10 February 2013

Cycling to Copenhagen Airport

Cycling to the Airport
Standard cycle track in Copenhagen. Sign indicating that you turn left here for the airport.

I will fully admit the irony of my epiphany. It's even a bit silly. The story has, however, a decent ending. The nature of my work involves a great many trips to and from Copenhagen Airport. We're lucky in Copenhagen. The airport is the most efficient and well-designed airport I've seen anywhere in the world. It is easily accessible and is located close to the city. You can get there by bus, metro and train, as well as car or taxi, of course. This being Copenhagen, I knew there was fully separated bicycle infrastructure the whole way out there, as well. From every direction.

Last October, on the eve of a journey to Zurich for my TED x talk, my friend Ole - previously written about on this blog - asked why I didn't just ride my bicycle to the airport. I shrugged and said that I live 6 minutes walk from a Metro station and it takes 25 minutes on the Metro to get there. I'm not a "cyclist" - I don't demonstratively ride my bicycle everywhere. I like to walk and take public transport, too. I ride my bicycle because it's quick, efficient and rational. My Metro journey takes 35 minutes, give or take, and that was the most efficient way to get to the airport.

With that trademark twinkle in his eye, Ole said, "That's what I thought, too..." He pulled out his smartphone and showed me a journey he recorded on the Endomondo app. It's like many other apps for tracking journeys, but being a Danish product, it rightly has "Cycling - Transport" as an option. Ole lives in a different neighbourhood but we live about the same distance from the airport. He showed me the bottom line: it took him 35 minutes to ride to Copenhagen Airport. The same amount of time as I use on the metro. And Ole rides a bog standard upright bike in style over speed.

Damn. There is was. Rationality staring me in the face. I woke up the next morning and hopped on my 60 year old Swedish bike with my carry-on bag for the two day trip to Zurich and rode to the airport.

It took me 39 relaxing minutes on my old one-speed. 11.39 km in all. I parked at the bike rack outside Terminal 3 and waltzed right up the escalator to security. Feeling silly that I hadn't realised it before. Piece of cake.

The trip was, of course, on standard separated cycle tracks the whole way.
Cycling to Copenhagen Airport
One little 400 metre section along the motorway was one of the old-school bi-directional types, which was nice.

Cycle chic. Rode my bike to the airport. In style. #cyclechic bit.ly/VCuOHE
I parked right outside Terminal 3. Luckily, there was space

There is, however, ample bike parking at the airport, as you can see on Copenhagen Airport's website. They are often filled. Many employees live in the nearby neighbourhoods, so they ride to work, although I'm sure others have discovered the simplicity of cycling to the airport.

So. Great for short trips with a carry-on bag. On my longer trips, I have more luggage, obviously. I would love to ride my Bullitt to the airport on these occasions. The problem is that theft of cargo bikes is big business so I am not keen to leave the Bullitt parked all exposed for a week or so.

I rang the airport and talked to a guy in the parking department. He could understand the problem and was kind enough to give me his best guess about which of the bike parking areas would be most secure - an area with a lot of traffic throughout the day and night. Still, I'm not keen to risk it.

There are underground parking levels all over the place. Perfect for cargo bike parking but currently only reserved for cars. At Copenhagenize Design Co. we've approached the marketing department at Copenhagen Airport about providing secure parking for cargo bikes and we're looking forward to hearing from them. The airport has decent facilities for bicycles but mostly because it's in Copenhagen and it's a necessity. Although the bicycle pump when you arrive in the baggage area certainly impressed this guy last year.

The main challenge is that car parking is lucrative. Ole took a photo of this ad at the airport recently. "A hot dog on the platform or a cosy dinner with your partner - Why spend the evening on a cold train platform when you can take your own car to the airport. Park in the airport's best spots: Direct and Standard. Then you'll get home quick to your partner."

So the message is clear. Car parking is big business for the airport. Although creating cargo bike parking facilities would, of course, be modern and marketable. Good for the airport's brand. Let's see if they're up for it.

We've mapped out where the best locations would be and it would be an inexpensive investment with a lot of return in the form of marketing. Just look at how much focus the oil company Statoil has recieved because of their bicycle stations at their gas stations in Copenhagen.

