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The Case for Airport Bike Lockers

The recent rise in bicycle usage, particularly electric bicycles, has brought attention to the need for secure bicycle parking in public areas. With that in mind, I was pleasantly surprised to see the City of Albuquerque engage with the idea of installing bicycle lockers at Albuquerque International Sunport.

Bicycle parking at airports gets a surprising amount of skepticism. People generally understand the utility of having secure bicycle parking available in general, and particularly at public transit locations, but when it comes to airports the benefits are apparently less obvious. This likely comes down to a common thought trap when it comes to bicycles and bicycle infrastructure: the idea that if something is not viable in 100% of all circumstances then it should be avoided. As a bicycle advocacy organization, we see this all the time: "why should we make it easier to bike if you can't use a bike to haul 500 pounds of bricks halfway across the state?"

Indeed, the most common objection to having secure bicycle parking at airports is that people can't take their luggage on a bicycle. I suppose it's worth mentioning that people can absolutely transport luggage with a bicycle; in a similar vein, here's a shot of me taking a tower organizer and some other supplies home with my bicycle.

But besides that the objection is wrong, it's also irrelevant. The popularity of Spirit and Frontier airlines shows that many people travel with just a carryon. Business travel is another important case, as business travelers often don’t need much more than a laptop and a couple days of clothes. Between downtown, the University of New Mexico and CNM, and Sandia National Laboratories, among others, there are numerous businesses within only a few miles of the Sunport that not only have business travel needs but also have employees that prefer to bike to work.

Of course, this also misses another major point: airports are major employers. Between the internal shops, airline employees, and TSA and FAA personnel, airports employ thousands of people. Even a modest airport like our Sunport boasts employing over 3,000 people, many of whom would benefit from the ability to securely store their bicycle after commuting.

It's worth taking a sidebar here to describe what these bicycle lockers would likely look like. Like most places in the US, Albuquerque is fairly lacking in secure bicycle storage; however we do have some. At nearly every Rail Runner station you can find a collection of large beige boxes—these are actually bicycle lockers! Each box is divided diagonally into two lockers, and are assigned to people for periods of six months with a rental cost of $25.

While not being on-demand like bike racks, this method of service has its own perks. On the user's side, the most notable is that you know you will be able to store your bicycle securely, since you are the only one with the key to your locker. On the administrative side, Rio Metro, which runs the Rail Runner's bicycle lockers, only has to process the ownership of each locker at most twice a year, minimizing the operating and infrastructure cost of installing such a system. Of course, businesses that frequently use the airport could rent lockers for their employees to use and implement a smaller-scale locker-sharing program within their own organizations, marking a middle ground between on-demand and reserved bicycle parking.

Biking to the airport has many of the same benefits as biking in general. Our Sunport has surprisingly decent bicycle access between the multi-use trail on Gibson and the sidepath on Girard, plus it abuts the most bikeable neighborhoods in the city. That infrastructure allows cyclists to avoid the traffic that commonly plagues airports, especially on arrivals, and gives an alternative to taking a rideshare service, which can involve rather long waits in Albuquerque, especially for early morning or late night flights.

It's rather heartening that the city is looking into adding bicycle lockers to the Sunport, as this is a fairly simple infrastructure improvement with substantial benefits. If you agree, I encourage you to call your councilor and express that sentiment, and even better talk to your employer and ask them to support this option.

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