Have you ever tried to get to the airport without a motor vehicle? In most cities, it’s nearly impossible. Unsurprisingly, however, bike-besotted Portland is leading the way toward empowering travelers and terminal workers to cycle or saunter to the airport, rather than driving.

Michael Anderson of Bike Portland quips that “Portland International Airport’s new bike-pedestrian plan is probably thicker than the average city’s.” It’s 50 pages. He dishes the deets on the new Bicycle & Pedestrian Master Plan in a recent blog post: 

Fifteen years after a rising bike-commute rate among airport workers led PDX to begin a strategic focus on its biking and walking connections, links to the airport keep getting better. Now, the airport is preparing to double outdoor bike parking, and, in the longer term, help the City of Portland pay for a multi-use path looping the entire airport plus three bike lanes that’ll greatly improve airport access from the city.

Bikers outside of PDX with Mt. Hood in the background

Port of Portland

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Portland International scored best in a 2013 survey of bicycle access at eight U.S. airports, in large part because the seven others didn’t have detailed plans. Most airports don’t invest much in people-powered transportation options because parking, ground transportation, and rental cars together make up over a quarter of their total revenue.

But lest Portlanders think that they can get off the hook for all that jet fuel they’ll burn on their next flight to New York, consider this: A round-trip ticket between Stump Town and the Big Apple puts a traveler on the hook for just over a metric ton of CO2 emissions, or 2,310 pounds of climate-cooking carbon dioxide. I got that number by averaging the results from online carbon calculators provided by Carbon Footprint LtdTerraPass, and ClimateCare, three companies that sell climate-conscious flyers (dubious) carbon offsets to assuage their green guilt.

To offset that by biking to your flight departure and back home instead of driving alone in your 2010 Ford Fusion, you’d better live over 1,000 miles from the airport, according to those same three emissions-counting tools.

Of course, there are other ways to make up for traveling’s carbon footprint. Just ask Grist’s Greenie Pig, who vowed to even out the impact of her trip to a friend’s wedding by going on a strict carbon diet, which proved much more difficult than foregoing flying in the first place.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

All this is to say: Good on you Bikelandia for giving kombucha-powered pedalers some paths and bike parking. Now folks who work at the airport can bike to the office!

But for plane passengers who cycle to the airport for environmental reasons, remember that you’re about to partake in what is probably the most climate-damaging activity possible that doesn’t involve breaking the law.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations DOUBLED!