Biking on the Manhattan Greenway & GWB
April 30, 2006 9:56 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to bike around the Manhattan waterfront, starting and ending at the GWB, using the official greenway path (pdf). My question is about those sections in red and blue: will I be biking through traffic? Having never ridden a bike through NYC traffic, am I putting myself in danger? How long would the entire thing take? Related question: has anyone ridden a bike across the GWB recently? It's legal, though they make it sound like it's teeming with pedestrian.
posted by exhilaration to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
When I lived in the city, I used to bike from Brooklyn across the Brooklyn Bridge, lower Manhattan, and up the West Side path to the GWB pretty regularly. In the red and blue sections, yes, you will be dealing with traffic.

Dealing with NYC traffic isn't really that bad, and you are NOT putting yourself in any real danger if you obey traffic laws and are defensive and aware. If traffic is heavy, cars move slowly, and you can just take a lane and move with traffic if there isn't a bike lane. Ignore the occasional asshole that honks at you. If a car is truly aggressive, just let them go. If traffic is light, then you're all good, and you can just go at your own pace with no problem.

For all the riding I've done in NYC, and now Philly, the only accident I've had was in Prospect Park, and no cars were involved.

Re: the bridges, be careful. The law is there to protect pedestrians, so it's somewhat overstated, but you still need to be attentive. I'd assume that there are fewer pedestrians on the GWB than the Brooklyn or Manhattan Bridges, but it only takes one to have an accident. Pedestrians are like cows: slow moving, unaware of anything around them, and isolent. Don't expect them to do anything to protect themselves or you, so again, be a defensive rider and be aware.
posted by The Michael The at 11:19 AM on April 30, 2006

I ride in Manhattan every day, and it's a much safer city to ride in than those with few bikers (like Phoenix, from whence I came) because bikers are a common sight and drivers know how to deal with them. Cars will generally pay you no mind, and if you keep your spidey-senses on alert, you'll be just fine.

The thing I feel is the most dangerous is the parallel-parked car element. Many people check their mirror before swinging open a car door, but many more just give it a heave and never even imagine that they may have just swept someone clean off their bike or forced them into another lane to dodge it.

Use your best judgment about where it feels safest to ride, and whatever you do, don't give in to the temptation of riding on long stretches of empty sidewalk-- you'll get a ticket in no time.

Just like The Michael The, I've never been in an accident here that involved a car. You'll be surprised at how manageable it is.
posted by hermitosis at 12:22 PM on April 30, 2006

Best answer: Yes, the blue and red sections are on city streets and you'll be riding in traffic. And there are other places where there's construction, and the path detours into traffic - I ride the south half almost daily and getting from Battery Park to the Seaport is gnarly.

But the map is basically right, the blue bits are relatively low-traffic. If you've really never ridden in city traffic before, you should probably be prepared to walk your bike up 1st Ave. Or, ignore the map and ride over to 3rd or Madison which are less intense. Also, the map shows you detouring on 37th and 38th Streets - but these have the tunnel traffic cutting across them - you might detour a few blocks south.

If you want, hit my profile, call or e-mail me, and I'll meet you on the path somewhere.
posted by nicwolff at 12:50 PM on April 30, 2006

Re the parallel parked cars - when I ride (not in a city) I get in the habit of looking in windows of cars maybe 10-15 ft ahead of me. If I see someone sitting in the car, I slow down & see if I can get some room to go around in case he flings open the door. It takes a while to get used to doing that, but once you get the habit down, you don't even think about it.
posted by devilsbrigade at 2:25 PM on April 30, 2006

be agressive. ride outside the "dooring zone" (at least 8 feet from cars), which means outside the bike lanes. you will be honked at, but who gives a shit -- you have every right to be there. don't be too visceral at cars, because they ultimately wield 800 pounds of metal while you only 35 -- but this means you can also ditch easily. be assertive but safe -- being meek, waiting for cars to let you in, etc, will never get you anywhere, and will create a lot more tension for you.

keep your eyes off the pretty girls and guys on the sidewalks, and you'll be fine.
posted by yonation at 6:02 PM on April 30, 2006

resist the temptation to run red lights if you don't see cars. Remember New York is a pedestrian town, pedestrians will assume (rightly) that a green light for them means green, ergo OK to cross the street. I've seen lots of accidents between bikers and pedestrians when bikers run red lights and ride right into a pedestrian. Especially pedestrians walking dogs. You don't want a lawsuit on your hands.
posted by xetere at 9:29 PM on April 30, 2006

Best answer: As of about a year ago, when I was riding around Manhattan every day, you couldn't do the ride you want. You could go up from Battery Park to 181st St. on the West Side greenway, but large parts of the east side path just hadn't been completed and the west and east sides didn't connect at the north end.

I rode across the GWB at least a thousand times. The only tricky bits are the parts where the path winds around the bridge towers; click out (if you're using clipless pedals), go 5 mph, and be very careful.

On the bridge itself, riding is glorious; don't run into any of the suspension cables, and don't run over any pedestrians. (Extra points if you run over a pedestrian wearing purple.)
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:18 PM on April 30, 2006

Response by poster: thanks everyone!
posted by exhilaration at 6:59 PM on May 1, 2006

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