Riding a bike in the city is great, even if it comes with downsides like turning into a sweaty mess, getting distracted by hot dudes with no shirts and cute girls in sports bras out for jogs, and bright ideas like “Hey it’s nice maybe I’ll bike the Brooklyn Bridge” resulting in a fatal embolism when you nearly slam into the eighth tourist from Davenport that wandered into the bike lane. And that's not even digging into drivers, who seem to wear full sensory deprivation hoods while operating their vehicles.
So, okay, there are a bunch of downsides. But there are upsides, like getting in shape, the fact that biking is 100 percent free, and, in a lot of cases, you can get to a place faster on a bike than by using public transportation. If your normal bike-to-work commute's not enough, we've rounded up our favorite rides around the city that take us to some great sights, good food, and beautiful beaches—leave yours in the comments. (And here are even more if you're not satisfied.)
Bedford Avenue to Fort Tilden/Rockaway
This fun, easy ride has the bonus of ending with a cool-off at one of Rockaway's many beaches. It's a very simple ride, so much so that perhaps the best joke in that awful indie film Fort Tilden was that the two idiots in it managed to fuck up biking in such a simple straight line.
Start where Bedford becomes a two-way street, at Bedford and Dean. If, like the protaganists in the aforementioned Fort Tilden, you’re coming from Williamsburg, just ride down Wythe Avenue across Flushing, where it turns into Franklin Street—take that to Dean Street. Salute the statue of Ulysses S. Grant to thank him for helping destroy the traitorous South, then head south on Bedford. Keep going. And going. You're riding down Bedford Avenue all the way until you hits the water in Sheepshead Bay, and then you'll make a left. Pretty simple, huh?
The directions might be straightforward, but the ride lets you take in the huge breadth the borough as you ride from Crown Heights down to Sheepshead Bay. Plus, at the very beginning there’s the rush of riding down the giant hill from Eastern Parkway to Empire Boulevard (just don’t think about riding back up the hill). Going down Bedford will take you by the low-slung apartments and Victorian homes in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, through Brooklyn College, past the tended lawns and single family homes of Ditmas Park and Midwood (there’s always, always a huge Shomrim command RV parked on the corner of Avenue K) and past the brick two-family homes in Sheepshead Bay. Then you go under the Belt Parkway and Bedford is done.
But you're not quite done. Make a left on Emmons Avenue and ride along the water, where you’ll go past Randazzo’s, the Roll N Roaster (but don’t slow yourself down by stopping for food now) and a cool little bungalow community. Emmons ends shortly after you get on it and feeds onto the Belt Parkway. DON’T GET ON THE BELT PARKWAY, which is a mistake I made once that did not go well.
Instead, make a right toward the Comfort Inn parking lot and get onto the bike path running alongside the Belt Parkway. If it’s a really nice day and everyone’s trying to go to the beach, you can laugh and laugh as you ride past the cars stuck in traffic, enjoying the sun and the feeling of freedom your trusty bike has given you. Take this path past Plumb Beach, over a small bridge and all the way to Flatbush Avenue.
Don’t worry, you’re not riding on Flatbush with all the speeding cars. Your options are to cross the street at the light and ride along the bike path that runs along the Floyd Bennett complex, or to stay on the side of the street you’re already on and ride the sidewalk, which usually doesn’t have many pedestrians. The biggest issue with the sidewalk is that it’s cracked and jagged in some spots, so if you have thin tires or no suspension to speak of it might not be the most comfortable ride. On the other hand, if you’re on this side you can stop for mini-golf at the Brooklyn Golf Center, a place where my friends and I once saw Mr. Met just hanging out by himself. You also need to be on this side of the street to go over the bridge.
Flatbush turns into the Marine Parkway/Gil Hodges Bridge, which isn’t too steep a bridge, but you might be tired nonetheless. Distract yourself from the climb by thinking about what a crime it is that Gil Hodges was never elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Oh well, guess his family can console themselves knowing he has A WHOLE DAMN BRIDGE named after him. Once you get off the bridge, you’ve got some choices. You can bike on to Fort Tilden, the entrance to which is right there. You can bike over to Jacob Riis Park, which is a little to the east. You can also bike further past Jacob Riis, get onto Rockaway Beach Boulevard and eventually make a right on Beach 108th Street and then a left at the water, to hit the beaches closer to Rippers and Connolly’s. No matter what you choose, congrats, you’re at the beach!
