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.

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