An airport may seem like the last place to which you would ride your bike. You still want to ride there: It’s an alternative to driving (either by yourself, or getting dropped off), taking a taxi, or riding transit. It’s an ideal destination to which to encourage bicycling: Thousands of passengers move in and out, in addition to thousands more workers – switching just a portion of these trips to bicycling would reduce congestion and damaging demands on the transportation system. I see two major issues that stifle the frequency of biking to the airport: how to get there, and parking.
A photo from Jonathan Maus’ first trip to the airport via bicycle. See links in “Getting There” below.
Many cities have airports far away from population centers. Think Denver, Colorado (a commuter rail will reach DIA soon). Kansai near Kobe, Japan, is on an artificial island two miles from shore. A causeway carrying high-speed trains and a highway gets passengers to KIX.
But what if you live in a city where the airport is in town, accessible by city streets (either minor or arterial), or is even a short train ride away? It seems more plausible to bike there. I’m thinking of airports like Midway in Chicago, Illinois (MDW), or Portland, Oregon (PDX).
In Portland, bicyclists can either take the MAX light rail train, or bike all the way (PDF map). At the airport, the path leads right into a bike parking area. Photo of bike parking at PDX and Read Jonathan Maus’ experience.
In Chicago, bicyclists can ride directly to Midway on any street (Archer provides a direct connection, but has high-volume traffic on many segments), and there are many north-south and east-west streets with marked bicycle facilities. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Orange Line terminates at the station. Bicyclists will find sheltered bike parking outside or inside the train station.
Neither situation assuages my concerns about bike parking security.
Cities, transit agencies, and airport operators should work together to provide secure, electronically accessed bicycle lockers either on airport property, at adjacent transit centers, or at key stations on connecting trains. Electronic bike lockers will provide bicyclists with the convenience and security necessary to encourage them to ride. I would ride to the train station nearest my house if I knew I could store my bike in a locker for seven vacation days.
A bike locker at the Victoria International Airport available for cheap use near the departures entrance. Photo by John Luton.
The airport in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada (YYJ),Â provides bike lockers for $2 a day. It’s not as convenient as one that’s accessed electronically; it requires you visit the security office to get keys. The manufacturer, Cycle Safe, offers an electronic option.
This photo shows the BikeLink electronic card access solution for bicycle lockers. Load a magnetic stripe card with cash and control any locker in the network. Photo by John Luton.
I think BikeLink is a great solution in providing electronic bike locker access. It would work like this: The local airport authority, in collaboration with the city and transit agencies, would install BikeLink lockers at several, various locations at the airport, and transit centers (both bus and train). Users purchase a smart card and load it with cash. It now works like a debit card. Users insert the card into the locker they want to use, open the door, store their bike, and lock the door. Days later, when your vacation is up, re-insert your smart card to unlock the door. The BikeLink network operator debits your card for the amount of time you used the locker.
So far, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and nearby Silicon Valley cities have installed these lockers at many train stations, parking garages, ferry terminals, libraries, and university campuses. Find a map on BikeLink’s website.
BikeLinks works similar to pay-as-you-go cellphones or RFID transit passes (like ORCA in Seattle, Washington, or the Oyster card in London, England). The BikeLink smart card differs in that it uses the traditional magnetic stripe. However, enterprising agencies could build an integrated RFID card (much like the I-Go car sharing program and the Chicago Card that opens car doors and bus doors).
I’ll be waiting for this to happen. In the meantime, on Monday, I’m going to hop on the bus and transfer to the train, a journey that costs a reasonable $2.50 and takes 30 minutes.