Because I was curious what it would look like on a map, I plotted my daily bike route from home to work and back again. I tagged a few of the points of interest, and some of the hazards.
View My daily bike route in a larger map
I take other routes from time to time, and branch off for errands and so forth; but after doing this for about a year, all other things being equal, on an ordinary day, I go exactly the same way up, and exactly the same way down — up 6th Avenue, and down 5th.
This route is the most direct, more or less. I used to divert to the bike lane along 8th Avenue (protected above 14th Street) in the morning, and the bike lane along 2nd Avenue and Allen Street (protected or separated almost the whole way) in the afternoon. But I’m a competent street rider, I’m familiar with the route, and I know most of the hazards, so I’m back on the straight route.
The morning ride is harder, both because there are some gentle uphill stretches and because traffic is heavier on 6th Avenue than on 5th. It’s a bit more than 2 1/2 miles each way — 2.6 miles in the morning, and a bit more in the afternoon.
One interesting fact is that on almost all my avenue portions, I’m riding on the left, not on the right. That’s true on 6th and 5th Avenues, and it’s also true on 1st and 2nd and 8th and 9th, because of where the bike lanes are. But even when I’m riding on 7th Avenue, which isn’t a designated bike route, or one of the avenue portions that aren’t marked for bikes, I tend to stay left rather than right — there are fewer buses and generally fewer obstructions.
Almost without exception, if there’s a bike lane provided (protected or not), that’s where I ride. Not only is it possibly required by city law (there’s been some dispute about this); it’s the place where those drivers who are looking out for cyclists are expecting to see us, so it’s where it’s safest for me to be.
And virtually the whole way, in both directions, I’m riding legally, with traffic and on the street. There is one significant exception, and that’s my confession: in the afternoon, when crossing Canal Street near the Holland Tunnel exit, I do something illegal and potentially dangerous. From the foot of Thompson Street (at 6th Avenue), I ride west across 6th Avenue, ride diagonally westward across Canal to the wrong side, do one short block against traffic on Canal, followed by a short southbound block on the sidewalk on Varick (to avoid cobblestones).
Here’s a snapshot of Google Street View facing southwest from Thompson and 6th (the starting point of this maneuver) in the direction I’m about to ride. Imagine me crossing behind the taxi you see there in the traffic, then riding along (toward the right in the frame) on the wrong side of Canal, passing the postal truck on its left.
I didn’t use to do it this way, but because of the way the street grid comes together, the alternative (cutting east to Broadway) is worse, involving more travel on more congested streets. I could, of course, walk my bike two longgggg blocks on the sidewalk, but that’s my fallback, not my starting plan.
Because of the timing of the lights at 6th Avenue and Varick, and the fact that there are usually NYPD traffic officers in both intersections, there’s not actually any traffic coming as I do my riding against traffic. And I’m actually protected by a curb cut ahead of me at Varick, so I’d be hard to hit accidentally. You can see the curb cut here, in the distance at left (live link this time):
But you can believe I’m exceptionally careful before and during this tricky crossing, watching that all the traffic on Canal, 6th, Varick, and Laight Streets is behaving as expected.