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may 20 2009

New York City: Free bikes for downtown visitors

(Allyson Keenan/Budget Travel)
(Allyson Keenan/Budget Travel)

From May 13 to September 30, The Alliance for Downtown New York is providing free loans of bicycles for two-and-a-half hour periods.

Hundreds of bikes are available for pickup at South Street Seaport, at Piers 16 and 17, by Fulton St. and South St. (In case you don't know, The Seaport a tourist-friendly shopping area with a discount Broadway TKTS booth and access to Hudson River ferry rides.) But you're free to ride throughout the city.

Guests are required to become a member by first visiting The Alliance online and registering. It's easy. Create an account by typing in your name, address, and credit card number. (Your card will be charged if you don't return the bike.) Then reserve a time to ride, or call the shop at 212/260-0400.

Registering at least a day before you plan to bike is recommended, but not necessary. Sessions run on a first-come, first-serve basis from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. During our mid-afternoon weekday visit to a pick-up site yesterday, we saw plenty of bikes available. The process looked as easy as advertised. A family of four, after a few instructions from the bike shop owners, quickly strapped on helmets and rode off.

After your two-and-a-half hours are up, you can return the bikes wherever there's a Bike And Roll location, such as at Pier 84 at Hudson River Park and at Battery Park by Pier A.

Need more time? Pay an hourly fee of $12.

Baby on-board? No problem. The equipment rental shop can hook you up with a Tag-a-long, wagon or baby seat to go along with your Comfort Hybrid bike. Kid size bikes and helmets are also available for no charge as well as bike locks.

The Greenway may be a logical first route to take instead of maneuvering through Times Square or some of the other crowded areas. And you may not be able to return the bike in time if you venture too far into the city. But all NYC bridges have bike paths, so there are technically no limits to your summer cycling aspiration—and perspiration.

—David Cumming

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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