And if you want a bike adventure, keep going past Rippers and Connolly’s until you reach Beach 60th Street, make a left and then a right get back on Rockaway Beach Boulevard. That turns into Edgemere Boulevard, then Seagrit Boulevard. Veer right at the fork towards 878 South and head over the Atlantic Beach Bridge. Make a left onto Park Street and just keep riding on it, as it turns into Beech Street. When Beech Street turns into West Beech Street and you see the blue awning of Beach Bagel, you’ve reached my ancestral home of Long Beach, which is another nice beach. Please don’t go looking for my parents’ house.
Belt Parkway Bike Path
You can also get to the Beach 90th Street area via a more direct route, although it’s definitely less of a beginner’s trip. Jump on Eastern Parkway bike path and take it until it ends, then get onto Pitkin Avenue. Pitkin Avenue has a “shared” bike lane, but it’s a busy commercial street, so the bike lane symbols painted on the block really are more of a theory than anything else. Take Pitkin east for a little while, past the sign welcoming you to the East Brooklyn Business District, and then eventually make a right onto Pennsylvania Avenue, which doesn’t even have the fig leaf of a shared bike lane, except for a short part towards the end of the avenue.
Pennsylvania feeds onto the Belt, which, again, DO NOT RIDE ONTO, but also leads to a separate bike lane along the Belt. Make a left onto this path, and take a break from speeding cars. Bike past marshes and landfills and race planes as they head towards JFK, all while enjoying some relative peace and quiet. There’s a brief gap in the trail at 84th Street, so cross the street and keep riding. The path ends at the exit for Cross Bay Boulevard, so either ride that or go through the hole in the divider onto the Shore Parkway service road. Either way, you’re making a right onto Cross Bay Boulevard and taking that to the Cross Bay Boulevard Joseph P. Addabbo Memorial Bridge.
There isn’t much about this part of the ride that’s relaxing, so unless you’ve got experience with or are comfortable riding next to fast moving traffic, definitely don’t attempt this trip. If you’re okay with all that, take in a bit of Howard Beach, and consider picking out an Italian restaurant or seafood place you'd want to check out some time in the future. The bridge has a bike lane, which is nice, considering it separates you from the people fishing, thus preventing any crashes that result in people getting stuck with hooks.
When you get off the Cross Bay Boulevard Bridge, you’ll be in Broad Channel. Ride along the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, which will be on your right, and a huge CALLAHEAD depot, which supplies port-o-potties, on your left. The trail next to the wildlife refuge eventually ends and drops you into a bike lane on Cross Bay Boulevard, which you’ll take until you start approaching the toll booth for the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge. Instead of going through the toll booth, make a left at the last moment before it, towards Rock N Roll Bagel, and follow East 21st Road around through the parking lot and onto the pedestrian lane of the bridge. Once you’ve gotten over the bridge, it’s just a matter of crossing the street onto Beach 91st Street that'll take you down to the beach.
Let's not forget about Coney Island, land of fun, home of the Cyclone, the Cyclones, and Mr. Robot’s Good Time Hacking Crew. This is even more easy-going than the ride to Tilden, since not only do you not have to traverse any bridges, but almost the entire trip is on a protected bike path. That path, located on the west side of Ocean Parkway, starts at Beverly Road and Ocean Parkway and takes you in a mostly straight line down to Sea Breeze Avenue.
This would be a truly relaxing ride but for the fact that you have to look out for pedestrians, who should really be on the pedestrian-only east side of Ocean Parkway, or at the very least, corralled to the side of the path that's separated by an iron fence and has benches. Alas, they're everywhere. Be careful not to clip anyone and watch out for cars turning at every intersection you go through, and you’ll be fine all the way down the Sea Breeze. Once you’re there, I’ve always found it’s easiest to suck it up and ride on Surf Avenue for a few blocks, since once you get to the Cyclone/Luna Park/Freak Bar area, you can lock your bike up somewhere and enjoy the beach at your leisure.
Socrates Sculpture Park
Once upon a time, the thought of riding over the Pulaski Bridge gave cyclists hives, as all you got was a tiny strip of sidewalk you had to share with pedestrians and cyclists coming from the other direction. Now though, the Bike Lobby has won a great victory and the Pulaski Bridge has a fancy two-way bike lane. Let’s use it!
Head up through Greenpoint, Franklin Avenue, or Manhattan Avenue, whichever you prefer. Make a right at Eagle Street, which will take you to the Pulaski Bridge. When I made the trip, there were a couple people from the Department of Transportation who were amped to be there, just handing out DOT soft water bottles and Vision Zero sunglasses. Eventually they’ll probably be replaced by cops looking to ticket cyclists, so hopefully you get there while the DOT folks are still around. The bike lane itself is great, boasting plenty of room, a view of midtown Manhattan you can stop to take in without getting in someone’s way, and no pedestrians to dart in front of you.
Head over the Pulaski, make a left on Jackson Avenue when you’ve made it to Queens. and take that the Vernon Boulevard, where you’ll make a right. Now you’re heading up Vernon Boulevard for a few miles. For a little while, you’ve got to ride on one of those shared bike lanes, but at 46th Road, it actually turns into a separate painted bike lane.
Keep taking Vernon north, and eventually you’ll have a choice: you can stay with traffic and ride past Queensbridge Park, or you can duck into Queensbridge Park to ride through that briefly. I recommend the park, where you'll get up close and personal with the Queensboro Bridge, you can spot people milling about enjoying the weather, and, frankly, it’s such a short ride it barely qualifies as a detour.
Be careful when you head out of the park, as the bike lane turns directly in front of an active driveway. You can now ride on a green-painted bike lane that has some concrete dividers that to help keep cars away, as you go past the Ravenswood Generating Station, New York State’s second-most powerful power station by megawatt output (damn your environmentally-friendly hide, Robert Moses Niagara Hydroelectric Power Station). You’ll run into the occasional car parked in the bike lane (<3 u Vision Zero), so watch out for those, but you should be fine otherwise.
You’ll pass the bridge to Roosevelt Island on 36th Avenue; you can head over it if you like, but if not, keep riding just a few more blocks. Once you pass the Costco, Socrates Sculpture Park will be on your left. Lock up your bike and hit the water fountain, especially if you got one of those DOT water bottles, and then either wander around looking at the sculptures, lie in the grass or head to the water’s edge, where there are plenty of benches to sit and look across the river at Manhattan.
Valentino Pier (David Colon/Gothamist)
Start at Kent Avenue and North 13th Street, where you have a sweet protected bike lane for some time. The bad news is, though, that this is a popular place for joggers, rollerbladers and people who just don’t feel like walking on the sidewalk, especially on nice weekend days, so don’t try to do your best Lance Armstrong impression here.
Bike along Kent, under the Williamsburg Bridge, past Division Avenue and along the outer edge of the Navy Yard. Follow the bike lane around the bend to Flushing Avenue, and bike past the rest of the Navy Yard, where we used to make huge ships to kill genocidal fascists and now we just make disruption. Oh well. When the bike lane ends, make a right onto Navy Street and follow that around as it becomes York Street. You’re now in DUMBO, although you might curse that fact for a moment as you rumble along on a cobblestone street down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass. GET IT?
Keep following York until you can make a left on Front Street, where you’ll go under the Brooklyn Bridge onto Fulton, past the Grimaldi’s/Juliana’s feud and down to Brooklyn Bridge Park. Enter the park and you’ll see an entrance for the bike path. You’ll go right past the Pierhouse (booo, flip them off if you can ride with one hand and give them the double bird if you can ride with no hands) and eventually, you’ll see some stunning views of lower Manhattan across the water.
Keep on the bike path, but be mindful of the fact that cyclists and pedestrians are all on the same path here, until you reach the end of the park and go around the very controversial Pier 6. Follow the path to Columbia Street, where a separated bike lane runs along the piers and turns right onto Degraw Street, which turns into Van Brunt Street. Keep on going on Van Brunt, into Red Hook proper, which was once the home of Tazz, the Human Suplex Machine, and is now home to a Tesla dealership.
Since you’re on Van Brunt anyway, stop in at the Brooklyn Ice House for a $5 PBR/ whiskey shot deal and a couple of pulled pork sandwiches for $7, which together make up one of the best bar deals in the city of New York. Now that you’re sated, keep going down Van Brunt until you hit Van Dyke Street, make a right and ride down to the water. You’re at Louis Valentino Jr. Park, and while you’ve got a good view of the Statue of Liberty now, you can walk into the park and onto a pier that will give you an even better one. Plus on summer Tuesdays, there are free movies.
West Side bike path (David Colon/Gothamist)
West Side Highway to City Island
Here's a ride that would be vastly easier with pedestrian access to the Throgs Neck Bridge. City Island is a great place to visit during the summer, akin to a small fishing village dropped on to the edge of the Bronx. It's home to great seafood, peaceful views of the Long Island Sound and my aunt, uncle and cousins, making it one of the most unique places in the five boroughs.
To start, get yourself on the Hudson River Greenway in Manhattan, which you can enter from any spot you like, though note that the farther south you start near Battery Park, the better the sights. From here, you’ll be on a very relaxing journey up the western edge of Manhattan on a protected bike lane, gleefully biking past cars stuck in traffic on the West Side Highway. All you’ve really got to watch out for on this stretch of your journey are pedestrians along the riverside, but it’s not Brooklyn Bridge-level clogged with walkers. You’ll also see some cool stuff along the way, like the USS Intrepid (FUN FACT: The only place not given a location chyron in National Treasure), an Uber Blade helipad (BOOOO boo those jerks as you pass) and eventually, sailboats docked in the Hudson. I once saw someone stand-up paddleboarding, which, more power to you if you’re not afraid of falling in the river.
The path winds around Riverbank State Park, which is on top of a sewage treatment plant, so, yes, that’s what you’re smelling as you bike past. You might notice that the George Washington Bridge is getting closer and closer. Eventually, you’ll bike under the bridge and get a real up close and personal view of the bridge that might very well have helped destroy Chris Christie’s presidential ambitions and transformed him into a shell of a man who’s just hearing an endless loop of the sax solo from “Jungleland” as Donald Trump parades him. This is also a part of the ride that hits you with a two very steep climbs, so try to gain some speed as you approach the bridge and downshift as you start to climb. Once the hills are over, you’ll eventually hit a downhill switchback that takes you from blessed safety back into traffic.
Go down Dyckman Avenue, make a left on Seaman Avenue, a right turn on 207th Street, a left on Broadway, a right on 215th Street and a left on 10th Avenue. 10th Avenue will turn into the Broadway Bridge, but instead of getting on it, hop onto the pedestrian lane and cross the bridge that way. Congratulations, you’re in the Bronx! Make a right on 225th Street after you cross the bridge and stay on it as it becomes West Kingsbridge Road. This is another steep incline, but it’s the last one of the ride, hooray! Make a left on University Avenue, a right on West 195th Street—though you'll be riding against traffic here so feel free to hop off the bike and walk it—and a left on Reservoir/Goulden Avenue. Now you're riding next to Lehman College, a branch of CUNY named for former governor and senator Herbert Lehman. Laugh about how ol 'Herb beat the ever loving shit out of Robert Moses in Moses' only attempt to win elected office, and then make a right at Bedford Park Boulevard, and ride past the Grand Concourse to Southern Boulevard where you’ll make a left.
Follow that around until it meets Bronx Park East, where you make a right onto a bike path in Bronx Park. It is, admittedly a little hairy along the Southern Boulevard section of the route, so if you’re not comfortable with cars doing 40 miles per hour near you, you can head into Bronx Park and take Bronx Park Road around until it hits an offshoot path between Mace Avenue and Waring Avenue that will connect with the bike path you need to get to. Still, it’s under a mile of high intensity riding, so not so bad, all things considered.
Either way, the path will flow into the Pelham Parkway bike path, which like the Ocean Parkway bike path, is protected but requires some caution as it has people walking on it. As you come to the end of this leg of the trip, the Pelham bike lane continues across the street, on your right. Cross the Bronx and Pelham Parkway to get on that leg of the bike path, which you’ll just keep going straight on. What’s fun about this part is that you’ll pass a few places where you have to cross Bronx Pelham Parkway exits, and though they’ve got signs letting cars know that cyclists exist, there are no Yield signs. Take those crossings slowly!
When you go under I-95, you’ll see a sign telling you to turn to go north. Ignore that and just follow the path across the street. On your right, take in the beauty of the Bronx Pelham Landfill, and when you get to the Pelham Bridge, on your left you’ll see Co-Op City, which is the biggest housing cooperative in the whole world.
When you get off the bridge, veer to the right and take the bike path along City Island Road. You’re on the home stretch! You’re just following the path straight through now, and though your legs may be burning a bit, you’ll have a couple small climbs to deal with. Get up them, you can do it! Once you’ve passed the traffic circle, it’s just straight on to the City Island Bridge. The bad news is you’ll be going over a new bridge which is under construction, so you won’t be going directly under the “Welcome to City Island” sign.
The good news is that after close to 25 miles of biking, you made it to your destination There’s just one main street running down the spine of the island, so bike along it as far as you like. Stop in for seafood somewhere, get some ice cream from Lickety Split. Ask my aunt and uncle if you can use their shower (lol, don’t do this you jerk). Take a selfie down at Belden Point, you’ve earned it.
As for getting home, it might be best to take your bike back via public transportation. Ride back directly the way you came and jump on the 6 at the Pelham Bay Park stop, which is just past that section of I-95 you rode under, or you can take the Pelham path a little farther back towards the Pelham Park 5 stop.
David Colon is a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn and the only living human to have a pitch rejected by Thought Catalog. Follow him here.