More People Are Biking to LaGuardia. Does the Port Authority Care?

Workers are opting to bike because it's the fastest way to get to LGA, but the Port Authority hasn't taken steps to make access roads safer.

Workers biking on the 94th Street walkway to LaGuardia's central terminal. Photo: Aazam Otero
Workers biking on the 94th Street walkway to LaGuardia's central terminal. Photo: Aazam Otero

In 2010, the Port Authority released a “bicycle master plan” that called for bike lanes at two entrances to LaGuardia Airport to be installed by the end of 2011. Eight years later, the bike lanes are nowhere in sight, the number of workers bicycling to the airport is soaring, and the absence of safe bike infrastructure has cost Steven Morales his life.

Last month, a hit-and-run driver struck and killed Morales, 36, as he biked on Runway Drive, a LaGuardia access road that connects the airport’s central terminal to points west. Like most of the roads at LaGuardia, Runway Drive has no designated space for cycling.

The 2010 plan called for bike lanes on the airport entrances at 102nd Street and Marine Terminal Road by the end of 2011 [PDF]. Neither bike lane was implemented. By the Marine Terminal, there’s only signage indicating a bike route.

Aazam Otero, an air traffic controller who has commuted to the airport by bike for a decade, says there’s no sign that the Port Authority took any significant action to improve biking conditions. “What changed since 2010?” he said. “Nothing — no visible changes that I can speak of or that I can recall, in regards to bikes.”

While the airport roads haven’t gotten any safer for cycling, the number of people biking to LaGuardia is soaring. Otero says the least the Port Authority can do is talk to workers about how they’re using bikes to get to the airport, and what would make those trips better.

Bike route signage -- but no bike lane -- near the LaGuardia marine terminal.
Bike route signage — but no bike lane — near the LaGuardia marine terminal. Photo: Aazam Otero

Otero rides to LaGuardia through Astoria from his home in the Bronx. That makes the Marine Terminal Road entrance on the airport’s west side the fastest, most accessible way in for him. From there, he takes takes Runway Drive — the street where Morales was killed — to get to his job by the central terminal.

He’s noticed a lot more people biking to LaGuardia recently, particularly in the last year as construction at the airport has expanded. Many construction workers park their cars in adjacent neighborhoods and bike the last leg of the trip.

“Before [construction started], the bike racks wouldn’t fill up. You would see the same two or three people,” Otero said. “Now you see a whole slew of people biking.”

But construction has also made biking to the airport more difficult. The 102nd Street entrance has been completely shuttered. Even if it were open, there’s no way for cyclists coming in from 102nd Street to access the main terminal, Otero said, because construction has essentially severed the airport in two.

Runway Drive at LaGuardia Airport, where Steven Morales was killed biking on Monday. Photo: Aazam Otero
Runway Drive at LaGuardia Airport, where a driver struck and killed Steven Morales last week. Photo: Aazam Otero

That leaves 94th Street and Runway Drive, where Morales was struck and killed, as the quickest routes for many workers.

Otero said biking on Runway Drive feels safer than other airport roads because car traffic is relatively light. But he’s worried the Port Authority will ban bikes on the street in a knee-jerk reaction to last week’s fatal crash, forcing workers to lock their bikes at an airport entrance and take a shuttle bus to their jobs.

That would negate one of the main advantages of biking to LaGuardia. “The big reason people are biking in is that the airport is gridlocked by 7 a.m.,” Otero said. With a shuttle bus, he said, “you’d be adding, not including wait times, 15 to 20 minutes to your commute.”

We’ve asked the Port Authority why the bike lanes in the 2010 plan were never implemented and what the agency will do to improve safety for workers biking to LaGuardia. After an initial query last week, a follow-up yesterday did not elicit a relevant response.

  • HamTech87

    Thanks for this article. Pedestrian routes within the airport aren’t so great either. Walking around the Marine Air Terminal to the parking lots in the rear requires walking into the roadway. Wayfinding signage is confusing or non-existent.

