Bicycling in New Haven, Part 1 (Or, you’ve found your apartment in New Haven—now get a bike!)

April 22, 2016

One of the best things about living at Corsair is that your apartment is the perfect starting point for getting around New Haven by bicycle. Hop on your bike in East Rock and you can be at many downtown or Yale locations in under 15 minutes. From your apartment on Upper State Street, it’s a direct, flat ride.

Recent moves by the city toward more bike lanes and bike parking aim to make riding easier in town, so there’s no reason not to try it. With the Rock to Rock Earth Day Ride and New Haven Bike Month right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to break out your wheels. Whether you want to commute by bike or just take a spin through East Rock Park for fun, this post will tell you how to get started cycling in New Haven.

Step 1: get a bike

First, get some wheels. If you just need a bike for a few hours or a day, try a bike share. The easiest of all is right at Corsair. You can check out bikes anytime with a PIN you’ll receive at move-in, no additional charge. Outside Corsair, Yale students and employees can also use a campus bike share. There’s no citywide bike sharing program just yet, but officials are working on it. (Read about it in the New Haven Independent.)

Ready to buy your own bike? New Haven has two bike shops downtown, both an easy trip from your apartment: College Street Cycles and the Devil’s Gear Bike Shop. College Street has a surprisingly large number of new and used bikes in a tiny space. (They also offer bike rentals.) For an even larger selection, try the Devil’s Gear. It’s also the place to learn about riding in New Haven, and not just for the racing crowd. This community-minded shop regularly leads group rides, both leisurely “sneakers and jeans” style and the more athletic kind, and offers frequent repair clinics. New to the city and the most specialized of the bike sellers is True Cyclery, which offers hand-built, U.S.-made bikes for people seeking something truly custom. It also happens to be the closest to Corsair, on the edge of the East Rock neighborhood near downtown.

Whatever ride you end up with, you won’t need to keep it in your apartment. Corsair offers onsite bike storage. It’s one of the building’s amenities.

Step 2: maintain your bike (and avoid grease stains in your apartment)

You’ll want to make sure your bike is in good working order before leaving your apartment. To fix or maintain your bike, there are options in addition to the shops above. Some repair services based in East Rock will even come to you. Goatville Cyclesmith is one such business that offers scheduled pickups. You can also find the owner, neighborhood fixture Joel LaChance, working outside near P&M Orange Street Market and East Rock Coffee.

If you’d rather fix your own bike, but don’t want to make a mess in your apartment, go to Bradley Street Bike Co-op. (It shares a building with True Cyclery, which also offers repairs and a pickup service.) Co-op membership gets you access to the workshop, or you can hire a mechanic to give you lessons. For minor adjustments you can do yourself, Corsair has a bike maintenance station. If you’re out and about and need air or a quick fix, several bike repair stations around town are equipped with basic tools. Find them at the train station, Yale Medical School, and at some city parks.

Step 3: Get ready to ride

If you’re new to riding a bike in New Haven, check out Street Smarts, the city’s campaign to educate everyone—people traveling on two wheels, on foot, or in cars—about how to safely share the streets. You can also download the city’s bicycling handbook, which includes rules of the road and the location of bike lanes, including the Farmington Canal Trail. A printed bike lane map is also available at all local bike shops. If you’re new to riding on city streets entirely, Elm City Cycling sometimes offers traffic skills classes. Follow them for the latest events or to learn about this all-volunteer group’s efforts to make New Haven a more bike-friendly city.

Good to know: bike helmets aren’t required by law in Connecticut for anyone over 15, but most safety experts agree that you should wear one. Bike lights, however, are needed to legally ride at night. You can buy them at any bike shop or pick one up for free at the city’s Department of Transportation (200 Orange St.) during business hours. You’ll also need a lock if you use your own bike or a regular rental. Corsair’s bike-share bikes have them built in.

Once you’ve got your wheels and are tuned up and refreshed on how to ride, you’re ready to take advantage of New Haven’s many bike activities. We’ll look at those in the next post.