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Leaving on a Jet Plane (with Help from My Bike)

10 May

Today is Bike to Work Day for the San Francisco Bay Area. For new bike commuters, it may be a challenge: planning a good route, deciding what to wear and what to carry, finding secure parking for their bike and a place to clean up. As a daily bike commuter, I have the basics down, so I push myself with new challenges: commuting in a dress suit, grocery shopping at Costco, and riding in the big city, in the rain and really late at night. It keeps things interesting for me.

Last week I faced with a new challenge: riding to the airport for an overnight business trip. The flight wasn’t terribly early, the airport is right across the freeway from my office, and I knew there was a bike rack in the garage and a low-traffic way of getting there. Yet I was nervous. Could I carry my luggage on my bike? Would my bike be safe overnight? Would I be safe riding down the bike trail and catching the train the next night?

For the luggage, I realized that I could pack everything I needed in a small messenger bag. For the theft issue, I decided that the rack was in a visible spot near the entrance and I would ride my least valuable bike and take the risk. So I took the train like I do every day, rode my bike to San Jose Airport and caught a flight to Seattle.

The next evening I flew back to San Jose, where I found my bike exactly where I left it. But instead of riding down the trail that night, Dick picked me up at the airport. Some challenges are not worth the risk.

What challenges do you face in riding for transportation? Which ones have you overcome?

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13 Comments

Posted by on May 10, 2012 in Issues & Infrastructure

 

13 responses to “Leaving on a Jet Plane (with Help from My Bike)

  1. Rachel Unger

    May 10, 2012 at 8:05 am

    Huh – I didn’t realize the signage for the airport part of the path was that poor. I’m glad it worked out!

     
    • ladyfleur

      May 10, 2012 at 10:20 am

      There’s no signage for bikes or pedestrians at all, but I had done some advantage research and pre-ridden the route.

      Sad thing is that the SJC web site page about bike/ped access strongly discourages it. The third sentence on the page encourages people to use a shuttle bus that runs every 15-30 minutes. Not good enough–what driver would wait that long to get to long-term parking? The light rail station is only a mile away too. You could walk it in 20 minutes. Oh, and if you arrive after 11:30pm you’re out of luck.

      http://www.sjc.org/travelers.php?page=maps/bicycle&subtitle=Maps+&+Directions+|+Bicyle+Parking

       
      • Rachel Unger

        May 10, 2012 at 10:49 am

        Maybe they meant it more for employees, then? I know the airport at Vancouver is a bit like that.

         
  2. ladyfleur

    May 10, 2012 at 11:06 am

    If the rack at SJC were meant for employees only, it would have been tucked behind a building or in the back of the garage.

    I remember when they redesigned the facility several years ago. They were completely focused on getting cars in and out as fast as possible and walkers and bike riders were things that would either cost money or slow cars down.

    The Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition and other bike advocates pushed hard but got little. But at least there’s a crosswalk and a rack in a good location.

     
  3. Richard Masoner

    May 11, 2012 at 10:46 am

    I think SJC is one of the most bike-accessible airports in the USA — there’s a big, easily accessible bike path immediately adjacent, and the bike parking inside the parking garage (and directly across from the departure terminals) is halfway okay. The airport is right along my commute route from Santa Clara to San Jose.

    The GRT at night can be a little sketchy and there are occasional attacks reported there; probably a wise move to be picked up after dark.

     
    • ladyfleur

      May 11, 2012 at 11:24 am

      Yes, the airport is quite bike-accessible. It was very easy to use once I figured out the easy route in and where to park.

      But it falls short in being bike *friendly* in that the easy route in is not obvious at all and their web site goes out of the way to discourage walking or cycling. Take a shuttle, it says. Drivers are focused on their flights, not bikes and walkers.

      I have two coworkers from Seattle and Irvine who used to walk from the airport to our office on Skyport. After the airport redesign they stopped–too much like Frogger, they said. They had no clue they could walk via the crosswalk on Airport Blvd. Our VP even called the airport to ask/complain about ped access and they didn’t mention the crosswalk.

       
    • ladyfleur

      May 11, 2012 at 2:25 pm

      P.S. Our commute routes are similar. What will you do next month when they close the gravel trail to pave it? I don’t want to have to ride under 880 at 1st Street and I’m not sure they’ll keep the 880 trail undercrossing open during construction.

       
      • Richard Masoner

        May 11, 2012 at 2:38 pm

        We may have passed each other on the trail a time or two.

        And yeah, 1st Street south of 101 where the bike lane disappears is pretty sketchy. I hope the underpass from the airport to the trail under 880 remains open — I prefer Airport Blvd over 1st by a wide margin.

        When I wrote SJC is the “best” I didn’t mean to imply that it’s “good” :-) — I’ve biked or (attempted to) walk to and from a few airports. Part of that is probably because I happen to know the roads around SJC pretty well. The occasional traveler just passing through will have difficulty (as you discovered).

        I happened to get a little lost inside the “hands” parking garage just two weeks ago. I was by the departures terminal but needed to get to the northbound side of Airport Blvd and couldn’t figure out how to legally get there. I ended up cutting across bushes and embankments and imagined TSA officers lying in wait to tase the trespassing bike hippie!

         
  4. ladyfleur

    May 11, 2012 at 9:05 pm

    I love the image of you stuck in the parking garage and looking out for the TSA agents.

    The airport roads are very confusing if you try to use them other than the way the transportation engineers intended them. Before I pre-rode the route through the airport I pre-drove it and could not figure out how a bike could get through easily. I’m still not sure how you guys get through the airport going North.

    Oh, and if you’d passed me on the trail already you probably would know it. If you see a see a woman out there in a skirt and heels on a cream mixte, just say, “Hello, Janet.”

     

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