Route & Plan a Fail-Safe Bike Adventure!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011
By steven
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Cross-referencing is everything, and I’ll give you a quick overview of how I do as much pre-visualizing as possible before embarking to an area I’ve never been to before.

1. Google Maps – I use their mostly-reliable bike path trip planner. Route your to and from and then click on the bicycle icon (it’s next to the icons for car, bus, and walking). You can click and drag the route to change it as you want. A key helper is Google Street View- to use this, drag the little yellow man on the left side of your Google Maps screen and drop him onto the desired street. If the street turns blue on hover, it means it’s Street View enabled. Use keyboard keys to look around and move: A or left arrow = look left, D or right arrow = look right, W = look up, S = look down, Up arrow = move forward, Down arrow = move backward.

Check out the streets beforehand to see if they look bike friendly (road quality), or have decent views. Mentally note buildings, etc beforehand that you will pass so you know you’re on the right path.

2. Pick Up a NYC 2011 Bike Map – from any bike shop, order one free by calling 311, or download. The map also includes tutorials on your bike laws/rights in traffic, and detailed insets of getting on and off every bridge. Carry one in your bag incase you get lost. It also shows you where the nearest bike shop is in case you get a flat. The above link also includes a “Ride The City” google map inset of all NYC bike shops highlighted for quick viewing.

3. Download OffMaps for iPhone/iPod Touch – because the native Maps app only caches what you’ve recently viewed, and dumps the cache everytime you restart your phone/ipod or close the app. If you have a data plan on your iPhone, you don’t need this. Though this has saved my butt countless times while traveling abroad without data in Italy and living in Berlin (where the city map is free). I hit the GPS locator button, and if a wifi signal is nearby it usually is able to tell me where I am on a map. Any GPS app on any mobile device should work nonetheless.

  • Make sure you have adequate water, snacks, and emergency tools in your backpack!
  • Try biking in a fair weather day. If it’s raining or slippery anywhere, avoid metal sewer grates that your bike can slip on or have the wheels get stuck in.
  • Make it a day trip- it’s NYC and there are potholes everywhere. Safety-wise, night trips are fine in Manhattan, but Brooklyn, Queens and beyond without the grid structure can get confusing.
  • Avoid evening rush hour (4-8pm) if you need to pass through Midtown (why would you ever go there) or Downtown Brooklyn (Atlantic Ave / Flatbush Ave) – most of the trips listed on this site don’t run through congested areas. However, it’s more stress, more angry cars, more incidents that can turn that smile upside down.