Last week Laura and I flew to New York. We had flight vouchers on American Airlines, but decided to use Provo’s newly commercial airport to fly to Denver (on Frontier Airlines), and then fly from there to New York. Because we live in downtown Provo, we decided to bike to the airport. According to Google Maps, the airport is 4.4 miles from our house, and the ride should take 25 minutes.
Our ride to the airport was generally pleasant, with relatively cool morning air and not much traffic. The only hairy part was going over the Center Street bridge. There’s no bike lane on the bridge and the ground is littered with small rocks and rubble, so it felt a little dangerous to be riding a bike. Laura has a mountain bike and was able to ride on the (mostly destroyed) sidewalk, but that seemed way too rough for my road tires.
However, there wasn’t much traffic and once we passed the freeway there is a bike lane.
When we got to the airport we locked our bikes to the metal fence. Laura and I were fairly nervous that our bikes would be impounded or otherwise removed, but we had been told the night before by the city spokeswoman that using the fence should be alright. When we got into the airport we were greeted by two men (sort of like Walmart greeters, but at the airport), one of whom told us that using the fence should be fine.
A week later, we returned and to our great relief discovered that our bikes were still chained to the fence. Because we were siting in the front of the plane and the airport is so small, we were literally riding home before all of our fellow passengers had deplaned.
Riding home, however, was a significantly more harrowing experience than getting to the airport. The first problem was that the road immediately outside the airport has no street lights. It’s also a fairly rural road, so it’s not even lit by surrounding buildings. The result was that we basically were riding blind. Cars passed us fairly constantly, offering brief light and then lingering blindness. Because we had been traveling, we also weren’t wearing especially reflective gear or clothing.
Luckily we made it to Center Street without getting hit, run over, or falling in a pot hole. We used the bike lane again and experienced another pleasant ride until we got to the bridge. At that point, we again had to go over, but this time in the dark and with more traffic. We didn’t get hit, but I wouldn’t recommend riding over that bridge in the dark. Oddly, there is no real road that goes under the bridge that I know of, but I think it would be possible to get off and carry a bike beneath the bridge. It’s slower (and maybe the area under the bridge is a bit shady?) but I’d recommend that option over riding.
Once we got over the bridge (and through the related construction) we got back in the Center Street bike lane. It was a pleasant ride the rest of the way to our home.
Riding a bike to the Provo airport was great. It had all the advantages that the Provo airport promises — close proximity to my and other homes, ultra easy security, no crowds, etc. — with the added benefits of bike riding — exercise, lower carbon footprint, being closer to the outdoors, etc. The ride was relatively short, flat, easy, and laid back. Even a child could easily do most of the ride.
However, as far as I know, there is no real way to get around the more dangerous areas. The Provo River Trail is pleasant and would circumvent the bridge, but is out of the way for anyone south of 800 North, and would surely take much longer for anyone. Also, at night I probably wouldn’t feel safe riding for miles on the trail.
I assume the bridge issue will be solved when all the construction is finished (assuming a bike lane goes in on that part of the road), but the lighting at night also was a serious problem. I imagine the city or airport has plans to improve that road, but additional lighting seems like it would benefit everyone, so I hope it’s a top priority.
A bike rack at the airport also would be nice. I don’t know of many airports that are as close to city centers and residential areas as Provo’s. A bike rack could serve both travelers, as well as airport workers and aviation students. Plus, once the rack is installed I think it would serve as its own advertisement, suggesting the possibility of cycling to travelers and workers who may not have previously considered it.