Spin City

A rude guide to Manhattan's new island-lapping bike loop

Illustration by Mark Todd    

Illustration by Mark Todd

Ten years and tens of millions in the making, the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway, a 32-mile round-the-island circuit for bike riders, officially opens in August. We took a test ride on the route, a hodgepodge of new trails, established paths, and city streets offering 22 miles of waterside touring and a good three-plus hours of urban adventure. The biggest tip? You won't need a bodyguard, but a patch kit can't hurt.

1.) Start at Battery Park and follow the East River north.

2.) At East 37th Street, detour around the United Nations and head up First Avenue. Beware: The far-right lane is for express buses. They're big; you're small.

3.) A portage greets you at East 81st Street—up 57 steps to the walkway above FDR Drive.

4.) Be wary of the GUYS CASTING FOR STRIPED BASS along the promenade in the East 90s, unless you don't mind impromptu navel piercings.

5.) COOL OFF IN HARLEM with a limón shaved ice from a pushcart vendor ($1); the cup is ideal for slurping while you pedal.

6.) Need a burger 'n' beer detour? Hit the Tubby Hook Café, at 348 Dyckman, near the Hudson River. Don't be fooled by an apparent short cut down the old carriage trail south of the parking lot—it dead-ends (literally) on Amtrak's very active rails.

7.) In the West 60s, dig the abstract piles of rusted metal and exposed timber remains of ancient wharves.

8.) From the West 20s south, expect traffic—oblivious in-line skaters, clueless pedestrians, and a few barrel-chested day traders who think they're Lance. If one of them extends a middle finger because you didn't get out of the way fast enough, don't sweat it. This may be the Greenway, but it's still New York.

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