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Does your airport have a 50-page bike plan?

Posted by on November 26th, 2014 at 11:23 am

wide map of plans
A map of existing (solid lines) and planned (dotted lines) bike access to Portland’s airport. Green lines are multi-use paths; blue are on-street lanes.
(Click to enlarge)

Portland International Airport’s new bike-pedestrian plan is probably thicker than the average city’s.

Fifteen years after a rising bike-commute rate among airport workers led PDX to begin a strategic focus on its biking and walking connections, links to the airport keep getting better. Now, the airport is preparing to double outdoor bike parking, and, in the longer term, help the City of Portland pay for a multi-use path looping the entire airport plus three bike lanes that’ll greatly improve airport access from the city.

The publicly owned airport has been on a tear recently. Travel + Leisure reader surveys named it the best in the country in 2013 and 2014. Though it’s the smallest of the country’s 30 “large-hub” airports, it ranks third in that group (after Chicago-Midway, Charlotte and Miami) for growth in passenger boardings since 2010.

mt hood
Riding the multi-use path northwest of Portland Airport.
(Photo: Port of Portland)

Last year, PDX got top marks nationally in a survey of airport bike access, beating out Boston, Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Seattle in part because it was the only one that prepares a bike plan.

Portland Airport is owned by the Port of Portland — ironically, a frequent political foe of biking advocates because of its leaders’ belief that road capacity is essential to local freight access.


But the Port’s investments in airport access, presumably motivated in part by a desire to minimize the risk of lawsuits, have been genuine and substantial. For example, here’s a newly constructed crossing of Airport Way at 82nd Avenue, one of many capital projects completed since the airport’s first bike plan, in 2003:

airport 82nd

Here’s the off-road path alongside the terminal access road:

terminal mup

Here’s its map of existing and planned terminal bike access. Notice the new multi-use path it wants to build leading directly to the MAX line terminus and main passenger entrance (a dashed green line):

terminal access plan

Here’s its plan for a new bike parking area at that main (south) entrance and the less-used (north) entrance. Staple racks will replace less efficient wave racks and bring outdoor bike parking at the airport to 100 spaces:

bike parking expansion

In an email last week, airport planner Jason Gately also mentioned better support for bike-commuting airport workers:

We want to explore better coordination among airport employees regarding bike commuting. We have some 12,000 employees at PDX and there may be some opportunities to better coordinate information, offer incentives, perhaps have a locker room available for all employees who commute by bike, etc.

If the airport and city can find the money for a new multi-use path south of the airport’s runways (see the map at the top of this post) it’d become not only a great place for recreational rides (especially for airplane fans) but a pretty convenient and direct link to the city’s bike network, by way of new bike lanes planned on 47th Avenue, Alderwood Road and 82nd Avenue.

Also, Columbia Way’s intersections with Cully and Alderwood are soon due for signalization, a big boon for people crossing the major truck route.

Though public investments in these routes should of course be weighed against other facilities in the region, the fact that the airport is pushing for them should be a huge point of pride for the Port, the region and for the airport employees who got this ball rolling in the 1990s.

Because auto parking is a profit center for many airports, few bother to invest much in alternatives. But of course that’s actually a terrible deal for the airport’s users, who should get to decide whether or not they want to pay for parking.

The fact that Portland’s airport is making that choice possible is one more reason things are different here.

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16 Comments
  • Pfeif November 26, 2014 at 11:52 am

    I work on the south side of the airport off of Air Trans way, I’m only one of a handful of Horizon Air employees who commutes by bike. A lot more would commute and have told me so if there was a safer route than having to share Cornfoot road with all the large truck traffic. A separate path would also benefit people who wish to exercise during the lunch hour by running or walking.

    Recommended Thumb up 13

  • Adam H. November 26, 2014 at 11:59 am

    More protected bike lanes and indoor, secure bike storage, please!

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  • Corey Burger November 26, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    The Vicotiria Airport Authority built a paved multi-use trail that comletelt circumnavigates the airport property. Briliang for commuting and recreation.

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  • matt November 26, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    Nice that locker room/shower facilities are shown on the map, but no more details are given in the document. For me, this is currently the only thing holding me back from riding to the airport. Sorry, but I can’t sit on a cross-country flight after getting all sweaty from a 15mi ride to the airport.

