What Does John McCain Have Against Bikes at Airports?

Cycling advocates are scratching their heads over a proposal from Arizona Senator John McCain that targets bike infrastructure at U.S. airports.

In August, McCain inserted a stipulation in the federal aviation reauthorization that would bar airports from using passenger facility charges for bike parking facilities. The language was maintained in the latest iteration of Senate Bill 223, which would affect the allocation of about $2.5 billion in passenger fees nationwide, or up to $4.50 per passenger.

It isn’t as if airports have been breaking the bank building state-of-the-art bike parking facilities. Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists, wonders why bikes, of all things, are so deserving of attention:

Portland's Airport offers this bike parking space. Image: ##http://www.bikeleague.org/blog/2011/02/will-a-ban-on-using-fees-to-pay-for-airport-bike-parking-fly/## League of American Bicyclists##

Bicycling to the airport may never be a major means of access given the nature of air travel and the trips people make by air (but it does happen — including by airport employees). Even cycling meccas like Copenhagen (CPH) and Amsterdam (AMS) airports have a limited number of people riding to and from them – but it certainly isn’t precluded or deliberately made more difficult, and nor should that happen at US airports. Demand may only require a few bike racks and maybe a locker or two for longer term storage in more accessible airports – not exactly the kind of volume that would eat deeply into the $2.5 billion fund.

For some reason, either McCain or someone else has decided that bike parking at airports is worth singling out for exclusion; that it doesn’t somehow count as an “intermodal” facility; that it should never be part of the airport experience. One can only speculate as to why.

Clarke promised the League will be working to strip the offending wording out of the legislation.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Second Avenue Sagas asks whether population figures support a national emphasis on the Northeast Corridor for rail infrastructure; PubliCola recounts how Seattle blew an opportunity to reform its parking system; and Hard Drive reports on a study finding red light cameras, the supposed scourge of drivers, are saving lives.

0 thoughts on What Does John McCain Have Against Bikes at Airports?

  1. This is from the senator who tried to get the runway at Washington National extended so he could get a direct flight to Arizona without having to trek out to Dulles. It’s all about his convenience and damn anyone else.

  2. Doesn’t this go against the Republican ideal of getting government out of business’ way? Preventing the terminals from using the funds as they see fit would essentially be telling them how to run their business…

  3. This is not a troll comment and I mean this very seriously.

    I think that John McCain, who spent 5 years as a POW in Vietnam, has some issues with people encouraging a mode of transportation that hundreds of thousands of poor Vietnamese people use.

    He probably thinks that we should not be working towards a way of life that comes naturally for the poor and desperate.

    Plus, he is an elderly man and bicycling for transportation is often a generational issue.

  4. I would guess that most people who ride a bicycle to the airport are people who work there, e.g. fast food workers, baggage handlers, etc.

    These are the same people who all take buses and light rail to the airport. It’s not always about the passenger directly.

  5. The ulterior motive might be (a false sense of) security. When the SJC expansion was planned, the developers balked at providing bike parking in the new multi-story garage due to security concerns. “You would be surprised how much explosives can be packed into a bike frame” is what I recall one official saying. He didn’t carry that line of thought to how that would compare to the amount that could be packed into the car parked in the next stall though.

    It all ended well though and SJC now provides three separate parking areas for bikes : http://sjc.org/travelers.php?page=parking/bicycle&subtitle=Parking+|+Bicyle+Parking

    FWIW, I often use bike parking when I fly alone on short trips. Bike parking at SFO is especially useful to avoid the terrible Caltrain-BART connection. Just take your bike on Caltrain to Millbrae or San Bruno and skip the slow expensive BART connection altogether.

  6. Could this be a continued refraction of the This Bike is a Pipe Bomb stickers that seem to cause crazy people (i.e. John McCain) so much stress about bikes near facilities?

  7. Bicycle threats to security are a red herring.

    The abuse of bicycles as explosive weapons are unfortunately well documented from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Additionally, the recent horror in Moscow is added warning.

    All that said, I can find no practical security reason to deny bicycles access to airports – in fact, they are often a useful police tool within airports like SFO.

    The bicycle “threat” is considerably less than either a person or a motorvehicle, and designated parking areas for bicycles can be integrated into the security footprint for an airport. In fact, because the airport decides where to place the bicycle parking that gives it the strongest hand in reducing this hypothetical risk.

  8. I bike to LAX all the time. It’s faster and you don’t get stuck in the endless traffic inside the airport.

  9. One can only speculate.

    But perhaps there’s a thought that bicycle parking does not directly serve passengers, so it shouldn’t be paid for directly by the passengers. If you assume that bike parking at an airport really serves employees, you might argue that the profits of those companies should pay to meet their needs.

    Of course, taking employees off the congested roads is a benefit to passengers.

  10. Assuming bike parking is co-located with auto parking then there’s no additional threat.

    Bike parking for employees is an easy sell. But parking for travelers is sometimes met with disbelief because there’s an assumption that you’re laden with luggage and need a motor vehicle for transport. That’s not exactly true for short trips, especially day return trips.

  11. I also ride a folding bike to my job at the airport most days. I’m allowed to keep it in my office since it frees up an additional parking space at our parking challenged airport. Unfortunately, other much lower paid employees have to make do with unsheltered bike parking – locking up on signs in the parking lot. I’m not sure what McCain has against bike parking, since it is definitely less costly than providing for additional parking for cars. Ho-hum. I am a resident of the not-as-yet seceeded state of Arizona. It’s just one more thing in a growing list of things about my representation (both on the state and federal level) that leaves me shaking my head in embarrassment.

  12. They certainly didn’t break the bank on bike parking at SJC (San Jose, California)! With all of our taxpayer’s funds they’ve poured into that mess (and all the supposedly brilliant and innovative minds in Silicon Valley) you’d think they’d figure out a way to get to a terminal without having to drive (even walking from the nearby hotel is a challenge). I live two miles away but have to drive three miles to park and shuttle another mile back in. All I need is a signpost and laptop pannier, but the last time I tried that my U-lock was cut and beater bike disappeared, undoubtedly by airport personnel. Now there are signs prohibiting bicycles on the only two roads in.

  13. Ah, now I see thielges’ link, I’ll have to take a closer look. Where they are marked on the map is about the most dangerous place to put them, but apparently they want you to use a bus to shuttle your bike in. Brilliant.

  14. I do a lot of day or short trips and carry my luggage on my pannier rack.  In Christchurch New Zealand there are legal and safe routes between the airport and city, so I used my bike for many flights.  I also used a bike frequently when I raced bicycles and flew to races all over the USA.  Today I called Sacramento airport and was told that despite there being plenty of poles I could lock up to in the parking garage, I was not permitted to leave a bike at the airport for any length of time.  There is a clear and legal route to ride to the airport, and I’m a paying customer.  Let the letter writing campaign begin.  

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What Does John McCain Have Against Bikes at Airports?

Cycling advocates are scratching their heads over a proposal from Arizona Senator John McCain that targets bike infrastructure at U.S. airports. In August, McCain inserted a stipulation in the federal aviation reauthorization that would bar airports from using passenger facility charges for bike parking facilities. The language was maintained in the latest iteration of Senate […]

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