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Ride to Fly in PDX

Of the hundreds of unique rides offered this year through Portland’s Pedalpalooza, one that I thought might be particularly helpful to my cause here at Write A Bike was “PDX by Bike‘s” own “Ride to the Airport” event. Essentially what the great folks at PDX by Bike want to convey was that not only is it possible to ride a bike to the airport from anywhere in town, but that it can be fun too!

I arrived around 11am at the Flying Pie Pizzeria on SE Stark to grab an early lunch with some of the other hungry riders where we shared tasty pizza and great stories. Right around noon, when our stomachs and muscles were full and ready, we pushed North toward the 205 fwy. bike trail.

7804 SE Stark St, Portland

Heading North!

As I said, a big part of this ride was to expose and inform the riders of all of the many amenities accessible to us en route to, and at the airport. To do this we were not only provided pocket-sized city bike maps and well-informed ride-leaders, but we also had a member (and fellow cyclist) from the Port of Portland (at the airport) who rode along with us and gave us a finely in-depth guided tour. Along the way we stopped five or six times to point out well-placed signage, as well as potentially tricky intersections to navigate through.

Our Port of Portland Rep., Rachel Wray, talks about the Gateway/99th MAX station

Our pathway leading through Maywood Park

Bike Signage

Riding alongside the Columbia River en route to PDX

Just under two miles South of the airport we stopped and watched a few planes coast just over our heads and onto the runway to the North. It was epic! As we pulled up to the airport we were shown two cages full of places to lock-up, one meant for the public and the other for employees of the airport (the employees’ cage was protected by a code-lock while the public’s was not).

Bike cages (closest: public; furthest: privet to employees only)

We walked our bikes around through the loading/unloading areas to the NW side of the airport and were shown signage for designated space where bicyclists can assemble/disassemble their bikes in order to unpack/pack their bikes from their boxes (they actually had a bike-mechanic’s stand mounted to the ground and free for anyone to use!). Close to this area was another place to lock up bikes, and comically enough we were shown a particular bike that has (supposedly) been locked to the same pole for over three years. Dedication? Or abandonment? Whichever the case, it is apparently quite safe to lock up at the airport!

Bike Assembly Signage

This had to be the best part of the ride...to me anyway.

Afterward we were led inside to an Oregon State Information booth where cyclists could gather maps and information, as well as borrow a tool set to assemble/disassemble their bikes.

The Crew

In case you have not been keeping track, let me bullet-point the ease any bicyclist has in riding to the airport in Portland:

  • clearly marked routes can be found to the airport from anywhere in town
  • multiple locations to lock up (as well as a good reputation of safe keeping)
  • signage signifying where a bicyclist can set up shop and assemble their bike
  • a public bike stand to ensure proper adjustment and assembling can be made
  • accessible tool sets to borrow to assemble or disassemble a bike for/from travel

And if that’s not enough, we also met a fellow named Jason Gately whose job is (among other things) to ensure that bicycling infrastructure and resources are as accessible as they can be at the airport.

Jason, the PDX Bikefrastructure man

When it comes to needing to fly somewhere I am sure that the vast majority of people don’t think to ride their bikes to the airport. Why? Well, in short it is probably because it is not even a consideration. Where I am from in Southern California it is not only impossible (few to no bike routes) to ride to our airports, but even if one tried it wouldn’t be safe due to narrow roads meant only for vehicles. Also, our airports are crowded and hectic places (as are most airports). People always seem to be either standing around and in the way, or running wherever they need to go. Thus, who would ever think that assembling an entire bicycle there would be desirable, not to mention feasible? This is what only perpetuates the downwardly spiraling subconscious belief that we just need to drive to our airports. The car rules the road to the airport, and riding a bicycle is not even an after-thought.

But, like so much of what Portland is doing for making bicycling a legitimate option, even riding to the airport can be done! Any major metropolitan city with the dinero and the ganas to make bicycling a viable option ought to consider any or all of the five bullet points I have listed above. They are as simple as signage and borrow-able bike tools, and as paradigm shifting as free and public bike mechanic stands.

I think the biggest barrier of the existence of more bike-friendly cities is simply the subconscious myth that cars are the optimal transportation option. If we can break the myth then we are well on our way toward healthier and happier people and communities, as well as greener and cleaner cities.

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