What is a biketrain?
A biketrain is a lot like a car pool for bike commuters, but without the car, the cost, the gas, or the traffic jams.
A biketrain is a group of cyclists who meet up on a regular schedule to commute via a predetermined route, enjoying safety in numbers. Biketrains are designed for newer cyclists who would like to gain skills, confidence, and local knowledge from the friendly, experienced urban commuter conductors who lead the commute. As of August 2013, six routes run in three boroughs.
NYC Biketrain runs on a lot of volunteers, a little sweat equity, and a few in-kind donations.
I haven’t ridden a bike in years, and I’m really nervous. Can I join the biketrain?
By all means, yes! Biketrain was created for you. Take 4 easy steps before you “board” a biketrain:
1. Visit your local bike shop to make sure your bike’s brakes, gears, and wheels are in good working condition.(See below for more on this.) Although not required by law, helmets are strongly recommended so if you don’t have one, now’s a good time to get one. You can get one for free through NYC DOT.
2. Check out Transportation Alternatives’ Biking Rules for tips on how to ride legally and safely, and other helpful advice.
3. Go on a couple of easy weekend rides. Earlier weekend hours in parks and greenways tend to be a little quieter and less crowded. This will let you get comfortable on your bike and practice a few simple habits that will help make cycling even more enjoyable and safer.
4. Complete our QUICK new rider survey so that we know a little about your riding experience so we can help conductors make the experience work for you. This also includes signing a waiver.
If you’re still pretty nervous and not sure you’re ready for the road, or you just like the idea of something a little more formal, check out the Bicycling Basics, Bike Path Cruise, or Street Skills classes offered by Bike New York.
I’d like to start commuting on a biketrain, but I don’t ride very fast. Will I be able to keep up?
Yes. Our first priority is making sure new commuters are comfortable and supported on the road. That means riding at speeds that are comfortable and safe for these riders. You may start slow, but the more you ride, the more stamina you’ll develop, and with experience, your commute will get faster. For now, there’s no rush.
Who will I be riding with on the biketrain?
You’ll be riding with one or two volunteer conductors, who are friendly, experienced urban commuter cyclists, and up to four or five others. Sometimes you might be the only new commuter in the bunch, other times, there may be several newer riders. Many people ride because they enjoy the company of other like-minded commuters. Whoever you ride with, you will always be in good hands.
What kind of bike do I need to ride the biketrain?
Any bike that you feel comfortable riding and can control easily is suitable for commuting. You can get very good deals on used bikes, especially at great places like Recycle-A-Bicycle.
It’s not uncommon for new riders to get advice that they need a really lightweight, fast, expensive bike with lots of fancy features. You don’t! New York City’s diversity extends to bicycles — it takes all kinds. Make sure the bike is the right size and the seat is adjusted for your height, and you’ll be fine. Find tips on bike fit here. If you want a faster or fancier ride later on, you can always trade up.
Do I need to memorize all the rules of the road before I ride the biketrain?
Well, there’s no quiz! (Though if you like that sort of thing, you can find one here.) But we strongly recommend that you check out Biking Rules. Importantly, learning and putting to use good cycling habits makes for a safer ride, and other cyclists will appreciate your consideration and predictability.
I think I’m ready to ride! Anything else I should know?
Just a few basic things. Your bike should be in good working order, so we recommend having it looked over by your local bike shop to make sure the brakes, gears, and tires are in good shape and it’s otherwise ready to go. A bell is essential, and New York laws requires reflectors at all times and front and rear lights at night.
If your workplace doesn’t allow bikes inside, invest in a good lock like Kryptonite or TiGr. The price is well worth the lower likelihood of finding your bike stolen and having to take the time and money to replace it. Tips for locking up are here.
Nonessentials you may want to consider: fenders are helpful for keeping you and your bike clean, especially for rainy or post-rain rides. Racks and panniers also come in handy for toting work essentials and make that grocery stop on the way home even more convenient.
Are there other benefits to riding with the biketrain besides safety in numbers and the social aspect?
Yes! One is local knowledge. When you ride with people who already know the route, they can point out all the perks and pitfalls along the way: whether it’s that great bike shop or cafe you pass on the way home or that annoying stretch where t-intersections tempt pedestrians to cross against the light without looking, or whatever.
Another benefit is that you’ll learn good riding habits. When you ride with experienced cyclists, you pick up their habits and techniques – how to use a mixing zone on 1st Avenue’s protected lanes, where the lane goes straight but drivers are preparing to turn left, for example, or riding to the left on a one-way street to maximize your visibility to drivers.
All the biketrain schedules are in the morning. How do I get home at the end of the day?
People’s evening schedules vary a lot more than their morning schedules, whether due to their work hours and/or post-work commitments and errands. To offer consistent biketrains in the evening, we’ll need greater volume, and we’re not there yet. In the meantime, chat with your conductor and other experienced riders in the morning to see if anyone is going your way home at the end of the day – usually they are more than happy to meet up if their schedule allows. The MTA allows bikes on subways 24 hours a day. If you live and work in or near the Citi Bike service area, consider a bikeshare membership, which would allow you to ride to work in the morning and take the train home in the evening. Have a non-traditional commuting schedule? Check back with us — we’re compiling tools to locate bike buddies who can ride with you.
Great. Any other helpful tips?
Yes! Check out these great resources for bicycling commuting, or just riding: