Trip Reports on 
New York Harbor Circle

see also: 
KenR, May 2005:

Sharon and Tony and I rode this route on a weekend day, including the visit to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, and took the variation of staying on the greenway path all the way to the GWB (instead of taking Riverside Drive). Just as pretty and interesting as ever before.

November 2003, report from Ken: [ Photos ]

Sharon and I did this loop on Thanksgiving Day -- Sharon on her bike and me on inline skates.

Sharon does not ride single on her own bike very much, so she was concerned about handling the traffic -- but afterward she said doing it on a quiet holiday it wasn't actually as scary as she thought, and though challenging in places, it was overall a fun adventure. 

I thought skating it was a fun adventure too.  I wasn't sure how it was going to be on skates.  Our strategy of doing the route on a quiet holiday and starting from the GWB worked pretty well for the New Jersey sections.  I was surprised by how many miles of enjoyable smooth pavement there were on the streets of New Jersey.  The toughest combination of road surface difficulties and vehicle traffic was Richmond Terrace on Staten Island, but still I was able to get through it with care, even on skates.

Skating perspective -- see lots more details in SK8HV report

Variations:  In Bayonne we made the side trip to Gregg Park.  In Staten Island we skipped the side trip to the Verrazano Bridge.  In Manhattan we skipped Riverside Drive and instead stayed on the Hudson River Greenway path the whole way.

Manhattan:  Sidewalk construction next to the ferry terminal prevented us from getting to next to the water immediately.  Then the Hudson River Greenway had so few users on Thanksgiving Day, that it was wonderful to skate and ride on it.  So we just stayed on it the whole way north to the George Washington Bridge.  (The most non-wonderful part was on that detour up the hill around 85th St with care needed to avoid substantial ridges and stuff on the old pavement/concrete surface).  We didn't like the way the Greenway marker signs were directing us to turn East on the streets (too much cross traffic - entrance - exits) immediately at the end of Cherry Walk, so we kept going north to around the Fairway market, and turned East around 132nd St to get to 12th Ave. 

Very challenging climb from the Little Red Lighthouse underneath the George Washington Bridge up to Fort Washington Ave -- with one short very steep section where I was barely still skating and Sharon just got off her bike and walked.  Easy crossing the GWB on its south sidewalk, and then we were finished.  A satisfying adventure.   Photos 

July 2003, report from Laura

did the 50 mile ride on sat, the NY/NJ Harbor ride, really enjoyed it. it was hot and i didn't use a enough SPF but enjoyed it all the same. That was my first long distance ride & found it very challenging. 

Just wanted to let you know , on the directions, go Left on w.4th, should be a right, to get onto the Bayonne Bridge.

July 2002, report from Ken: [ Photos ] 

I rode all the roads and paths on the new revised route from Linden Ave through Bayonne NJ to the Bayonne Bridge, and the new Gregg Bayonne Park Variation and Kill Van Kull Variation.  All the photos are from those variations. Photos of Newark Bay + Kill van Kull 

The streets were in reasonable condition -- not smooth and new, some bumps and ruts, but very ridable, nothing real bad.  The paved path alongside the Kill van Kill did have some notable bumps and ridges. 

July 2002, report from Ken

I was thinking about the problem of heavy usage of the West side path sometimes, especially the southern part.  The obvious way to get away from it is to ride out on the streets, but it's hard to know what to recommend for that, since Sharon and I ride on the streets in southern Manhattan only very rarely.  But I was able to find some maps on the NYC Dept of City Planning website, which have some of the streets highlighted with color codes. 

