The New York City Waterfront, A World Class Bicycle Experience (Part One)

By Nicole Mylonas

I sat down with Darryll White, co-founder of Bike and Roll, to discuss the New York City Waterfront.  In this two-part interview, you will learn about the incredible access that the waterfront grants to many New York City icons, what a great day along the waterfront looks like, why the waterfront is an important part of the NYC experience and how bicycling plays an important role.

Q: What motivated you to focus on the New York City Waterfront as a bicycling destination?

My first motivating factor was the NYC Greenway, which created the opportunity to offer a new, outstanding and safe bicycle experience in New York City.  Since the Greenway primarily resides along the waterfront it is natural for us to make the waterfront an area of focus.  A car free path goes a long way in terms of safety and the perception of safety.

While safety is foremost, our product experience is also very important. When I owned the Bike and Roll operation in San Francisco, our premiere and most successful product revolved around biking the scenic waterfront, across the Golden Gate Bridge and returning by ferryboat.  In New York City, the waterfront greenway allows for bicyclists to connect iconic sites such as the Brooklyn Bridge, the 9/11 Memorial, the Statue of Liberty, Governors Island, Staten Island Ferry, Brooklyn Bridge Park, and more, with proximate water-transit along the way .  Much like in San Francisco, people in NYC can bike the waterfront, ride on a famous bridge and return by boat.

Mayor Bloomberg’s vision, PlaNYC30, also motivated me to focus on the New York City waterfront as a bicycling destination.  The plan articulated a vision to connect the five boroughs and specifically mentioned use of water transit and increased use of bicycles.  By aligning our plan with that of the administration we were able to work in sync with an existing city initiative.

Q: How has the waterfront greenway helped change the perception of biking in New York City?

In the early 1990’s there was no bike path to speak of outside of Central Park and New York City was perceived by many as a dangerous place to ride. The addition of the waterfront greenway created a safe and significant network of paths to ride and as they say, if you build it, they will come.

The bike path also runs though many beautiful waterfront parks, which serve as a great place for residents and visitors alike to relax and enjoy the greenery, open sky and waterfront views while connecting with many great waterfront destinations. Thus, the Greenway has been integral in creating access to the waterfront.

The importance of the Greenway for biking in New York City cannot be overstated!

Q: Describe a great day on the New York City Waterfront.

Imagine a bike ride along the Hudson River, on a car-free Greenway, providing access to diverse neighborhoods, awesome iconic attractions, waterfront dining and connections to water transit that allow bikes easy access to all 5 boroughs of NYC.  A great day for me would be to create my own combination adventure on the fly, stopping as I pleased and exploring new spots along the way.  When hungry or when feeling like a change of pace, getting off the bike to sit somewhere and watch the world go by is a great option as well. There are so many terrific pit stops along the way.

Some of my favorite destinations include the picnic areas and the Boat Basin in Riverside Park, the Frying Pan and the Intrepid Museum in Hudson River Park, the Ice Cream Factory and Grimaldis in DUMBO the various concessions and skyline vantage points in Brooklyn Bridge Park, the bike path loop and Governors Beach Club on Governors Island and of course, the wooden plank bike path that crosses above the cars on the Brooklyn Bridge. 

Ferry connections can be made all along the bike path and I enjoy very much adding a boat trip, as it gets me off my saddle for a bit and also provides another vantage point, along with access to Governors Island and the NJ shoreline. NY Water Taxi and East River Ferry provide excellent and convenient service along both the Hudson and East Rivers.  For additional water tours I enjoy Manhattan by Sail and the Circle Line tours – both uptown and downtown.

After listening to that amazing description of a great day on the New York City Waterfront, I’m ready to hop on my bike right now!  The freedom of being able to hop on and hop off of the bike to enjoy museums, restaurants and parks sounds perfect.  I’m looking forward to more information as we continue this discussion in the near future.

(Read part two of this interview.)