Cycling to the airport is easy, rational and time-efficient. I hope more people consider doing it.

Baggage Handler Commuting
It's also a great way to get around if you work there.


On the subject of airports and cargo bike, here's an article and film about how I get picked up by friends with a cargo bike every time I arrive at Rio de Janeiro's Santos Dumont airport. Let's face it: a city with cycle tracks to the airport is a modern city.

Bicycles and Airports set on Flickr right here.


MB said...

Washington DC's National Airport is fairly bike-friendly. It's accessible via the Mount Vernon Trail (an off-road, 18 mile long riverside trail) and has bike parking. Hilariously, the only uncovered parking in the entire place? The bike parking.

But still, it's not bad. Demand is low enough around here that I can roll up to the doors just outside baggage claim and park at some of the racks near there. That's better parking than the Senators get, across the street.

For me, it's a quicker trip on a bike, door to door, than taking Metro (on the weekends). Going down, anyway. The hike back up the hill (with bags) demands a somewhat slower pace. But at least I'll have gotten a ride in, both days.

(Just remembered that I wrote more about it, here - http://arlington-va.patch.com/articles/planes-trains-and-bicycles)

Erik Griswold said...

Don't try this in Minneapolis where the police are instructed to stop this unlawful behaviour by any means necessary:


evenstar said...

Where at the airport would you suggest parking your bike? I'm new to Copenhagen and love the idea of biking to the airport. I have a trip coming up and I think I'll try it out. However, I would hate to return only to find my bike missing. Were there places where you could actually lock your bike to something rather than locking your bike to itself?

andreacasalotti said...

Whenever I come to Copenhagen, I take my Brompton with me and always ride it from and to the airport. I concur it is extremely easy and fast to get to/from anywhere in Copenhagen.

On my last trip, I finished my beer with a friend in Nytorv 80 minutes before the flight, 25 minute ride, folded the Brompton in the B-Bag and checked in.

dr2chase said...

I'd suggest for cargo bike parking something like what I sometimes use here in the US. At some of the subway stations they have large, covered "cages", with a card-key for access and video cameras monitoring the bikes within. There have been a few thefts, but there have been some thieves caught, too. People might be willing to pay a little for security for an expensive bike.

Henry said...

You can bike to the Toronto airport as well, but our major airport is actually two cities over.

Erik Griswold said...

Bicycles (and tricycles) are a grat way to move people and tools around large industrial sites...

...such as the factory where your airplane may have been made:


Erik Sandblom said...

If car drivers pay for parking and cyclists don't, obviously that factors into the airport's priorities.

The Arlanda airport express people have complained about this. They own the tracks and train station at Arlanda airport, but the car parking is owned by the airport. So if more people take the train, that hurts the airport's revenues.

I was thinking, maybe parking should be broken out of the airport and run as a separate business. That way the airport might not have the perverse incentive to increase car use.

Arlanda express rasar mot billig parkering. Svenska Dagbladet

Neil said...

As always, very jealous of the quality infrastructure you have over there. I've looked into biking to my local airport but determined that it just doesn't make sense. While there are decent paths and paved rural back roads to get there, the fact is that it's over 30km from the city centre, has no bike parking, and is generally oriented for cars.

At least we have a bus that goes there now - a new innovation this year. But the bus is inconvenient enough that I suspect most people who can afford to fly just factor in a $60 taxi ride each way, or drive themselves if they're going for 4 days or less.

Heck Lennon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heck Lennon said...

If the airport can be reached by train in a country that mostly relies on nuke (ie. no CO²) to generate 'lectricity, I guess it's good enough to ride a bike to the station, leave it there, and ride it back home if it hasn't been stolen in the meantime, right?

Speaking of which, are there hard numbers about how much oil imports bicycle-serious countries like Denmark or Holland save each year compared to other European countries that just don't care?

shuichi said...

In Japan, it would be impossible to bike to the Kansai International Airport or to the Narita International Airport, but you can go to the Itami :)

Unknown said...

Average BTU consumed Per Passenger mile by mode of travel:

SUV: 4,121
Air: 3,890
Bus: 3,697
Car: 3,597
Train: 2,100

Peace Train to DC