Few things are as synonymous with summer as a bicycle ride in the sunshine. Slow or fast, fancy or garage-sale find, a bike gives the rider permission to take in the sights and sounds that whir by unnoticed in a car.
Whether you’re 5 or 55, now is as good a time as any to start enjoying the world on two wheels—so we rounded up five local routes ideal for beginner bicyclists and young riders. Each features manageable distances on paved bike paths and wide, dedicated bike lanes (plus water, potty and snack stops along the way). Happy trails!
Canalside to Wilkeson Pointe
Distance: 3.6 miles one way (return by ferry); 7.2 miles round trip
Water & bathrooms: Canalside, Wilkeson Pointe
This waterfront ride starts and ends at Canalside and winds along the Buffalo River with plenty to see along the route. Riders begin on a wide boardwalk overlooking kayakers on the river, pass under the Skyway and meander by the iconic red Edward M. Cotter fireboat with the scent of Cheerios wafting from the nearby General Mills factory.
Following the clearly marked Shoreline Trail, the ride continues onto Ohio Street bike lanes past River Fest Park, a fishing access point, grain elevators and over a bridge that crosses the Buffalo River. Where Ohio Street turns into Fuhrmann Boulevard, the route turns right and takes riders toward Wilkeson Pointe on Buffalo’s Outer Harbor, which offers a snack bar, bathrooms, a sandy beach, kayak and paddleboard rentals and outdoor sculptures that dance in the wind.
From here, riders have the option to cycle back to Canalside along the same route or take the Queen City Bike Ferry across the water back to the starting point for $1 per person (Memorial Day through Labor Day; schedules at queencityferry.com). Back at Canalside, reward a ride well done with an ice cream (or beer) enjoyed on a colorful Adirondack chair, while smaller riders expel any leftover energy in the giant sandbox.
Ellicott Creek Park to Amherst Bike Path
Distance: 5.8 miles one way; 11.6 miles round trip
Water & bathrooms: Ellicott Creek Park, bike path end at North Forest
Ellicott Creek Park in Amherst offers an ideal staging area to start a longer ride on the Ellicott Creek Trailway (also known as the UB bike path and the Amherst bike path). This scenic route starts at the park, and after crossing Niagara Falls Boulevard, takes cyclists on a bike path route along the sights of the creek, including early morning wild turkey and deer, shore birds and LaSalle Lake on the University at Buffalo campus.
The path briefly enters a shared roadway on a dedicated wide shoulder along Frontier Road before resuming on the bike path to the end at North Forest Road near the Audubon Golf Course. A return trip back to Ellicott Creek Park can be celebrated with a picnic lunch at one of several shelters, disk golf and a spin around the playgrounds.
Delaware Park Ring Road to Hoyt Lake
Distance: 4.15 miles
Water & bathrooms: Throughout the park
This park-centric route is ideal for younger riders, as it offers plenty of facilities, fun things to see and a few options to lengthen or shorten the ride. Enter Delaware Park at Jewett Parkway, where free parking is available along the park on Ring Road or for $5 in the Buffalo Zoo lot. Head out to the right in a counter-clockwise direction along Ring Road, which is clearly marked with areas for pedestrians and a wide, shared cyclist/car lane with slow speeds enforced. Riders pass by the roaming bison outside at the Buffalo Zoo and then past Ashker’s in The Park, which serves smoothies, juices and vegetarian meals.
Veer right near the bathhouse next to the 198 and follow the sidewalk to a single-road crossing at the Nottingham Terrace on-ramp to the 198, picking up the bike path on the other side near the tennis courts. At the foot of the winding pedestrian bridge over the 198, riders have the option of continuing straight for a detour to the Japanese Gardens and Buffalo
History Museum or continuing across the bridge that connects both sides of the park. Across the bridge, the path loops around Hoyt Lake and passes by the Statue of David, the Rose Garden and Shakespeare Hill. Once around the lake, head back to the pedestrian bridge to the meadow side of Delaware Park, and continue riding counter-clockwise back to the start.
Distance: 1.8 miles one way; 3.6+ miles round trip
Water & bathrooms: Throughout the parks
This choose-your-own-adventure route along the Niagara River can be as short or as long as schedules and legs allow, with endless, breathtaking views of the water from shaded picnic tables and benches. The Riverwalk bike path is part of the 21-mile Shoreline Trail that starts at the Erie Canal in Tonawanda and continues south into the city with a few well-marked, low-traffic street crossings required.
A shorter, scenic section of the Riverwalk starts in Isle View County Park in Tonawanda. Take Two Mile Creek Road into the park, and head all the way left to the end of the paved roadway. From there, park and unload the bikes, then head north (the water will be on your left) along the bike path into Niawanda Park, a route that features several options for ice cream or a burger in the summer sun. Continuing to the end of the park totals 1.8 miles one-way, with the option to continue further in either direction. The path through the parks can be busy in the summer time, so be sure to watch for pedestrians, dogs on leashes and stubborn Canadian geese.
Northtowns Rail Trail
Distance: 4.15 miles one way; 8.3 miles round trip
Water & bathrooms: Shoshone Park
Starting at Shoshone Park on Hertel Avenue near Main Street, this ride follows wide bike paths the entire way with on-demand traffic signals at road crossings. The route is a former railroad line of the Erie Lackawanna Railway, which carried freight and passengers in the 1880s and has recently been converted into a paved path for walkers and cyclists.
Park for free in the Shoshone lot and head north on the North Buffalo Rails-to-Trails path, which turns into the Tonawanda Rails-to-Trails path at Kenmore Avenue. The tree-lined path meanders past several parks, schools and former railroad bridges with benches to take a rest as needed. The path ends just before Ellicott Creek in Tonawanda (with expansion to connect to the 300-mile Erie Canalway Trail planned for the future). For now, head back to the starting point and pick up a treat along the way: popular stops include the trifecta of Paula’s Donuts, Ted’s Hot Dogs and Anderson’s Ice Cream, where the bike path crosses Sheridan Drive, or Lake Effect Ice Cream near Shoshone Park at the end.
No bike? No problem
Bike sharing allows riders to park near a rack full of bikes, rent one using an app and ride off. Download the apps to check rates, register as a rider and see where hubs of bicycles are located around Western New York.
$3 for a 2-day pass or $9 for a group of up to four riders; annual options available. Adult bikes only. Available near: Canalside to Wilkeson Pointe route, Delaware Park to Hoyt Lake route and Shoshone Park end of Northtowns Rail Trial route.
Blue Bikes at Canalside
$25 for a day pass, hourly rates available (discount for BlueCross BlueShield members). Bikes for adults and kids, tricycles and a bike built for six; helmet and lock included.
Story topics: Wellness