Especially relevant to finding alternatives in Manhattan are: 

But it is not obvious from those maps how to make up a route from the Staten Island Ferry terminal and Battery Park all the way north to 72nd St and Riverside Drive using only streets with the "Recommended on-street route" or "On-street bike lane" colors.  As of July 2002, some of the highlighted streets on those maps included: 

  • Church St from Battery Park north-bound to Vesey St, colored as "Recommended on-street route".
  • Church St from Vesey St north-bound to Reade St and Franklin St, colored as "Cautionary on-street route (limited width and/or heavy traffic)".
  • Reade St west-bound to Hudson St, as "Recommended".
  • Hudson St north-bound to Dominick St (near the Holland Tunnel), as "Recommended".
  • Hudson St from Dominick St north-bound to around Bank St and 8th Ave, colored as "On-street bike lane".
  • 8th Ave north-bound to 31st St, part colored as "On-street bike lane" and the rest as "Recommended"
  • 31st St west-bound from 8th Ave to 10th Ave, as "Recommended".
  • 33rd St west-bound from 10th Ave to 11th Ave (also called "West End Ave"), colored as "Recommended". 

The maps also highlighted: 

  • 10th St east-bound from Hudson St to 6th Ave, colored as "Recommended". 
  • 6th Ave (Avenue of the Americas) north-bound from 9th St to 40th St, colored as "On-street bike lane". 

As of July 2002, it's not clear what the maps offer to get all the way from 33rd St north to 72nd St at the south end of Riverside Drive -- where you could re-join the main route (at mile 43.0 on the cue sheet directions).  That could be another part of the adventure. 

Or you could get back on the main route much sooner:  by working your way west toward the Hudson River and finding a nearby point that allows you to get onto the West side Greenway path. 

We don't know what it's actually like to ride a bicycle on those streets.  We're reporting only that some person once selected those particular streets for a bicycling recommendation.

June 2002, report from Ken Roberts[ Photos ] 

This time Sharon and I started in Bayonne, NJ, and decided to try doing the "circle" in the counter-clockwise direction.  We carried our tandem up the stairs at the north end of the Bayonne Bridge sidewalk, and we started to ride across, but then to our surprise we soon saw words painted on the sidewalk that said "no bicycle riding" -- o we decided to walk across.  Actually this was pleasant, with nice views. Photos of Bayonne Bridge 

On the way east on Richmond Terrace we met another rider and talked with him for a few minutes, until he had to turn around to get back in time to go to some work thing.  Not real wide and not a great road surface, but not much traffic on Sunday morning, so it was nice to ride.  Views over the water as we neared the Ferry terminal. 

We decided to visit the Verrazano bridge, so we headed down south on Bay Ave -- not an ideal bicycling street, but decent with little traffic that morning.  Pretty view of the old fort in the park.  Then at the turnaround point we recognized that there was another road which seemed simpler and safer the ones then on the cue sheet.  So we tried that, but then went back to check out the old route on the cue sheet to convince to make sure that those roads did not have some redeeming feature to merit retaining it.  (They did not, so the cue sheet now shows the new way). Photos around Verrazano Narrows Bridge 

Going back north to the ferry, we tried those side streets toward the water -- and they were even prettier than I remembered. 

But getting into the Ferry terminal was different.  The lower entrance for cars was closed off, and we had to carry our tandem bicycle up some stairs to get to the passenger entrance.  Then after we got on the boat, some guy told us (nicely) that we had to now carry it down the stairs inside the boat back down to the car level.  But then the boat ride was pretty, and we had no trouble getting off. Photos on Staten Island Ferry 

Then we found our way through Battery Park to the Esplanade path and then on the West side Greenway path.  Instead of turning off at 72nd Street, we continued on the path all the way up to the GWB -- and it was all better than ever -- for details see our Report on the West side Path

We rode across the George Washington Bridge south sidewalk.  When we turned onto the Hudson Terrace street, we encountered a change in the traffic pattern:  just south of the GWB, Rt 505 is briefly one-way North-bound.  Then we found the new route:  at the next traffic light we made a "half" right turn, following a sign for "Edgewater", then Left and back onto Rt 505, which was two-way again as we started down the big hill.  

We soon got off that and enjoyed the quietness of the two sections on Undercliff.  Then we had to get back on Rt 505 to continue South.  I've never liked this section -- 4 lanes, not narrow but not real wide either, with no shoulders -- not at all like our accustomed quiet back roads of our usual favorite upstate tours.  Moderate traffic on Sunday afternoon -- and actually it wasn't so bad as I feared -- rather nice road surface, car drivers were polite.  

All of a sudden a rain shower started.  We wimped out and ducked under a gas station roof -- and another rider did the same.  We went over and talked with him -- he had also ridden across the GWB from Manhattan, where he was on temporary assignment from France.  He wondered how to get to the Hoboken ferry back to Manhattan, and looked at our map -- and gave us some great ideas about when and where to go bicycle touring in France.  Finally we both gave up waiting and started riding again in the rain. 

With the distraction of the rain, we missed the turn-off for Hillside.  Then we ran into some construction on the road by the river -- but it was OK.  And there were nice views across to midtown Manhattan.   Then the road connected nicely back with the main route.  So we decided we liked this new road under construction better [so now it is the main route on the cue sheet -- and the Hillside turnoff is a only a variation].  

Soon we got to Hoboken, and found the new park by Frank Sinatra Drive -- rather nice.  Then found our way through Jersey City to Liberty State Park and rode alongside the water the whole way around its perimeter -- wonderful as always. Photos of Liberty State Park

Back onto the roads south:  Caven Point Rd was wide and in good condition.  

[ the following section is no longer included in the route ] The merge of Rt 185 South onto Rt 440 South could have been tricky -- requires crossing two lanes of highway traffic, and then continuing near an exit lane for Rt 440 North with no shoulder.  Fortunately there was almost no traffic, so it felt like no problem.  Actually we both independently remember seeing that actually that exit lane "jughandles" back across Rt 440 South -- so we think we could have actually just followed that exit for Rt 440 North -- and then when it crossed back, turned Right from it onto Rt 440 South. [ that previous section is no longer included in the route ]  

We got off Rt 440 and rode pleasantly into Bayonne -- and we were finished.  A rather fun day.  Photos -- Sequence for whole Trip 

July 2001, report from Dave:  

I tried it today for the first time and had only a few problems on it, until the very end which I'll get to.  Hope some of these comments make it into your guide.

1.  The pedestrian paths on Manhattan's west side have been renovated and are now pretty much impassable by bikes.  Especially on weekends.  It might be better to take city streets down to the ferry, otherwise, you'll have to walk your bike.

2.  In NJ, Route 169 is no more.  It has been renamed route 440.  This was pretty confusing to me when I got to the turn and I back-tracked to see if I had missed something.  It looks like there was recent construction on it, and it's a very bike-unfriendly stretch of road.  It is 50 MPH with full lane margins, but a number of high speed on and off ramps.  I don't know if it always was like that, but it certainly is not for the faint of heart.  [ Comment: That section is no longer in the route ]

3.  Coming out of Liberty State Park, the left hand turn onto Audrey Zapp drive is unmarked.  Or, at least, there is no way of knowing that the road you're getting onto is Audrey Zapp drive.  The road is paved brick and a skull-jarring ride on a hybrid, I'm fearful of what it'd be like on a road bike.  An indication on the sheet that A-Z is a brick road might reduce confusion here.

4.  The connection between the path along the Morris Canal Basin and the dirt path off of Audrey Zapp Drive doesn't exist, or at least I couldn't find it.  I ended up back-tracking a few times in this area before finding the dirt path.

5.  The bad news.  The exit of the dirt path above is the parking lot for a junkyard.  The ground is strewn with large rocks, glass and metal.  Even though I took it slow, I still punctured a tire here and ended my trip.  Fortunately, I was within walking distance of the ferries back to NYC.  Regardless, there should definitely be a warning on your turn sheet for this mess.  For about 50 yards, you have to bike through a war zone.

October 2000, report by Ken:  

Sharon and I started at Liberty State Park on a beautiful fall weekend day.  We headed North (clockwise), riding on the new path by the water, with the big views across to the buildings of southern Manhattan.  Traffic through Hoboken and Edgewater was not too bad early in the morning.  We made it up the hill on our tandem to the GWB, but it was definitely work, and not much fun with the cars going right by us.  As always, it was pretty crossing the bridge in the morning.  