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
      Michael Andersen (News Editor) November 26, 2014 at 1:28 pm

      I think the current idea is that locker rooms would be for employees. (I’ve edited the post to include some information we got from an airport planner.) However, I think it’s possible that the airport is underestimating the number of Portlanders in your situation, Matt.

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  • Lester Luallin November 26, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    Yeah, Cornfoot is pretty hairy. So is Mt. Hood Avenue/Lombard St. NE Northbound. I guess they might expect bikes to use the sidewalk there on the bridge over Airport Way? Can’t tell. I just take the left lane when I get the chance.

    Then getting to the Marine Dr. MUP connector from the roundabout on Lombard St. NE is pretty sketchy. Could be changed to a straight shot pretty easily, I think, as the MUP connector is pretty much tangential to the roundabout.

    Another Marine Drive MUP improvement would be extending it West, around Pacific Power Sports up to the NE corner of Edgewater CC, then two-way cycletrack continuing west along the south side of Marine Drive.

    And a trail along Max Tracks from Alderwood to Ikea parking lot would be nice.

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  • Buzz November 26, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    The eastern crossing of Airport Way at the Cascade Station exit is a freakin’ joke.

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  • matt picio November 26, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    The Port of Portland has had a number of great projects over the years, improving bike parking, putting in the assembly area, etc. I remember when they started doing this work back when I was representing the BTA during the planning phase of ODOT’s Airport Way project. They had a lot of good ideas, were very receptive to input, and very cognizant of Portland’s burgeoning bike heritage and the need to provide for transport other than cars. Airport MAX and the bike/ped projects are part of that developing and lasting legacy, and I really look forward to these projects. Now if they can just do something about the area around the Hillsboro Airport.

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    • matt picio November 26, 2014 at 3:31 pm

      Agree completely that the Mt. Hood Ave / Lombard overcrossing of Airport Way is awful – and hazardous. Possibly the worst on-ramp crossing in the Metro area, maybe second only to the Cascade Highway / I-205 ramp crossing.

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      • Buzz November 26, 2014 at 5:10 pm

        Yep, NE Mt. Hood Ave.

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  • Doug Klotz November 27, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    I also commented on the first Airport bike-pedestrian plan. The basic concept was: Design for cars. Then fit the pedestrians and cyclists around the edges. I argued then for not making Airport Way into a freeway, but they did, building the freeway-like intersection of Mt. Hood Avenue and Airport way, and having no bike or pedestrian facilities on Airport Way east of there, to connect in the obvious and shortest route to the business area at the I-205/Airport Way intersection, and east of there.

    I realize it’s difficult to deal with on- and off-ramps, but the Airport’s answer is to force cyclists and pedestrians to go far out of their way, instead of anything near a direct route. Even the Los Angeles airport has a 6-lane city street (Century Blvd), with sidewalks on both sides, leading into the airport. There is a freeway crossing over it, and the on- and off-ramps down to this city street have marked crosswalks at their crossing points. San Diego’s airport has a city street passing by it (Harbor Drive), with sidewalks on one side, and in the direction toward downtown, on both sides of the street.

    The Port was set on the maximum flow of freeway-style interchanges at Airport Way and I-205 and at Mt. Hood Avenue, and I don’t see any indications that this plan changes that approach.

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  • JR 'eh November 28, 2014 at 8:19 am

    This is good to see. My favorite airports are the ones I can bike away from safely.
    My major beef with current arrangement is the freakin smoking section next to the bike parking on south side arrivals. Blech! Lose that entirely or at least move it down to the far end of the MAX platform…or maybe out on a runway. Yeah, that’s it, on a runway.

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  • James November 28, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    The plan is all well and good except the pukes in cars have a tendency to park on the bike path in various places waiting to pick up loved ones! I can’t tell you how many times I have had to yell at drivers for parking in a crosswalk on the bike path. There was even a woman who jumped the curb you have pictured above along the fence to park! The Port cops don’t give a damn as I have called dozens of times to report need do wells. As with everywhere else in this god forsaken town you take your life in your hands riding around the airport!

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  • Patrick November 29, 2014 at 7:08 am

    Besides good bicycle acess, they also have good motorcycle access. Motorcyclists would also like a shower or locker room.

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  • Paul G. November 29, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    I heard that one of the hotels at Cascade place allows bikes to be parked there for extended periods. Any info on that?

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  • n8m November 29, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    Thanks Port of Portland for making it happen.
    Except for sketchy Cornfoot road its a cinch getting to the airport from NE.

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