Travelers have a bunch of choices on how to get to the airport. They can drive and pay to park. They can take a taxi or car service, or, perhaps, a bus or train. But whatever way they choose, travelers usually face delays in traffic or as they arrive ...
Conor Semler, a transportation planner, rides his bike to Boston Logan Airport when he needs to head out of town. “I prefer not to be in a car,” he said.CreditCreditKayana Szymczak for The New York Times
By Amy Zipkin
Nov. 26, 2018
Travelers have a bunch of choices on how to get to the airport. They can drive and pay to park. They can take a taxi or car service, or, perhaps, a bus or train. But whatever way they choose, travelers usually face delays in traffic or as they arrive at the terminal.
That’s where a new option comes in, at least at some airports: the bicycle.
Conor Semler, a transportation planner for a private firm who lives in Somerville, Mass., north of Boston, rides his bicycle to Boston Logan International Airport when he travels for work, about twice a month.
“I prefer not to be in a car,” he said.
He said the seven-mile trip to the airport takes about 45 minutes compared with 25 minutes by car. And it has obstacles, including rutted streets through an industrial area. If it snows, cycling is out. And once, he said, he was flagged for a pat-down by airport security after the initial scanner screening picked up an anomaly — perspiration. Still, the trip and parking are free, and he has a choice of seven bike rack locations at the airport.
Other airports around the country have also become bicycle accessible, among them Baltimore-Washington and the airports in San Diego and Portland, Ore. Of course, some airports were built far from residential neighborhoods or, like Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, are accessible only from highways that restrict bicycles.
In many cases, it’s not just travelers using bicycles but airport employees.
The nascent phenomenon comes as bike-sharing systems expand and the travel industry looks to reduce its environmental impact.
At the same time, it has been aided by technology apps and a growing recognition that cycling is integral to the transportation network in many cities. It’s the ability to “combine technology with forms of transportation,” said Marcello Gasdia, the research lead for Deloitte’s travel, hospitality and services practice.
“Regional and state transportation planners are rethinking airport access and who travels to the airport, and how and why,” said Sharon Feigon, executive director of the Shared-Use Mobility Center, a national public interest organization in Chicago dedicated to affordable transportation. “Airports can facilitate bicycle travel for employees and some travelers.”
About five years ago, researchers at the Safe Transportation Research and Education Center at the University of California, Berkeley, found that airport operators were adapting to bicycle travel as a way to reduce the number of employee parking spaces. They focused on seven airports, including Los Angeles International, Boston Logan and Portland International.
“One aspect that has changed is the penetration of cargo bikes that can now easily accommodate bags for short airplane trips,” said Offer Grembek, a co-director of the center who was not involved in the study. “Another aspect is electrification of bikes that increase the range and reduce the level of effort needed.”
The federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics estimated there were 106 bike-sharing systems with fixed docking stations available to the public for a fee as of May, an increase from 88 systems a year earlier. And the National Association of City Transportation Officials estimated that 35 million bike-share trips were taken in 2017, up 25 percent from 2016.
There is also increased economic muscle behind bicycling. Last April, Uber bought Jump Bikes, a dockless electric bicycle sharing system operating in 12 cities in the United States. (A dockless bike can be picked up wherever the last rider left it.) In July, Lyft bought Motivate, a New York company that organizes and operates bike-sharing systems in New York, Boston, Chicago and Washington.
Mr. Semler converts his rolling luggage into a backpack. Some airports have taken steps to accommodate bicycles to reduce the amount of employee car parking.CreditKayana Szymczak for The New York Times
On trips to Washington, Mr. Semler walks about 10 minutes from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport to a Capital Bikeshare station in Crystal City, a neighborhood in Arlington, Va., for the 30-minute ride to his company’s office at the Navy Yard. He uses Google Maps for directions. “With biking, I have a more reliable trip. With Metro, I could be stuck in a tunnel for 15 minutes,” he said.
Other biking routes, including the Mount Vernon Trail along the Potomac River, take bikers through Arlington and Alexandria, Va., down to Mount Vernon.
Some airports are trying to make life easier for cyclists.
Baltimore-Washington International Airport has the 12.5-mile Hiker-Biker Trail, which circles the airport and connects to public transportation and to Zagster Bike Share.
Ten bicycles are in a rack directly outside the airport rail station. “It’s for members of the community, customers and employees,” said Jonathan Dean, an airport spokesman.
On the websites for the San Diego International Airport and Portland International, bicyclists have their own pages with directions.
Portland airport also has a separate bicycle assembly area for passengers who fly with their cycles, a repair station, free bicycle parking, a bike path, and a connection to TriMet, the area mass transit.
Jonathan Maus, editor and publisher of BikePortland.org, a website devoted to cycling, said the assembly room gets high marks, but some people might find biking from the airport daunting. While he doesn’t consider himself a timid rider, “the route includes pretty scary arterial intersections,” he said. And the directional signals along the path are confusing to cyclists.
The path for bikers and pedestrians was paid for by the Port of Portland. The airport said it was aware of the shortcomings, but did not have the funding for all the suggested improvements.
In San Diego, Sreenath Narayan, a medical resident in radiology who has four bicycles, said he turned to cycling to the airport after being stuck in traffic too often. “The bicycle trip is more predictable,” he said. The airport has 104 bike parking spaces, but after a year of using the free bicycle racks exclusively, he sent a $25 deposit to San Diego Association of Governments to become eligible to use a sheltered bicycle locker there.
His trip typically originates in La Jolla, and he said directional signs were sparse at first. The airport is near the Bayshore Bikeway, a 24-mile bicycle circuit that connects to the South Bay and Coronado. Closer to the airport is a shared-use path for bicyclists and pedestrians, said Rebecca Bloomfield, an airport spokeswoman. The path is separate from vehicle traffic, she said, and connects the airport to downtown San Diego and the landmarks Spanish Landing Park, Liberty Station and Point Loma.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs La Guardia Airport, Kennedy International and Newark Liberty International, is promoting bicycle use, and its 2017 Bicycle Master Plan shows how cyclists can use secondary roads and airport transportation to cycle to the three airports.
As bicycling for transportation becomes more widespread, the federal government might help defray some of the cost of bike paths. The Federal Aviation Administration has jurisdiction over airport safety, which includes access roads — and those are eligible for funding as long as they meet all access road requirements, the agency said in a statement.
As for Mr. Semler, he has expanded his cycling habits to include travel to meetings and family outings. “The first time I rode my bike to Logan, it was mostly for the novelty,” he said. “But after trying it I realized it was not just possible but kind of easy.”
A version of this article appears in print on , on Page B6 of the New York edition with the headline: A Swift and Nimble Way to Your Flight. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
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