All About Columbia, NYC and Bicycles

I may or may not live a further from campus than the average student, but I delight in my commute to Columbia: a seven-mile bike ride through New York City, 14 miles round trip. Sounds terrifying exhilarating, right? Here’s why biking is great.

Biking is Fast.

New Yorkers tend to be impatient about getting places. Prime ways to get around campus: Walking (invest in comfortable shoes if you haven’t already); NYC subways and buses (get your MetroCard once you’re in NYC!); the (electric!) intercampus buses.

But one of the fastest ways factoring in your route and traffic? Biking. From the Columbia School of Social Work on 122nd St. to the Hungarian Pastry Shop on 111th, walking those 11 blocks will take 11 minutes, while biking will get you there in 4.

Biking is Convenient.

You don’t even need to own a bike, to bike. Citi Bike is NYC’s bike-sharing service (and the largest bike share program in the U.S.). The bike docks are located all across New York City and is ideal for quick trips. Their app also makes it convenient to find the nearest dock with real-time bike availability, and you can unlock a bike with the app.

If you do own a bike, Columbia offers free bicycle parking enclosures, which also has bike repair tools and tire pumps (there’s an enclosure that is a 2-minute walk from the International Affairs Building). Don’t want to show up sweaty to class? You can get a Commuter Shower Pass at the Dodge Fitness Center for just $38 a semester. Columbia also offers bicycle store discounts, free bike registration with public safety, and many more perks.

Biking is Fun.

Of all the cardio exercises, biking has to be near the top in terms of enjoyability. New York City has some beautiful bike paths: The Hudson River Greenway trail, which is separated from car traffic, is on the West Side, and Central Park is teeming with cyclists. This is even without all the trails in Brooklyn!

If you’re already on campus or will be here before Orientation, take advantage of Summer Streets. On the first three Saturdays of August, 6.9 miles of Park Avenue will be closed to cars and open only to cyclists, pedestrians and joggers. You can bike through NYC landmarks normally closed to pedestrian traffic like Grand Central Terminal, and there will be free food, activities and giveaways along the route.

 

Always remember to put Safety First when you’re biking. The Morningside Heights neighborhood is easier to bike in since there’s less traffic and pedestrians relative to busy areas like Times Square. Still, this is the big city, and you should always put safety first:

  • Wear. A. Helmet. You’re going to really need your brain for Columbia. If you don’t have a helmet, use your Columbia ID at nearby bicycle stores for a 10% discount.
  • Obey traffic rules and be predictable. NYC is a busy and dense place, so along with following traffic rules, don’t make any sudden swerves in and out of traffic. It’s dangerous and the traffic around you can’t always account for it.
  • Be Aware. Someone flings open their taxi door into the bike lane, or a pigeon flies into your face — you can’t predict what’s going to happen around you, so be aware. This means no headphones or texting while biking, too.

A bike-friendly Columbia means less traffic and parking congestion and an improvement in health of the University. Improving and encouraging healthy commute alternatives will be an ongoing mission on campus as part of our Sustainability Plan. So grab your helmet and have fun exploring New York City by bike!