How To Survive On A Bicycle In NYC (Or Any Urban Area For That Matter)

June 5, 2018

So, you want to ride a bicycle in New York City? You can definitely have fun, but you do need to exercise caution when bicycling in the City. You know, knowing how to survive that combat zone of plodding jaywalkers, flapping pigeons, leadfooted drivers, and backfiring trucks? Here are four ways to protect yourself from the thundering herd:


Pedestrians can lacerate your nerves and sabotage your schedule. Whether you like it or not, these Cro-Magnon brutes always come first. Familiarize yourself with their swarming patterns in traffic, transportation areas, and tourist traps. Imagine that you are a naturalist in the African savannah studying herds of animals that should be extinct.

Anticipate the “Walking Dead” wannabe suddenly lurching in front of you in a smartphone-induced trance or — surprise! — someone sprinting like an 8-point buck from behind a row of parked cars.


Forget everything your elementary school crossing guard told you about riding your bicycle against traffic. Always ride with traffic, even on one-way streets. Newbie cyclists’ most common fear is getting hit from behind by a car. They surmise that riding against traffic will make vehicles more visible to them.

However, bicycling against traffic is the leading cause of bike crashes. Riding with traffic gives motorists a clear view of you. Bike Rental Central Park can outfit you with a bicycle to navigate the urban maze.


Illuminating yourself is an evening ride essential. Without lights and reflective accessories you and your bike are invisible and vulnerable. You cannot solely rely on street lights, either. Depending on this form of illumination is unreliable and illegal. Here are some tips for gearing up and hitting the road at night:

  • Front and rear lights: Your saddle-mounted reflector should ideally be visible from a maximum of 600 feet. It should be no less than 3 inches across. The larger the surface area, the more light will be reflected.
  • LEDs:  When riding, your lights do not have to rival a supernova but they need to illuminate the road ahead. Grab high-powered LED lights which can be attached to your bike or helmet.

These lights must be blazingly perceptible up to 500 feet and should ideally be flashing models. The unnatural flashing patterns attract drivers’ attention.

  • Wear clothing specifically designed for night biking.

Invest in clothing that is light-colored, reflective or even fluorescent. Wear reflective bands on your ankles and knees during evening rides.

Coating your bike with phosphorescent paint is also a great idea. Bike Rental Central Park can help you choose protective items to have a safe ride, as well as an enjoyable one.

  • Use a bell: In low light, only cats and owls will be able to see you. Humans do not yet have this superpower.

You can rely on drivers’ hearing more than their sight. Your bell alerts pedestrians and cars to your lane changes and turns.


One of New York’s biggest causes of bike crashes (and fatalities) is “dooring.” This all-too-frequent accident happens when the motorist in a parallel-parked car unexpectedly opens their door in front of a cyclist. Not only does the cyclist get struck by the door, but may be flung into traffic.

Dooring can be avoided by staying clear of the “door zone,” the three to five foot area surrounding a parked car. Riders here are particularly vulnerable to a wallop from a car door. Ride in the neighboring traffic lane if you must. NYC law requires cyclists to use the bike lane, but not when safety is at stake. When riding a bike in New York City, you may get honked at, sworn at, or even given a few choice hand gestures. This will probably happen even if you have done nothing wrong. If you are riding safe and smart, let them rant all they want. You know yourself, the rules, and your bike. And we will help you roll!

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Andi Perullo de Ledesma

I am Andi Perullo de Ledesma, a Chinese Medicine Doctor and Travel Photojournalist in Charlotte, NC. I am also wife to Lucas and mother to Joaquín. Follow us as we explore life and the world one beautiful adventure at a time.

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