How I travel: New York on a bike

Posted on August 6th, 2013

I don’t like flying. Or driving. I’ve always ridden. I think I’ve mentioned before that I’ve owned a car for seven years  of my life only. The rest of my adult life, I’ve ridden a bike to get around. Indeed, just three weeks ago I became car-less again. I really do prefer it. My tendency to attract parking tickets means it’s a particularly expensive habit. In fact, cars have always felt like way tooooo much collateral.

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Hot New York chic on bike. LOVE the saddlebag. Which sounds weird, I know.

I landed here in New York a week ago (boy, it feels longer!), jetlagged to …Frankston (or some other end-of-the-line zone), and a waitress with leg tattoos said to me,

“We are not meant to travel faster than horseback.” 

Or pushbike. The Ayurvedic tradition teaches this. Our cells are meant to move at a gentlemanly pace. At a pace that our breath can keep up with, I think.

My first day here I signed up for the Citibike scheme. I did the same in Paris last year. And Copenhagen. Do you know how it works? You insert your card. It costs $25 for a week for unlimited peddlies. You can pick up a bike pretty much every second block. You dart from spot to spot. It’s all above ground with fresh air in your hair. I don’t have wifi here (the dumb expense! the dumb expense!). So I look up my destinations for the day on Google Maps using the hotel wifi (or Starbucks’). Using the “bike” icon I get an exact map of where to go, timed to the minute, and download it on my phone. And on I ride, door to door.

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This here is NOT a Citibike. It is, however, me (and a “representation in bike”) after two days of scooting around NYC meeting publishers…

I’m a kamikaze rider and in big cities the thrill is intensified. So is the connection you glean from riding. Here in New York I’ve met so many locals at bike stations and traffic lights.  I found this in Paris, too – there’s a real pride in the scheme. When local riders work out I’m a tourist they get weirdly excited, like, wow, you like it! And you use it! We do, too!. Can I urge you to try riding next time you travel? Many big cities, including Melbourne, have schemes. I’ve been riding several hours each day since I’ve been here, from meetings to drinks to dinners. Want to know how I stay well when travelling? This is it, my friends. I move at a gentlemanly pace, above ground. In my rubber-soled runners. And in cahoots with some stylish locals. Take a look at some of these New York wheel-spinning looks…

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If you’re wondering what shoes to wear, here’s a handful of tips for you:

1. Make sure you’re wearing stiff shoes. The stiffer the better. Flexibility limits your pedaling power, so the best shoe is a stiff shoe.

2. Classic high heels work well. (But avoid stilettos!)

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3. Shoes with a strap are always a winner.

“As long as it doesn’t fall off my feet or get caught in the pedals. Espadrilles are O.K., like wrapped around my ankle. Definitely it helps to have ankle straps.” Emilia

“As long as it doesn’t fall off my feet or get caught in the pedals. Definitely it helps to have ankle straps.” Emilia

4. Avoid shoes that are likely to bend in half or fall off.

5. For the blokes: a good biking shoe is a good walking shoe. Runners (sneakers) always work. This is what I’ll tend to favour. Although I do ride in shoes I wear to work meetings, too.

6. Some sandals work fine, if they’re not overly bendy.

7. Shoes with rubber traction are really good for biking. They give good grip.

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Used Citibike? Any tips for other cities?

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  • Lou

    i love this post, it’s so great to get about on a bike, particularly when the city is designed with cyclists in mind. i lived in Melbourne for a few years (I’m now back in hilly NZ) and rode my bike everywhere. i loved the little traffic light with the bicycle on it, i’d never seen it anywhere else. you’d be at this massive four way intersection like the one at Flinders St Station, and the light would go green. It felt so safe, to know that little green bicycle was for me, and all the cars and trams had to wait! 😀 I miss cycling. Take care out there. 😉


  • kelli

    Brisbane has had a bike scheme for a couple of years now also……was modelled off the Paris scheme.


  • I love Citibike Sarah! I live in New York (from Adelaide originally) and have been eagerly awaiting the scheme to start for months. Not only do I love cycling but the bike has literally cut my New York travel time in half. I love carting my groceries back from Whole Foods (although a better basket system would be welcomed!) So glad you like them. Not sure what will happen to them when it snows though…


  • SC

    We recently traveled to Japan and biked around Tokyo/Kyoto/Hiroshima/Miyajima. Was a fantastic way to get around.


  • I’ve done it in Copenhagen – I’d love to try this, especially in NY, but do I need to worry about killing myself or getting killed by crazy drivers, or are they a bit nicer there than they are here in Sydney?!!

    And I noticed they had something similar in Dublin last month when I was there:

    I admire your organisation with the techie stuff – getting around the wifi issue! Fair dues to ya girl! 🙂

    Will defo try this out in NY!


    Miss Lilapud Reply:

    ps. meant to say to you guys (Sarah/Jo), I was having a browse in your book store to make a purchase – is the chocolate book on the correct shelf? Is it $40, I’m not sure but I think the pics/prices are a little mixed up, just if you wanna have a look – not criticising just a bit confused and thought it might be helpful to you … if I’m not wrong … but maybe I just need to go get a coffee?! 🙂


  • Oh you make me want to go back to NY! I’m too chicken of the traffic in Sydney to get on a bike in the city but really do want to pick one up for casual Bondi rides. Now that I know what shoes would work with it, I think its a matter of time 😉


  • Bec Buchanan

    Have you been to Amsterdam Sarah? You would be in your element. No one does biking like the Dutch. It truly is the most perfect city to live in if you love bikes as much as we do 🙂


  • Liz

    I’d love to try cycling when in NYC next week but I get terrified if someone is coming towards me on the bike path! Manhattan would scare me to death! Any suggestions on how to overcome my fear?


  • Ange Freeman

    Hi Sarah!
    I’ve just finished a week in hamburg, Germany where I have been getting around using their rental bike system. Stadtrad

    It was the perfect way to get around, and I could return the bike at any one of the various stations around town.

    Loved riding around in the summer warmth well onto the evening.

    Now off to London to do the same 🙂



  • Emma

    I love riding and used to ride everywhere. Then I moved towns, changed jobs and had a baby and for many months it wasn’t practical to ride. As soon as that baby was big enough for a baby bike seat we were off and pedalling, though!


  • Soph



  • Dee

    You’re braver than me! Last year while in Europe I spent time in several cities with bike share schemes/ bike cultures, including Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam but wasn’t confident enough to get on a treadlie. Apart from the obligatory bike tour of Amsterdam, of course, but that was on a Sunday and had the benefit of a guide and safety in numbers. Even so there were moments of sheer terror. Instead, I walked everywhere, in preference to public transport and taxis, when in cities. You see so much more when walking, and it’s easy to stop and rest when your pins are tired.


  • but what if you get sweaty???


  • Anna

    I just love your bikes! where do you buy them from?


  • Amanda Gabrielle

    I’m so excited to be visiting the US for the first time and spending 4 days in NYC. I will definitely jump on a bike in the city as I’m traveling alone (read “sans kids”)! Thanks for the info … now, off to check out some paleo eateries there yum! 😉


  • Alex

    Hi- I’m currently lookin to buy my 1st bike having fallen in love with city riding on London’s Barclays bikes. Do you know what type of bike is in the first photo-black with cream tyres? I love it!


  • transplantclare

    Sarah, where is your cycle halmet? hate seeing people on bikes without an helmet xx