In recent years, Boston has made vast improvements in its infrastructure for cyclists, including painting miles of bicycle lanes and implementing an excellent bike-share program. Local drivers are used to sharing the roads with their two-wheeled friends, but cyclists should always obey traffic rules and ride defensively.

Explore Boston by bike with this guide to routes, cycle hire and riding tips.

3 of the best off-road cycling routes in Boston

Emerald Necklace 

The Emerald Necklace is an evocative name for a chain of parks and green spaces that weave some 7 miles through Boston, from the Boston Common to Franklin Park. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in the late 19th century, the Emerald Necklace treats city residents to fresh air, green grass and flowing water, right within the city limits. It's lovely to walk but even better to cycle; so hop on a bike and go for the green. (Note that this route is mostly unpaved, so road bikes are not recommended.)

The 4-mile cycling route along the Emerald Necklace starts west of Kenmore Sq, at the north end of the Riverway (near the Fenway T-stop). The bike trail follows the west side of the Muddy River for about a mile to Olmsted park. Here, a paved path hugs the banks of Leverett Pond and Ward's Pond for another mile. At Willow Pond Rd, shift to the east side of the park and ride along the Jamaicaway bike path, passing Ward Pond and Jamaica Pond.

At the southern end of Jamaica Pond, you'll follow the Arborway south, circle the rotary and enter the Arnold Arboretum. (You may be more comfortable riding on the sidewalk during this brief stretch.) From the Arboretum visitor center, enjoy a leisurely one-mile ride along Meadow Rd and up to Bussey Hill for a fabulous lookout.

From here, you can return the way you came or ride back along the Southwest Corridor Park trail to Fenway or to the South End.

First time visiting Boston? Here are some things to know before you go

An open green space with cycle path on a sunny day
The Minuteman Bikeway goes through historic sites, such as Lexington Center © Jay Yuan / Shutterstock

Ride the Minuteman Bikeway

The best of Boston’s bicycle trails is the Minuteman Bikeway, a rail trail that leads 6.5 miles from Cambridge to historic Lexington Center, then traverses an additional 3.5 miles of idyllic scenery, terminating in the rural suburb of Bedford. Along the way, the trail skirts the shady woodlands and flat marshlands of Great Meadows, great for bird sightings, scenic overlooks and detours on foot. In Lexington Center, the trail passes alongside the old train depot. There is also a visitors center (with bathrooms and water bubbler), near the historic buildings and Battle Green. Depot Park contains a vintage diesel car and an information center in the old freight house at the trail's terminus in Bedford.

Note that the Minuteman Bikeway starts near Alewife station in Cambridge. However, it is also accessible from Davis Sq in Somerville (via the 1.5-mile Linear Path) and even North Point Park in East Cambridge (via the 4.6-mile Somerville Community Path). You can get your bicycle from a Bluebikes docking station near any of these starting points.

Ambitious riders can go farther or make it a loop by hooking up with the Reformatory Branch or Battle Rd. The Reformatory Branch is an unpaved trail extending about 4 miles from the end of the Minuteman Bikeway in Bedford to the Old North Bridge in Concord. To get on Battle Rd, turn off the Minuteman in Lexington Center and take Mass Ave 1.6 miles to Battle Rd. This 5-mile dirt road connects many revolutionary sites, ending at Meriam's Corner. From here, it's another mile into Concord Center.

Cycle to the Sam Adams Boston Brewery

The best way to get to the original home of Boston’s favorite beer is to cycle the Southwest Corridor. The linear park is 4.1 miles long, stretching from Back Bay to Forest Hills station, and you can pick it up in the South End, Roxbury or Jamaica Plain.

Once you get to the brewhouse, where the research and development takes place, you can take the signature tour to learn about the process or skip it and head straight to the tap room for flights and bites.

Need more inspiration? Here are the best things to do in Boston

A row of identical blue bikes available for hire from street stations
Bluebikes is Boston's bike-share scheme © 2p2play / Shutterstock

Where to hire a bike in Boston


Bluebikes is Boston’s bike-share program. There are hundreds of Bluebikes stations around Boston, Cambridge, Brookline, Somerville and surrounding towns, stocked with 4000 bikes that are available for short-term loan. Download the app or visit any bicycle kiosk to purchase your pass. Unlock your bike and ride! You can return the bike to any kiosk that is convenient to your destination. 

Pay for a one-way trip (30 minutes max) or purchase a day pass, which allows for an unlimited number of two-hour bike rides in 24 hours.

Urban AdvenTours

Bluebikes are heavy. If you prefer something swifter – or more specialized – you can rent a bicycle from Urban AdvenTours in the North End. Road bikes, mountain bikes, electric bikes and children's bikes are all available, in addition to the standard city bikes (hybrids).

Urban AdvenTours also offers highly-rated guided bicycle tours, which is a great option for novice riders. Bicycles, helmets and water are provided.

Top tips for cycling in Boston

  • Basic bike path courtesy means you ride on the right, pass on the left. When passing, warn other riders and pedestrians by ringing your bell or calling "Passing on your left."
  • When riding on the road, cyclists are generally required to follow the same rules as cars.
  • You can bring bikes on the T (subway), commuter trains, and most buses. Bikes are not allowed on green-line trains or on any trains during rush hours. 
  • Helmets are always recommended but they are legally required for children under age 16.

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