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Not only are there no rewards for being green and using a bike, you are actually punished because passenger transport in the United States charges you extra for bringing a bike as part of your luggage. Airlines, it seems (with the exception of British Airways), are unilaterally against making bicycle travelers' lives easier. In the past several years, the price of transporting a bike as cargo on an airline has reached a point of exceeding the price of most relatively good used bikes. Airlines now charge approximately $80 and up each way to bring a bike as checked luggage. For many domestic flights, the cost of the bike now exceeds the cost of the ticket itself.
This wouldn't be a serious problem if getting from airports to city centers or other cities within a region was straightforward, reliable and inexpensive. This is generally not the case in the United States, however. Unless you have friends willing to do an airport run or you're willing to rent a car, inter-modal transport between airports and rail stations has a long way to go.
Of the 382 "primary" airports in America, only eight have rail service of any kind that drops passengers off within walking distance of the terminals: Atlanta, Chicago, JFK, San Francisco, Newark, Minneapolis, Boston and Philadelphia. While in Europe, 20-30 percent of travelers use rail to get to airports, that figure is under 5 percent in the United States. Not only that, many European cities have fully integrated high-speed intercity rail directly into airport connections (the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, is the best example of this: the high-speed rail terminal is directly in the airport). By contrast, Amtrak, America's national passenger rail carrier only serves four of these primary airports: Newark, Baltimore, Burbank and Milwaukee. That's it.
Now, there is already a solution#&8212;a very, very inelegant solution: to simply buy and store used bicycles in all the cities I fly into and out of, which I have actually managed to do. I have bicycles locked up in New York, Chicago, Cincinnati, Fort Lauderdale, Boston, London and Paris.
It's not just about getting to and from the airport. It's that, without a bike, you are often dependent either on a car or on a public transport system that closes early or doesn't get you where you want to go in a reasonable time. Unlike most of the rest of the world, the United States uses the automobile as the fundamental unit of measurement instead of the human being. This has repercussions far beyond trying to park a bike at an airport. At the end of the day, if you have to drive to buy milk and bread, there is something fundamentally wrong with the zoning laws in your community.
It's not that individual cities, counties, airports or transport companies haven't tried to change. It's that no one has put the pieces together and looked at the overall picture from a perspective of motivation and value. If all airports create bicycle parking stands, but airlines increase the cost of bicycle transport, the reliance on cars remains unchanged. If there is no regional inter-city transport that closely links airports to multiple city hubs in a given region, the same problem persists.
For inter-modal transport to truly work, and for human-powered vehicles and human-scaled development to compete effectively with the automobile, there must be a holistic approach to inter-modal transport. That approach must view inter-modal transport not as a cost to appease environmentalists or special-interest groups, but as a creator of value by driving down the overall cost of transportation and by creating other tangential benefits (healthier, well-exercised travelers, for example). To get the ball rolling, here are some institutional changes that I think could help: