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The Science Survey

We've got the news down to a science!

The Science Survey

We've got the news down to a science!

The Science Survey

New York City Cycling

New York City has a large cycling community, despite the inherent risks.
A cyclist navigates a chaotic street in New York City. (Photo Credit: Benjamin Voros / Unsplash)

New York City roads are notorious for being busy and dangerous. Its drivers are known to be aggressive and impatient, and traffic always seems to plague the city streets. Yet, no matter the difficulty, New Yorkers need to get exercise, and for some, cycling is their sport of choice. For these athletes, braving the New York City streets to cycle is well worth it. 

Walking around New York City, you may see people delivering food and other items by bike. You also might come across people commuting to work on bikes, whether it is on a Citi Bike or a personal one. People on mountain bikes, BMX’s, tricycles, and pretty much every bike in existence seem to love cycling in New York.

Unfortunately, the bad reputation for biking in New York is justified. According to the New York Times, there were 30 cyclist deaths in 2023. That same year, 395 cyclists were severely injured. Walking through New York City, chances are you will see memorials for killed cyclists – white spray painted “ghost bikes.” These bikes are placed at the site of a cyclist’s death or injury as a memorial and to serve as a reminder to drivers to share the road.

The risks of cycling in New York city bring to question why people cycle at all in the city. There are numerous benefits of cycling in the city that outweigh the downsides, the biggest of which is convenience. A bike will take you exactly where you need to go as opposed to the subway which will only take you to the closest station around your destination.

A sample route from the World Trade to Center Columbus Circle takes 23 minutes by train according to Google Maps. By bike, this same route takes 32 minutes. This is a conservative estimate, and if a lack of time necessitates going faster, it is as simple as pedaling quicker. Beating the train time of 23 minutes is simply a matter of a little more effort and along with the time savings comes the benefit of avoiding crowds.

Cycling also avoids the crowds of the subway. Primarily for this reason, bikers of all kinds consider the risks of  it negligible. Aside from the delivery workers and commuters that use bikes for transportation, road bikers are the most prevalent around New York City. This division of cycling is dedicated to biking as much distance as possible, as fast as possible. 

Some popular routes for road bikers in New York City are loops around Central Park, cycling uptown or downtown along the river, and some long distance cyclists cycle to Bear Mountain and back, a 90 mile round trip through Upstate New York. 

Oliver Lawson ’27 aspires to make the trip and is well on his way to doing so. Although he has never cycled 100 miles, he recently cycled around 62 miles, completing 10 loops of a 6.1 mile route in Central park. When I spoke with Oliver, he said he cycles in Central Park often.

“It gets boring quickly, but I am thankful to be able to complete my cycling in the park rather than on the streets. If I didn’t have the park as an option, my parents would probably not be so happy with me cycling 100 kilometers in Manhattan,” Lawson said.

As it turns out, many people are willing to cycle numerous laps of Central Park. The Century Road Club Association holds a Central Park race series, a series of 12 long distance bike races. Each race has up to five categories based on gender identity and skill level. The longest race offered in this year’s Central Park race series is 8.7 laps which is approximately 53 miles of cycling.

Along with the offerings for road biking events, there are a great deal of New York City events for other bike disciplines. Oddly enough, there is even a unicycling event, the New York City unicycling festival. 2024 is the festival’s fifteenth annual event, and it is being held from August 29th to September 1st. Over the four days that the event takes place, those who attend meet in various places around the city, such as Battery Park City in lower Manhattan, and go on long distance group rides. 

Surprisingly, New York City is home to a variety of unique cycling communities, such as mountain bikers, which initially seems strange due to the lack of mountains within the city. If you know where to look though, it’s possible. Some mountain bikers substitute trails in the mountains for long sets of stairs and shorter trails in parks. Additionally, there are places in New York City that cater to mountain biking and other similar cycling disciplines such as the Cunningham Park Mountain Bike trails in Eastern Queens.

In the back of a New York City park, there is a vast network of mountain bike trails. (Alistair Blee)

Along with the official places for mountain bikers, there are rogue trail builders who create their own trails and jumps in parks or on the streets of New York City. In certain corners of some parks, you can see chutes of dirt and rocks on steep hills torn up by bicycle tire tracks. There is a very good chance that these chutes were broken in by Mountain Bikers without the endorsement of city officials. 

Some spots like this were initially built under the radar by cyclists without the awareness of the city but were eventually endorsed by the city due to their popularity. The effort made by the cycling community to improve the sport for others in New York City is commendable, and softens the bad reputation for cycling in New York City.

Unfortunately for those who cycle as a hobby and splurge on high-end bikes, a prominent threat to their lifestyle is the threat of their  bike being stolen. According to the New York Times, from March to late September in 2020, 4,477 bikes were reported stolen in New York City. These are just the bikes that are reported stolen. According to Aristedes B, a New York City resident who commutes to and from work by bike every day, reporting a bike stolen is often not worth it. “Many of the bikes I have owned in the past have been free or very ratty. If my bike is gone when I return to it, it is not really worth my time to try and recover it.”

“My bike has been stolen in the past, and fortunately it was an old one in poor condition. I simply bought a cheap used bike online, but I could have just as easily bought a new one from a store. Although I always buy used bikes, I frequent New York City bike shops for tools and I have to say they are all great places. If I bought a nice mountain bike from one of those stores and it got stolen, that would ruin my yearm” said Aristedes.

Ultimately, cycling in New York City is about the beauty of the sport and taking risks. At the end of the day, if you decide biking is worth your time and you want to do it in New York City, there is an expansive network of bike shops, mechanics, communities, and events to support your cycling journey.

“I am thankful to be able to complete my cycling in the park rather than on the streets,” said Oliver Lawson ’27.

About the Contributor
Alistair Blee, Staff Reporter
Alistair Blee is an Editorial Editor and Staff Reporter for 'The Science Survey.' He enjoys the creative writing and in depth analyses of topics for which journalistic writing creates a platform. Alistair finds that his favorite thing about journalistic photography is its potential to reveal stories behind average moments in life. Some of his interests include endurance sports, arts, cars and building things. Alistair is not sure what he wants to study in college, but he is considering studying architecture. In ten years, he sees himself potentially working in graphic design, entrepreneurship, or a trade.