I have never really thought of New York as a city for cyclists, but on the latest visit I just couldn't help noticing them everywhere! Cycle racks are prevalent in Manhattan, many streets have them every few yards - not in great swathes but one or two at a time. I guess with the miniscule size of most apartments in Manhattan, many cyclists have to lock their bikes out on the street.
On the subway, bikes are allowed at all times unlike on the London Underground, which only allows folding bikes - although of course the subway is only just below ground level so it's not so difficult to get your bike down there. The suburban trains have similar rush-hour restrictions to those in London.
The main downside for cyclists (apart from motorists!) is that nearly all streets are one-way, which means that you may face a long detour just to get to the next block, if you find yourself wanting to go the wrong way. I guess that's why it's fairly common to see the less sensible cyclists going against the flow of traffic on one-way streets.
I found myself with most of Saturday free, so decided to hire a bike for a few hours and explore the Hudson River Park which is bordered by a traffic-free cycle path all the way down the side of Manhattan Island.
When I set off at about 9am it was nice and quiet, with cyclists and joggers sharing the route without any problem. Scented flowers and shrubs are planted along the borders of the path, making it a very pleasant ride - although the acres of roses planted outside the New York Department of Sanitation building could not totally disguise the smell of rubbish!
The Hudson River Park is delightful, taking in some of the old piers that have been repurposed with seating, lawns and landscaping, as well as offering unobstructed views out to New Jersey on the other side of the river. I followed the path all the way down to Battery Park on the tip of Manhattan, then made my way back, taking a diversion through the meat-packing district and having a look at the start of the High Line - an old railway viaduct which has been redeveloped into an elevated park. Definitely a destination for my next free day in the Big Apple.
North of the bike rental place (at Pier 84, around 45th Street) the bike path runs below the elevated highway, which makes for an even more pleasant ride - shaded from the sun which by now was quite hot, and also suffering much less traffic noise. By this time, however - about midday - the path was becoming quite a cycle superhighway with groups of tourists pedalling gingerly along and being overtaken by aggressive lycra louts. Time to hand the clunky, squeaky bike back and call it a day.
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