For pedal riders, six airports close to bike paths and rentals
Whether you’re arriving at a sprawling international airport in St. Louis or in a quiet strip of rural Maine, one of your main concerns is how to get from the airport to the hotel, restaurant, or destination. other attractions you might want to visit. Taxis and rideshares are fine, but when you’re really exploring somewhere new, you often want a bike.
You can bring a bike with you, of course. But the good news is that a growing number of airports and nearby stores are offering bikes that riders can rent or even borrow to get around town or to hit the local trails. The trails themselves have also become more plentiful and accessible in recent years, as groups like the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy continue to expand, maintain and improve the network of trails built on ancient railway rights-of-way.
Many pilots have already become accustomed to taking their bikes with them when flying. This is especially handy with modern lightweight folding bikes – or ones that allow the front wheel to come off to fit an airplane with decent cargo space, like a Beech Bonanza, Cessna 206, or Piper Cherokee Six. Whichever approach you take, the connection between flying and biking can lead to satisfying day trips and great vacations. Below are some of the airports that open the door to exploring on two wheels.
Albert Lea Municipal Airport (KAEL)
Albert Lea, Minnesota
The airport is located in rolling countryside that lends itself well to bicycling and is close to the Blazing Star State Trail, which is paved and stretches approximately 10 kilometers between Lake Albert Lea and the park. State of Myre-Big Island. But this is only an introduction. The trail connects to the Albert Lea City Trail System, and when additional connections are completed, the trail will extend 20 miles and connect to the nearby Austin City Trail System and the Shooting Star Trail. Bike rentals are easy to find in and around Albert Lea.
Chatham Airport (KCQX)
Cape Cod is a fantastic place for biking and Chatham can be a great starting point. Located at the “elbow” of the cape, the town is a bit off the beaten track from Route 6, which is the often crowded main thoroughfare that goes to Provincetown. There are quieter side roads around Chatham which are good for driving and local attractions include the lighthouse, Coast Guard station and commercial fishing pier. Rental spots are plentiful and you can easily plan a short trip or tackle the 30+ miles to the tip of the cape.
Mackinac Island Airport (KMCD)
Mackinac Island, Michigan
In some ways, this place, a vacation destination since the 1800s, is a portal to simpler times. The roar of horse-drawn carriages replaces the more familiar car engines and horns. Indeed, Mackinac Island has been car-free for over 100 years. But there are plenty of bikes — over 1,500 for rent — so getting around after landing on the island’s 3,501-foot runway isn’t a problem. Mackinac is known for its great food and a variety of unique (non-chain) hotels and B&Bs, and is appealing whether you’re visiting for the day or planning to stay a while.
Portland International Airport (KPDX)
Portland has long been a cycling city. When you check the Transportation Bureau website for the best ways to get from the airport to downtown, cycling is at the top of the list. There is a bike path around the airport and a staging area with tools available in the FBO for people traveling with their bikes. The city has a number of projects underway to expand the airport runway network and connect it with on-street bike lanes and other exclusive bike lanes.
Almost Isle International Airport (KPQI)
Almost Isle, Maine
This is a new addition to the list of Maine airports where bicycles are available through the Bicycles for Pilots program run by the Maine Aeronautics Association. Bikes are a great way to get into town and explore nearby trails, like the Aroostook Valley Trail, which is part of a rail right-of-way that passes through the south side of the airport and s spans nearly 30 miles. The Aeronautical Association and its partners have also placed bikes at several other airports in the state, including Bethel Airport (0B1) and Brunswick Executive Airport (KBXM) for use from May through October.
St. Louis Lambert International Airport (KSTL)
St. Louis, Missouri
There’s over a century of history to explore at the old Lambert Field, including the famous 1956 vaulted terminal designed by Minoru Yamasaki for the first test flights of the iconic McDonnell F-4 Phantom fighter at the airport in 1958. But today we’re here to talk about the remarkable Katy Trail that passes nearby. Many consider it the king of all rail trails, spanning 237 miles and passing dozens of towns, bridges, old railroad depots and other historic buildings. Strong riders sometimes covered the entire length in a day, but why rush, with so many ice cream shops to visit along the way?