Bike Friday and its trailer at the base of Boise's historic train depot

Biking Out Of Airports

When you fly somewhere, do you ever wish you could just ride from the airport to your destination? Forget Uber (or rental car/public transit/hotel shuttle). Hop on your bike and go!

In the last year I’ve ridden in or out of Houston Hobby, LaGuardia, Washington Reagan, LAX and Boise. My colleague Gary Cziko met me last November at LAX and recorded a sweet video of our trip from there.

The Boise, Idaho, airport is near the center of the city.

Boise Airport

Oh, and last week I rode out of SeaTac. I won’t do that again. But before I tell you why, I want to tell you about the best airport ride I’ve had this year.

On the day I arrived last June in Boise, Idaho, brilliant blue skies framed the mountains that cradle the city, aptly named “Treasure Valley.” Big-city airports typically take “forever” to roll out of. But Boise’s airport is small enough that I was soon on “dreaded” Vista Avenue, the main drag leading into town.

My friend Lisa Brady, who runs Boise’s Safe Routes To Schools program, warned me to be careful on Vista. I’d be likely to encounter fast and uncivil drivers, she said.Google Maps recommends staying off Vista Avenue when biking from Boise Airport to Downtown Boise.

Hmm. Even Google Maps advised me to avoid Vista.

Oh boy. A challenge! While still in St. Louis I carefully studied satellite views. I was puzzled over the admonitions. Vista seemed like a fairly normal arterial road. Two travel lanes in each direction, with a two-way center-turn lane between.

I’d never been to Boise, though. Especially when bicycling in a new place, it’s always good to have a Plan B. If I felt endangered or even the slightest bit uncomfortable, I’d hop on public transit for the rest of my trip to Downtown Boise.

As I set off from the airport I constantly monitored my helmet’s rearview mirror. How were other drivers reacting to my presence on the road?

Ah-h-h! I relaxed almost immediately. Savvy cycling works here, too.

The “dance” is the same everywhere I’ve been in the United States. I’m on a bicycle. No motorist wants to be behind me. On Vista, the sight lines are good and other drivers saw me from so far back they didn’t even take their feet off the gas to change lanes to pass.

Confident that I’d merely have to be mindful and not vigilant, I started taking in the local streetscape. What a delight to discover connections to my beloved St. Louis! One major intersection was at Targee. Thomas Targee saved St. Louis from the Great Fire of 1849. (My sister and I host an airbnb apartment named after Targee, but that’s another story.)

The next major intersection was Overland. Too weird! Overland is a lovely older St. Louis suburb. Years ago my husband and I considered buying our first home in Overland. As I waited at the light and mulled the serendipity, I was yelled at.

“Girl! You need to get out of the middle of the street!”

This unsolicited advice came from a grizzled guy who I would guess was about my age, riding his bike on the sidewalk. He was waiting on my right at the light with a young fellow who appeared to be a college student (also riding his bike on the sidewalk, and wisely ignoring us both).

“Grizzly” startled me, but I was in a jovial mood. I smiled at him.

“Don’t you know it’s rude to yell at strangers?” I responded.

The traffic light was long so I decided to play with him.

“By the way, did you know the sidewalk is the most dangerous place to ride?”

He sneered as the light turned green. At the next signalized intersection he and I crossed paths. I rode onto the sidewalk because I saw the spire of Boise’s magnificent historic train station in the distance. I wanted to look at Google Maps to figure out how to get to it.

To my astonishment…and then horror…I watched as “Grizzly” rolled onto Vista Avenue and away down the hill. I wanted to shout after him:

“Dude! Get back on the sidewalk! You’ll be safer.”

You see, he rode his bike on the right edge of the right travel lane. If you’re going to ride on a high-speed arterial road, own your space! Control your travel lane. Make it clear to other drivers that they need to change lanes to pass.

By riding on the right edge, it would take only one motorist on high-speed Vista Avenue to make a mistake and think there was room to “share” the lane. I shuddered and said a prayer for his safety. I fervently hoped the following dictum would hold true: Even when done poorly, bicycling is very safe.

As far as I know, he was fine–and I sure was! Lisa met me at my hotel. She regaled me with a ride to remember. What a wonderful city Boise is! We had a splendid time.

Lisa Brady in Downtown Boise with her bike and T-shirt's excellent message

Amen, Sister.

Karen Karabell and Lisa Brady on Boise River Greenbelt

Selfie over Boise River

I found it totally easy to be car-free in Boise. I can’t wait to go back, and explore some more.

And Seattle? I doubt that I’ll ride again to or from SeaTac, but not because of the airport. Like all airports, it was super easy to navigate using savvy cycling principles.

It’s just Seattle. I had to ride 18 miles that afternoon. I was hauling a bunch of stuff to teach CyclingSavvy. Our hosts warned us that Seattle was hilly, but I thought I could handle it. Wrong. The distance combined with the terrain defeated me. I grew weary of pushing my bike and loaded trailer up steep hills. I hopped on Sound Transit.

Savvy cyclists always have a “Plan B.” 😉

Safe Joy Riding

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3 replies
  1. Scott Slingerland
    Scott Slingerland says:

    Hi Karen… Fun article! Def supportive, but on a logistical level, you ride a folding bike, from the airports, yes? Do you have a bag or box that it’s transported in? Do you stow the box at the airport or does it turn into a a pannier or trailer that you can tow with your bike?
    Peace from Bethlehem! Scott

    Reply
    • Karen Karabell
      Karen Karabell says:

      Hi Scott!
      Thank you for your kind words. My bike is a folder. It flies for free on Southwest in its own suitcase. Once I arrive at my destination, it takes me about half an hour to assemble the bike and turn the suitcase into a trailer, which is towed by the bike. I then put my regular luggage into the trailer, and off I go! There’s a photo accompanying this story that shows the bike and its trailer in front of Boise’s historic train depot.

      The system I use was created by the ingenious folks at Bike Friday in Eugene, Oregon. It was my holiday present to myself in December 2010. I knew I’d need a bike the following month in Orlando, Florida, where I was going to check out this strange new thing called CyclingSavvy… 😉

      Reply
  2. Katherine Tynan
    Katherine Tynan says:

    One place where Amtrak has a distinct advantage. I am usually to my accommodation within an hour of detraining. My travel bike unfolds in under a minute and I generally travel light with no checked bag.

    Reply

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