    Here’s Bowery Bay Blvd. behind the Marine Air Terminal. I had walked around the building from the other bus stop in one of the big snowstorms, had to dodge cars and buses to get to the parking lot. No sidewalk. Scary.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ca7fca151798439e0ed64926217834d8d2b45745a1adf7159ed135ca055fe118.png

  • I would bike for my flights if there was a safe place to park my bike. I am only 2.5 miles away!

  • Ian Turner

    The bike rack situation at the airport is pretty miserable too. The only racks open to the public are so far away from the terminal (at P4) that you’d have to take a bus to get back to the terminal, defeating the purpose of arriving by bike.

    As a passenger, I’d love to be able to bike to the airport when I don’t have much luggage, especially given the lack of train service. But the Port Authority has made it disappointingly impractical.

  • Larry Littlefield

    They do plan to build parking, don’t they? They should have space for parking in the garage, free for workers, reasonably priced for travelers.

  • Vooch

    Indeed, we had a big discussion on the subject of people cycling to LGA to catch their flights.

    Many suggested luggage was a deal breaker for a bike. Then I posted photos : https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/00c3cd9e0592d7c3d864bc3927667262f3c99e91dd030b6a05f13521dde608e0.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6d3b7c511676bda39059fb2873bdb5b7a29e3c4bd7491691fe3c94af7c0ce4e9.jpg

  • The last time I was at LGA the “bike parking” looked like this: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/eff0f77d50faf84656b98a119ae1c72f2cc1c63f0a9785e3a123329a43495a6d.jpg

    Has that been fixed?

  • Maggie

    Seven years after Cuomo and Christie’s Port Authority planned to install bike lanes, and nothing?!! This is a sad statement of their priorities and the people being left behind.

  • Ian Turner

    There is free covered unsecured parking for bicycles and motorcycles, but it is at the long-term parking lot. You still have to take a bus to the terminals.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Is that the current situation, or the plan for when the rebuild is completed? I’m talking about the latter.

  • Cristina Carnicelli Furlong

    Dave, there’s a 2016 Master Plan out, which includes the number of crashes at PANYNJ sites-It breaks down crashes that were investigated by Port Authority Police or NYPD. There were 3 other bike crashes reported at LGA from 2010-2016.

    As with any crash in our community, it was especially miserable to read of the death of Morales, who biked for many years and many miles throughout the city. We were not even sure if a ghost bike placed at the site would be allowed to remain. We do plan to set one up, as the driver who killed Morales was never named and he was working for a commercial company at the airport. I was told the driver simply went back to the shop and changed busses. That’s unacceptable and hopefully, with assistance, we’ll get to the bottom of it.

    I reached out to every elected official representing the area and called for them to organize a meeting with LaGuardia Gateway, the managers of the redevelopment. Let’s see how it goes. Only one, Assemblyman DenDekker, offered to meet. Friday. I want to know what provisions are being made to workers and employees. People should be allowed access to safe bike routes for certain.

    My husband and I often walk or bike to and from the airport to pick up rental cars.We also bike the promenade, and use Ditmars around the Marine Air Terminal to connect to the 20th Ave bike lane that runs clear to the waterfront. More protection for cyclists is needed in every fashion. More than that, answers to who killed Steven Morales and whether he’ll be prosecuted as a hit and run. Can PANYNJ make such prosection? Records dating back to 2010 have no other fatalities listed.

    It’s a fascinating report full of a Santa Claus sack full of bike perks from secure parking to smooth roads to a bike coordinator for all PANYNJ sites.

    LaGuardia is pretty much left off it it, most likely due to construction.
    Over the past couple of summers, myself and a few other Queens cyclists have tweeted out about the bike racks being full, the need for Citi Bike and safe routes. Hopefully a bike plan will be incorporated into the final plans for the new airport.

  • Cristina Carnicelli Furlong

    They have a plan for fee based monthly or yearly secure bike depots. They’ve studied a bunch of other cities for ideas.

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