule. But they can cover that mileage on a route of their own choosing, and can even decide if they prefer to pedal east or west along the way. Additionally, they must also visit antipodal points on the planet – which is to say, two points that are on the opposite side of the globe from one another. They are also allowed to use scheduled public transportation to cross impassable barriers, which simply means they can use ferries or aircraft to get across large bodies of water.

The current record for a circumnavigation of the planet by bike is held by Brit Alan Bate, who managed to accomplish that feat in just 96 days, 10 hours, and 33 minutes. In order to beat that record, one of the riders will have to average more than 190 miles per day. That will be a challenging and grueling pace for any rider to maintain throughout an event that if five times longer than the Tour de France.

Once the race starts, we’ll be able to follow the progress of the riders on the WCR website and track the routes they take around the globe. It should be interesting to see which way they elect to go and how long it takes for them to get back to London.

[Photo credit: Douglas Whitehead]

New York City bike share program coming in Summer 2012

At last, an urban bike share program is coming to New York City, and planners are involving city residents through community workshops, bike demos, and an online map system for suggesting station locations.

Organized by the New York City Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) and Alta Bicycle Share, the program will be funded by private sponsorship and user fees. Though a fee schedule has not yet been released, organizers say that membership will cost less than a monthly public transportation Metrocard.

Coming off the success of networks like the Vélib in Paris and Capital Bikeshare in Washington DC, the New York City bike share program also hopes to capitalize on the popularity of alternative transportation methods among the city’s active and socially conscious communities. According to NYC DOT, commuter cycling more than doubled between 2005 and 2009, and it continues to grow each year. To cope with the demand, NYC DOT doubled the mileage of on-street bike lanes between 2007 and 2011. By 2017, they hope to triple it.

The new system will include more than 10,000 bikes at over 600 stations, and is part of a larger effort to make New York a more cycle-friendly city. The program is scheduled to kick off in Summer 2012.

In the meantime, check out this video celebrating the joys of New York City biking from my friends over at Holstee… and start shopping for a helmet.

[via NYC DOT, Flickr image via nycstreets]