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Considering that 8.5 million people call New York City home and more than 60 million tourists descend on it per year, it’s hard to say you’re really getting off the beaten path anywhere in this city. And the bike path that follows the island’s waterfront—the Manhattan Greenway—is certainly well-worn.
In fact, it’s one of the most used bike paths in the United States.
But don’t let that deter you. I firmly believe that biking gives you a view of a place that walking or driving a car can’t, and despite the number of people, this still proved true while biking in NYC. From watching families enjoy a beautiful spring Sunday in Riverfront Park to biking my way downtown with the World Trade Center slowly coming into view, I was able to experience a different side of New York City than my typical jaunt from place to place.
Curious about exploring NYC by bike? If you’re like me and prefer the bliss of car-free bike paths (read: staying alive) or are a little intimidated to try city biking for the first time, this guide is for you.
Keep reading for an overview of the Hudson River Greenway, where to get a bike in New York, and trail tips.
Got a trip to NYC on your bucket list? Pin this post to your travel board on Pinterest to keep it bookmarked!
Thanks to Arlo SoHo and Kind Traveler for hosting me for two nights during this trip to New York City. I was able to enjoy Arlo SoHo’s complimentary bikes for registered hotel guests—find out more below!
Hudson River Greenway Bike Trail Overview
The Manhattan Greenway is a 32-mile bike loop around the entire borough of Manhattan that is mainly car-free. There are plans underway to make it a contiguous loop in the next several years (no more need to repeat “The yellow ones don’t stop” to yourself while trying to navigate a bike through Manhattan traffic).
The Manhattan Greenway is split basically into two sections: the Hudson River Greenway, the car-free portion that this guide covers, and the East River Greenway, which currently has several road links where you’ll have to share the road with cars.
The Hudson River Greenway is located on Manhattan’s western waterfront and stretches from Inwood in the north to Battery Park on the southern tip of the island, paralleling Route 9A. It runs through several waterfront parks: Fort Tryon Park, Fort Washington Park, Riverside Park, and Hudson River Park.
Length: 12.9 miles (part of the 32-mile Manhattan Waterfront Greenway and the 3,000-mile East Coast Greenway)
Level of Difficulty: Easy to moderate (due to level of bike traffic as you get closer to downtown)
Trail Access: In the downtown area, the bike path is very easy to access from many cross streets. Farther uptown, there are various entry points and pedestrian bridges that you can find on the official greenway PDF map. Additionally, you can enter through some locations in Riverside Park, but be forewarned that it may involve walking your bike down a ramp or stairs. Hint: Look for the small green line connecting the path to the road on Google Maps (but watch out for dotted white and gray lines, which indicate stairs).
Where to Get a Bike
There are several options if you don’t have your own bike.
1. Citi Bike
This is a convenient option if you only need bikes for adults, and it allows you to do a one-way trip since you can pick up and drop off at any Citi Bike terminal. However, there aren’t any Citi Bike terminals north of 125th St. in Harlem, so if you want to do the entire length of the Hudson River Greenway, you’ll have to plan a two-way trip north of Riverside Park.
The Citi Bikes are pretty comfortable and easy to ride. They have adjustable seats and three speeds. There are also a ton of terminals, some of which are right on the bike path. And they’re available 24/7, so you don’t have to wait for a shop to open—ideal if you want to head out on an early morning ride.
Rental Cost: $12-$50+
While technically you could pay for a day pass for only $12 and get 30-minute increments of riding free as many times as you want, many of us don’t want to dock the bike every 30 minutes (to then wait several minutes before being able to unlock another bike). My actual cost ended up being $40 for about 3 total hours of riding (including the cost of the day pass), broken up into four separate rides as I stopped along the way from Riverside Park to Battery Park.
The cost effectiveness of this option depends on how far you’re riding and how you time your stops. It may work out well if you plan to do a lot of sightseeing and can dock your bike along the way for various stops, but if you want to bike for longer periods of time, it’s not the best option.
2. Local bike rentals
There are a few places to rent bikes for the Hudson River Greenway. They carry other options, such as tandem bikes, kids’ bikes, more robust adult bikes (like 24-speed), hand cycles, child seats, and more. Renting one of these higher-quality bikes is ideal if you plan to bike all day or have a family and need other options.
Rental Cost: $40+
3. Stay at Arlo SoHo
If you’re a hotel guest at Arlo SoHo, there are free bikes available to all guests on a first-come, first-served basis. Like Citi Bike, these are simple 3-speed bikes and the brakes are a combination of old-school backpedaling and handlebar brakes.
But unlike Citi Bike, you’ll get a helmet and a lock to take with you on your biking adventures. Plus, the bikes are free, which is considerable savings if you’re planning even just a few hours of biking for a few people. And the free beer + wine at happy hour each night isn’t a bad way to unwind after all that biking!
Arlo SoHo is located pretty close to the Hudson River waterfront, so you can easily access the Hudson River Greenway from the hotel. (If you’re like me, this means walking your bike on the sidewalk for a few blocks until you’re safely in the car-free space of the bike path. Nothing to see here.)
Rental Cost: Free for guests!
I recently stayed here as a guest of Arlo SoHo through Kind Traveler, which is the first socially conscious give + get hotel booking platform. When you book through Kind Traveler and give a $10/night donation to a local charity, you get an exclusive Kind Traveler discount on the hotel’s website.
I enjoyed the two nights I spent at Arlo so much, I decided to book a third night there myself on the Kind Traveler platform and loved the significant discount I got (you know I did price comparisons). Plus, giving directly into a respected non-profit organization that serves the community you’re visiting is a great way to spread the positive impact of sustainable travel.
For Arlo SoHo, your donation will go to the Henry Street Settlement, whose mission is to open doors of opportunity to enrich lives and enhance human progress for Lower East Side residents and New Yorkers, through social services, arts, and health care programs.
A portion of Riverside Park is elevated on the other side of Route 9A, so some portions are either inaccessible from the greenway or there are stairs instead of a ramp.
In many sections of the greenway, there is a separate pedestrian walkway that runs closer to the waterfront. There are pedestrian crossings on the bike path every so often, and bikers are supposed to yield. Many don’t, so use caution as you slow down. I found that waving pedestrians across to let them know you’re yielding helped things move along faster.
The closer you get to downtown, the more street crossings there are. Be sure to treat crosswalks as you would a pedestrian, and stop behind the line for bicyclists (while staying to one side to avoid blocking those who cross while the light is red).
Stay in your lane, and try to stay out of the way of commuters. Just like driving, stay towards the right if you’re going at a slow pace, pass on the left (and look over your shoulder to make sure nobody is coming on your left).
When passing other cyclists or pedestrians, use your bell or say “Passing on your left” so they’re aware.
Recommended One-Way Route (for Citi Bike)
If you start at Riverside Park and head south, you’ll get some lovely views of the World Trade Center as you get closer to downtown. Alternatively, if you decide to start at Battery Park and head north, you can time it to end your trip in the early evening at Riverside Park, and cap off your day with dinner and drinks at Boat Basin Cafe overlooking the water (a recommendation from a New Yorker in my post about the best places to get outside and enjoy green space in NYC).
Length: 7 miles (one way)
Start: Get a Citibike from the dock at W. 92nd and Riverside Drive. Enter the park and head south to bike through the park for a little while, or go down the ramp under the Henry Hudson Parkway directly to the waterfront.
If you stay in the park, make a stop at the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial to learn about and remember the Jewish men and women who, in an act of resistance, fought back against the Nazis for almost a month in 1943. Every year on the April 19 anniversary, a memorial ceremony is held here where all are welcome.
I happened to be biking through the park a half hour before it started with intentions to visit the memorial, and I was invited to stay. I learned about a piece of history I had no idea about before, and got a glimpse into the Jewish community in New York in this incredibly moving and inspiring service.
Continue heading south in the park and you’ll be able to link up with the bike path at Boat Basin Cafe (there’s a ramp to get down to the cafe and signs that will point you through it and down to the waterfront).
Soon you’ll be passing by Linda’s Lawn, a small portion of the park with crisscrossing trails and beautiful landscape design. The bike path here veers slightly away from the water and under the road, so if you want to explore the pedestrian-only Linda’s Lawn, you’ll have to dismount and walk your bike through the park.
For much of the ride following this, you’ll be biking past piers and through Hudson River Park. Some of the piers have restrooms, places to eat, museums, and other activities.
You can combine this ride with walking the High Line park (the pedestrian-only elevated park) by docking your bike at 12th Ave. & W. 40th St. or W. 34th St. & 11th Ave. Enter the High Line at the Hudson Yards entrance on W. 34th St. and continue to W. 16th St. From here, check out Chelsea Market or grab a bike from W. 15th St. & 10th Ave. to head back to the greenway.
There are more piers south of here as you head downtown, and you’ll soon have some awesome views of the World Trade Center. If you want to stop off for photo ops of the river, you can walk your bike onto the pedestrian-only sections closer to the waterfront throughout Hudson River Park.
End: You can bike all the way to Battery Park and even continue through the park to link up to the East River Greenway if you still have some energy. A word of warning: I found that Battery Park was pretty congested to bike through during the day (much easier in early morning), and many pedestrians ignored the “bikes only” signs on the bike path.
Instead, I recommend docking your bike at Little West St. & 1 Pl., a large Citi Bike station that you’ll see about a block before Battery Park. From here, you can walk to the park, grab some ice cream, or check out views of the Statue of Liberty.
Recommended Short Ride (Arlo SoHo bike)
Heading out for a morning ride is an amazing way to start the day and beat the crowds, which is what I did on my last day in the city. I seriously felt like I didn’t need coffee with the energy I had from biking for an hour (but umm…you know I had some anyway).
Length: 3 miles (round trip)
Start: Cross onto the greenway at Watts Street and Route 9A.
Directions to walk your bike from Arlo SoHo to the greenway on the sidewalk: Head right out of the hotel down Hudson Street, then right on Canal Street. Continue on Canal Street and turn left on Greenwich Street. Go one block until you reach Watts Street, and turn right. When you reach Route 9A, there is a crosswalk and entrance to the greenway.
From here, you can head south towards Battery Park and enjoy views of downtown Manhattan as you bike. If you haven’t been, a stop at the 9/11 Memorial is worthwhile and can be easily reached at the cross street with Liberty Street.
End: Once you reach Battery Park, follow the signs for bicyclists to make your way through the park (you’re now on Battery Bikeway) towards the Staten Island and Governors Island ferry terminals. You can turn around here, or continue onto the East River Greenway for a little while to get some views of the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge.