Can you bike to the airport?

bike stand sign


Can you bike to your local airport?

In a few hours, Meghan Sinnott and I are leading our second annual bike ride to and from Portland’s international airport (PDX) as part of the Pedalpalooza bike fun festival. Last year’s ride was a blast, featuring a tour of the Port of Portland’s bike-friendly airport facilities, including a dedicated bike path right up to the arrivals gate, secure bike parking closer to the doors than even the taxi stand, and best of all a bike rack and tools for disassembling and reassembling your bike when you fly.

In Portland, we’re lucky to have a welcoming airport and several pleasant and easy routes to get to it from different parts of town, and I’m convinced that more people will start making bikes part of their travel plans as word continues to get out. Of course, we also have some challenges to bike-air combo trips, including a few bad crossings and simply finding your way there in the first place without getting lost. More on that later (with pictures!).

For now, I’m curious about your experiences at other airports. The only other place I’ve tried to ride to the airport is Las Vegas, where they have the luck of proximity with their inner city airport, but some of the most terrifying roads I’ve ever ridden on to get to and from it.

I’m guessing that while most airports are definitely not designed with human-powered transport in mind (another major advantage of train travel is that stations are in the middle of cities), each airport must have its own advantages and challenges for cycling—some combination of routes, wayfinding, parking, security, and overall attitude towards bikes.

Here’s the scoop from a friend on Twitter about riding to the airport in NYC:

Awesome! I asked for more details and he replied:

Anyone else ride to the airport lately? What was it like? What could make it better?

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19 Responses to “Can you bike to the airport?”

  1. Alicia June 15, 2012 at 11:00 am #

    Schiphol Amsterdam has bike lanes all the way to the front doors! An bicycle parking lots for employees.

    • Elly June 15, 2012 at 11:05 am #

      Dreamy! Which reminds me… 10,000 people work at the airport. Lots of them bike (and they have a great secure bike parking cage) but I wonder what it would take for more to be able to.

    • rubin110 September 12, 2012 at 12:39 am #

      Copenhagen was the same. The majority of bike parking was for employees of the airport.

  2. Rubin June 15, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    San Francisco International (SFO) is bike friendly-ish. You can bike to and from the airport just fine, though it isn’t all that super close from the city, about 1.5 hours to anywhere useful in SF. It is a little complicated getting in/out of the airport, as it involves a maze of parking garages, but it’s very much doable. I don’t think the airport will have a problem with assembling and disassembling bikes at the airport to parking garage entrance. Generally when I’ve flown with my Bike Friday I’ve simply packed it at my house or in the Mission and ridden BART (bikes allowed during non-commute hours) to simplify things. Also there’s unmonitored bike parking, and they make a bit of a deal about leaving bikes at your own risk on their site. Additionally I’ve brought my fully assembled bike into the airport when picking up/greeting folks flying in. And have (drunkenly) ridding my bike going the wrong way on the moving sidewalk things, though I wouldn’t recommend it. :P

    I’ve biked out of Copenhagen airport (Københavns Lufthavn or CPH). I couldn’t find any sort of dedicated bike assembly area (though I had only been in the country for 30 minutes at that point, and hadn’t slept for I don’t know how long because flying to/from Iceland in the summer time is some crazy business), so I went out side and fond some sidewalk area where there were a metric ton of bikes locked up (and not locked up) near their subway entrance. From there biking into the city was a breeze (except for the whole lack of sleep deal).

    Also biked out of Portland, but that ended up being a low blood sugar how did I not realize the airport was so far from everything interesting it’s late and cold, kind of bike ride.

    Other airports I want to try are Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Vancouver and Seattle (thought that might hurt).

    • ladyfleur September 11, 2012 at 4:10 pm #

      Hi Rubin, I’m considering Caltrain + bike to get to SFO this week. Which bike rack did you use? Were the signs easy to follow? I was thinking of parking at the rack in the Valet Area. Any tips? (you can also tweet me at @ladyfleur)

    • rubin110 September 12, 2012 at 12:38 am #

      Hi Ladyfleur. So SFO has this new nifty page detailing their bike parking options…

      http://www.flysfo.com/web/page/orphan/bicycle-parking/

      I haven’t actually left a bike locked up at SFO before, so I can’t really give you any first hand advice. I’d suggest biking into each of the different locations and getting a feel for the possibility of thieving foot traffic and if the rack is covered or not (depending on what time of the year you’re flying). Also see if the folks running the gates to the parking lots are there 24/7 or not. And check for bike skeletons or carcases left on the racks, a sure sign of a high thief area.

      You can bike from Caltrain to SFO, or simply Caltrain to Millbrae and bike from there.

      Additionally take note of their 14 day limit for parking. Bringing two locks instead of one and using them both also wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

      And above all else, make sure Bart/Caltrain/whatever is actually running after your return trip back home, give or take an hour.

  3. Harald June 15, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

    Montreal’s Trudeau airport is awesome to bike to: 90% is on very scenic bike paths along the Lachine Canal and St. Lawrence River, 5% on bike lanes/cycletracks, and only a short bit on-road/sidewalk. Map
    I haven’t figured out what kind of bike parking options they have.

  4. Biking Yogini June 15, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

    DC – national airport is right on the Mt Vernon trail. But I’ve never biked to a flight because I always have too much stuff to fit in my panniers. One day…

  5. Merlin June 15, 2012 at 5:29 pm #

    According to the website for the Velo-City 2012 conference coming up in a couple weeks in Vancouver, BC, it’s not too hard to get into town from the airport by bike:
    “The route from the airport to the conference venue is primarily along streets with cycling facilities or traffic calmed. A 110 metre high hill needs to be crossed. The trip is approximately 20 kilometres from the airport terminal, McConachie Way, Miller Rd, Sea Island Way, No. 3rd, and River Rd lead to the bike deck on the Canada Line Bridge. On the North Side, Cambie St with its bike lanes is the easiest climb over the hill on the south side of Vancouver. 29th Ave, Midlothian, Ontario, 1st Ave, Quebec St, and the bike path on the shoulder of Union St will lead to the Dunsmuir Viaduct. After a sharp right turn, the separated bike lanes of Dunsmuir and Hornby pass through downtown to the conference venue.” From the conference website: http://www.velo-city2012.com/venue/when-and-where

  6. Brian June 15, 2012 at 6:42 pm #

    Nope. I live in a small city (Greenville, NC) with a very small airport; it’s quite close to downtown (10 minutes or so), on a reasonably rideable route; BUT, when I asked where to park my bike, the staff told me that I would not be permitted to park it, and if I were to try, they’d remove and impound it. Apparently, bikes are a much bigger security threat than cars. Bummer.

    • ladyfleur June 16, 2012 at 8:20 am #

      It makes absolutely no sense that bikes are a bigger security threat than cars, with their trunks that can house hundreds of pounds of explosives. The truth is that it’s just a threat to the authorities sense of normal behavior.

  7. ladyfleur June 16, 2012 at 8:26 am #

    I’ve ridden to the airport in San Jose, California twice for overnight business trips. Like Las Vegas, it’s an in-town airport only 4 miles from downtown. There’s even a recreation trail that takes you straight to the terminals where there is a rack inside the parking garage right by the main entrance. Works great.

    The downside is that there is almost no signage to direct walkers or bicyclists to the only route in, which is not obvious at all. You can read more about riding to SJC in my blog post (includes photos): http://ladyfleur.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/leaving-on-a-jet-plane-with-help-from-my-bike/

  8. Jym June 16, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

    =v= Like Austin, I tried biking to JFK but stopped “because of terrorism” (no ticket, though), so I switched to riding to AirTrain.

    Biking from San Francisco to SFO means a windy stretch just north of the airport, and one time I did it with a bike box bungeed to my back and had to tack into the wind! Since I switched to a folding bike that fits into a suitcase (that itself doubles as a trailer), I avoid bike box sailing.

    OAK is right on a city bike route and is friendly to bicyclists.

  9. Joseph June 17, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    Didn’t have my bike with me, but walked from downtown San Diego to Lindbergh Field on a multi-use path (it’s just a little over two miles).
    Got to hear an owl in one of the street trees as the sun started to set.
    It’s a very civilized way to get to the airport and I arrived in a more relaxed state of mind.

  10. Barry June 19, 2012 at 2:56 am #

    Christchurch International Airport – New Zealand.
    Plenty of space to unpack the bike. Access by traffic roads. No ‘bike station’. Once inside bagage handlers were very pleasant to deal with. Even giving ideas on where to dispose of bike wrapping material. Cheers.

  11. Eric W June 20, 2012 at 2:23 pm #

    I been thinking about publishing a guide to LAX in Los Angeles. Right now it’s a bike deathtrap for the unwary. The only bikeable approach is from the North, despite a bike lane on the south and western edges.

    So if you arrive (or plan to depart) from LAX: ride the sidewalk North until you can cross Sepulvada Boulevand on the 96th Street bridge. There you can resume normal street cycling on wide, though busy roads. Any other direction will put you in 60mph multi-lane traffic without any shoulder.

    Distance are LA size – it’s about 20 miles to Downtown Los Angeles. It’s about 2 miles to the closest Green Line Metro Station at Aviation to DTLA. You could ride Lincoln and it’s bike lane north to Venice and the bike-friendly Santa Monica. You could continue north to Westchester Parkway, turn west and continue a couple miles to the beach bike path, which runs north/south. None of these routes are marked.

    Probably your best bet is to just take a shuttle clear of the airport itself. Any of them will take you clear. There are free shuttles to a bus transfer station. I like the Hacienda Hotel, which is a short hop south, ending across from a Starbucks. That’s a excellent location to assemble/disassemble your bike, then off you go.

    So, LAX is possible, with careful route research, just clear the airport area itself, and you’re able to bike in LA’s sunny clime.

  12. Mari Lynch - Bicycling Monterey June 20, 2012 at 3:19 pm #

    East to bike from the Monterey Regional Airport to the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail. And the airport restaurant (yes, just one restaurant in our cozy little airport) gives discounts if you bike there. Those and other bike tips re our airport: http://marilynch.com/blog/flying-monterey-county-in-the-air-and-on-the-ground.html

  13. Sarah June 28, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

    SFO actually just installed bike assembly stands (3 of them) this week. See http://www.flysfo.com/web/page/orphan/bicycle-parking/ and http://ow.ly/i/Jehs

    • teacherlady July 26, 2012 at 3:46 pm #

      There is a little sign at the bike assembly stand that announces that tools are available for rent at an information stand inside the airport. I haven’t investigated what tools are available.

      If you don’t want to deal with biking out of the parking garages at SFO (which aren’t that bad) you can take your bike on the people-mover to the rental-car facility, and start biking from there. Or just take your bike on BART (Note that you can’t go inbound during the morning rush hour, from about 7 to 9 am, and there are certain stations where you may not exit during the evening rush hour.) (I took my bike on the people-mover and BART when I had a mechanical problem on a non-airport related ride.)

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