A Londoner's Guide to New York Cycling

May 21, 20142 minutes to read

I wrote this guide to cycling in New York for a couple of friends who recently moved to NY from London.

Rules of the road

In New York cars drive on the right side of the road. In London they drive on the wrong side. Be extra vigilant of cars on your newly exposed flank.

You might think it’s safer to bike on the left side of the road as cars operate on the right. This is wrong. The correct position is the center of the road (or “ centre” as you incorrectly call it) to discourage cars from side-swiping you at intersections.

There are clear, well-marked bike lanes traversing the busiest intersections (i.e. Times square, Herald Square, Union Square, et al). Avoid these at all costs. The green paint and dearth of cars encourages pedestrians to clog the bike lane.

Basic Navigation

In Manhattan even streets run east, while odd streets run west. Except in the west village where streets bend in circles through the space-time continuum. It’s often faster to bike around this area rather than attempt to go through it.

Bike lanes are marked on the left side of the street. Except when they’re on the right side. The cross-town bike paths found at 9th, 10th, 20th, 21st, 29th, 30th streets are by far the slowest routes. Use Houston, 14th, 23rd and 34th instead.

Uptown & downtown bike lanes can be found on 1st avenue and 2nd avenue respectively. Use the red bus lanes instead. Cabs accelerate into bike lanes during left turns, and the bus behind you will serve as motivation.

Cycling Safety

Never ever signal under any circumstances. It is a sign of weakness and will only help guide the cabbies who are trying to hit you. Hand signals are also more likely to confuse civilian drivers rather than alert them.

The correct way to run a red light, or "jump" as you incorrectly call it, is fading left with crossing traffic. This allows you to weave through the gridlock caused as cars slam on their brakes.

It is best to accelerate when approaching a crosswalk that is full of jay-walkers. Any hint of hesitation will encourage more of them to walk into the street.

Biking the Brooklyn Bridge is a full contact sport. Make liberal use of your bike polo mallet. Collect 10 points for each tourist you hit. 20 for any taking a selfie.

New York Life

There’s no need to purchase lights, bells, fenders, or other accessories as it’s quite acceptable to take any that are attached to bikes nearby.

Young white bike messengers are still a vibrant and crucial element in the socio-economic ecosystem of new york.

New York tends toward more extreme weather than London with hotter summers and colder winters. There is no bad weather, only bad clothing. Ask the delivery men.

As anti-theft measure you should purchase a lock that is more expensive than the bike it is protecting. This will help ensure only your lights, bell and fenders are stolen.