Bike Commuting from Hoboken to Manhattan

I won’t claim to be an expert on this topic since I’ve only been doing this on a daily basis for about three months, but I hope some people find it helpful. I’ve lived in Hoboken for four years but for most of that time, my office location has been within walking distance to either Port Authority Bus Terminal or a PATH station, so I didn’t bother considering incorporating the bike into my commute.

First world problem — having to work in Soho

However, about five months ago, my company’s New York City office moved to Soho and getting from Hoboken to Soho isn’t exactly the most straightforward journey. This obviously depends on where in Hoboken you’re coming from, but it’s going to come down to taking 1) a bus to Port Authority Bus Terminal or 2) the 33rd St. PATH train. Without a bike, I determined the optimal commute to be via 33rd St. PATH from Hoboken to Christopher St., then walk to Soho:

Yes, I could take a bus from midtown Hoboken to the PATH and/or get off the PATH at 14th St, then switch to the F/M to Broadway-Lafayette St. Those steps add significant variability whereas walking is pretty much guaranteed to always take the same amount of time. The problem is that in the best case, this journey takes about 40 minutes with a worst case of around an hour if you have to wait a while for the PATH train, especially if it’s late at night or you have to wait for the next non-sardine-packed train.

With a bike, the time spent on both ends of the PATH train ride gets reduced significantly. My best case went down to 25 minutes with a worst case of around 40–45 minutes. So how do you incorporate a bike into the commute since bicycles aren’t allowed on the PATH train during rush hour? There are two main options I can think of (besides time-shifting your work schedule to 10am to 7pm, which isn’t that weird…).

Bike share!

Hoboken has a bike share system. New York City has a bike share system. No, they are not inter-operable. We’ll save that discussion for another day. ;)

Bike share is a great solution for the “last mile” problem — getting to transit, then getting to your final destination. Here’s an in-depth look at how bike share in Washington, DC helps solve the last mile problem:

My Brompton waiting for the next PATH train with everyone else

In our case, you can use bike share to get from your home in Hoboken to the PATH station. Once you get off the PATH train in Manhattan, you can use bike share to get to your workplace. No need to worry about bike storage, maintenance, locking it up, etc. Even with having to pay for two bike share systems, the total cost is low compared to paying for additional rides on public transit.

One problem I’ve run into is the bike share stations are often empty during rush hour. It’s great that bike share is so popular, both in Hoboken and New York, but if I have to walk another few blocks to get to an available bike, that somewhat defeats the purpose of relying on bike share. Also, bike share bikes are arguably not much fun to ride.

My Brompton in front of a completely empty CitiBike station outside the Christopher St. PATH station.

If you don’t mind occasionally hunting for an available bike and prefer the convenience of bike share over performance, this is a great option!

Folding bikes!

If you read the link to the PATH Train’s bicycle policy carefully, you might have noticed their restriction on bicycles during rush hour doesn’t apply to folding bikes! It makes sense since most folding bikes don’t take up any more space than a suitcase.

You may want to consider a folding bike over the bike share option if 1) you get annoyed with bikes not being available at the bike share stations and/or 2) you want something that’s more fun to ride. Fortunately, folding bikes are available at different price points. A good place to start shopping for a folding bike is BFold, a small shop in the East Village which exclusively sells folding bikes.

Yes, you should ride

Thanks for making it this far in this blog post. If you’re wondering if it’s worth the hassle of doing bike share or lugging a folding bike around, my answer is yes. Saving about 30 minutes off my commute every day is nice. However, the most important reason why I’m sticking with this is it’s fun! Hoboken and New York are such wonderful, dense, urban environments where you always discover something new and interesting — that journey of discovery is more efficient and fun on a bicycle.

Stumbling upon a random group of cyclists riding through the West Village:

Using the Sinatra Drive waterfront multi-use path to speed past auto traffic:

Hope to see you on a future rush hour commute!

This post was written by Peter Kim, one of Bike Hoboken’s core team members.

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