The Londoner’s Guide to New York Cycling

Rules of the road

brian mcconnell
3 min readMay 22, 2014


Hello, my dear friends from across the pond. Thank you for visiting New York. Please allow me to welcome you by providing a few brief pointers on cycling in our good metropolis. Contrary to popular belief, cycling is by far the best way to get around town. But there are some key differences to what you might be used to back home. Let’s roll…

The Basics

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” with the french spelling used in the UK) 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. Pedestrians view the green paint as an invitation to loiter and step blindly into 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 the bi-directional thoroughfares on Houston, 14th, 23rd, and 34th instead.

Uptown & downtown bike lanes can be found on 1st avenue and 2nd avenue respectively but these often have parked patrol vehicles, delivery vans, and construction. Use the red bus lanes instead. The bus approaching you from behind will serve as motivation.

Cycling Safety

Never signal. 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.

The easiest east river crossing for cyclists is the Manhattan bridge and the hardest is the Ed Koch bridge. 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 anyone taking a selfie.

New York Life

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

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.

Thanks for reading and good luck.