We decided to ride the north section of the West side greenway path.  It had some steep down sections, and some broken-up sections to reach the path underneath the bridge.  After that it was gentle, and we found our way south around various obstacles -- sometimes finding alternate routes on the streets (since the path was not completed). 

We timed the Staten Island ferry much better than last time.  We skipped the part of the route going to the Verrazano Narrows bridge (but I came back and rode it myself a few weeks later).  The walkway across the Bayonne Bridge were in good riding condition, and we liked the big view.  

Then we headed north on the New Jersey highways.  Along the way we made the side trip to Constable Hook (and also some other exploring).  The highways were laid out rather differently  from the older map, but the road surface was mostly new, and the shoulders were mostly wide, or at least reasonable.  Other than needing to be careful and use a good strategy for passing the two or three exits/entrances, we felt comfortable despite the high-speed traffic. 

We got off the highway, and soon we were back at Liberty State Park. 

1998 ? sometime -- report by Ken

This was our first time trying this route.  Before we started there was confusion about whether the Bayonne Bridge was open for pedestrians or bicycles, but we somehow got that resolved.  On a quiet weekend morning, Sharon and I started from the George Washington Bridge, rode down Riverside Drive on a beautiful morning with the usual fine view of the River.  We stopped off at Tony's apartment, and continued together to the end of Riverside Drive.  We turned left on 72nd Street, then south on West End Ave.  

Soon I was riding for my first time on the streets of Manhattan south of Central Park.  I had been afraid of this, but on a weekend morning, with our long-practiced traffic-handling skills from northern Manhattan, it felt reasonable.  So we decided to do some bicycle tourism.  We rode to Washington Square.  We rode our bicycles on Fifth Avenue and on Broadway.  We went by City Hall.  We rode on Wall Street.  And we arrived at the Staten Island Ferry terminal -- and just missed the boat by five minutes.  Since we had almost an hour until the next ferry, we decided to visit the Brooklyn Bridge, and rode on the wooden boards our over the middle of the East River.  We sampled some narrow streets in the old downtown area, and made it back in time to catch the next ferry.  

Riding across the top of Staten Island was straightforward that morning, and so was riding across the Bayonne Bridge into New Jersey.  There were no signs to forbid bicycling, and some helpful signs intended specifically for bicycle riders.  Traffic going north on the limited access highways in New Jersey was light on a weekend morning, and then Liberty State Park was much improved over the description in the ride guide book we had.  We then used our urban traffic-handling skills to get through Jersey City and Hoboken and Weehawken, and then more "suburban" skills for traversing Edgewater.  Up the last big climb to the GWB, and it had been a fun adventure.  

Story of this route

Long ago we had never taken a bicycle in Staten Island or the New Jersey towns of Hoboken and Bayonne, or in Manhattan south of Central Park.  We had ridden lots in Central Park, and north of the George Washington Bridge to Nyack and beyond.  And even once Ken rode in New Jersey from Linden to Weehawken up to the GWB -- to get his bicycle from New Jersey into his grad school lab in Manhattan.  But it did not cross our mind to ride into those southern places. 

Until we bought Dan Goldfischer's Ride Guide.  In there we discovered a route called "Around New York Harbor" -- and some very helpful tips for how to approach doing it.  Although our route on this website now has many differences from that, we're still grateful to Dan for taking the time to write it down and organize its distribution in a way that it could reach us. 

Just the concept -- and having someone say it was doable -- was enough for us.  So one Sunday morning Sharon and Tony and I did it for the first time -- in the opposite direction and with various deviations from Goldfischer's directions -- see report above.  Development activity along the water is so dynamic that even though it was only two or three years later, some of the directions did not connect with what the new things we encountered live on the ground on our bikes.  Doing it was an adventure the first time -- and each time we've done it since we've had the experience of new discoveries and the challenge of dealing with the unexpected. 

Each time we do the route, we get ideas about how to improve it, and we put those into the cue sheet and description shown here on the website.  When you get an idea for improvements or correction, please send it to us.  

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