York has a number of good-quality traffic-free routes. Its major innovation is the Orbital Route, a bike ring road with 26 numbered junctions. At each one, signs point along cycle routes to the city centre and out to the suburbs.
The Orbital itself is a patchwork of roadside paths, residential roads and traffic-free sections. Though this means there are a few too many crossings and turns to get anywhere fast, it’s a clear, simple concept that will help you find the best routes around town.
York is bisected by the River Ouse, and riverside paths run alongside it both north and south of the centre. There’s no path in the very centre, though, so you’ll need to take the road route on the south/west bank. To the north, the traffic-free route contniues to Clifton and out towards Beningbrough, while southbound it reaches Bishopthorpe and Selby. The new Millennium Bridge in the south of the city provides an excellent link between the two riverside paths, but it’s a shame there’s no equivalent in the city centre: you’ll find yourself manhandling your bike over the narrow, stepped Scarborough Bridge.
From the University, an excellent route runs west over the pretty meadow of Walmgate Stray, heading for the river at the Millennium Bridge. (There’s also a direct, though busier, route via Heslington Road.) A cyclepath snakes around the campus to the Science Park, but keep your eyes open at bends – it’s busy and narrow, so you can’t cut corners.