Dave Schlabowske
Bike Czar

The Growth in Air Travelers Arriving by Bike

They laughed when a bike rack was installed at Mitchell Airport, but on some days it's nearly full.

By , Bike Federation of Wisconsin - Mar 7th, 2014 12:30 pm
The bike racks were almost full when I pulled up, but the parking is free if you pedal to Mitchell Field.

The bike racks were almost full when I pulled up, but the parking is free if you pedal to Mitchell Field.

The first time I rode my bike to Mitchell Field 15 years ago for the first National Bike Summit I attended in Washington, D.C., even I wasn’t sure how to get into the airport on a bike friendly route or how to find the bike parking. Needless to say mine was the only bike parked there.



The temperature was zero when I left home this morning on my way to this year’s summit, so I figured I was going to be the only one pedaling to the airport again. When I pulled up on my Dutchified Schwinn, I was pleasantly surprised to see the bike parking was nearly full! There were nine bikes already locked up to the racks. I’m no mathematician, but that looks like a 900 percent increase in people riding to the airport.

I remember when the City of Milwaukee gave the bike racks to the airport, we got some criticism that nobody would ever use them and it was a waste of money. The same arguments were made in response to the first bike lanes, bike racks on buses and more recently, bikesharing and protected bike lanes.

Over and over again these bicycling boondoggle arguments have been proven wrong and the “if you build it they will ride” argument has proven true. The number of people riding bicycles for transportation has been increasing steadily, if slowly, since that first National Bike Summit I attended 15 years ago, proof that I have not been wasting my time making the trip to spread the good word about bicycling in our nation’s capital.

United Spokes

United Spokes

I will try to keep readers in the loop as our delegation of about 20 advocates, business leaders and citizens heads to the Hill.

In the meantime, you can read about our agenda and our asks on the Summit website on the League of American Bicyclists website here.

UPDATE: While Wisconsinites pedal through our coldest, snowiest winter in decades, Washington, D.C. is paralyzed when a measly one inch of snow falls. Washington International Airport closed and my flight was cancelled, but I caught a lift back home from Mitchell Field in a Wheel & Sprocket van with Chris and Amelia Kegel. We left Heather Fortune from Saris at the airport still trying to book another flight.

Amelia and her dad made it on a 7:25 pm flight. I am on another 9:15 am flight tomorrow. We all have our fingers crossed. 

Categories: Bike Czar

6 thoughts on “Bike Czar: The Growth in Air Travelers Arriving by Bike”

  1. GT says:

    Thanks Dave. General Mitchell International Airport hasn’t been a “field” for some time. Makes us sound a little hillbilly.

  2. Chris Jacobs says:

    Why would you assume that they are travelers bikes? The airport has a pretty significant number of workers that live locally, which would be primary logical reason to bike. Most travelers out of Milwaukee are not immediately local. As a traveler, would I really feel confident about leaving a bike in the rack for several days, and biking home with my carry on?

  3. Hey Chris,

    FYI, the headline I wrote for the Bike Fed blog where this originally appeared was: 900% increase in people bicycling to airport. I guess the Urban Milwaukee editor didn’t like that one and rewrote it.

    I agree with your that many of the bikes are airport workers, though not all. I got another photo via social media of someone else who rides there on an expensive cargo bike carrying his photo gear and leaves his spendy bike locked up, but he has a better lock than me. I have a pretty good lock, but plan to get a better one.

    People are funny about locking up bikes. The person who doesn’t think twice about leaving his $50K BMW in a lot for a week might not lock his $2K bicycle for three hours. I leave my $1,200 commuter bike locked up anywhere, but I hesitated at leaving my $3.5K fat bike.

  4. I guess I’m an old guy who still reminisces about Albert the Alleycat and $.65 cent taps down where the streetcar turned the corner round 😉 I kind of like that Polish hillbilly image though.

  5. Robert says:

    Bikes are great alternative transportation with the bike owners footing most of the costs. Fits in with Milwaukee’s frugality.

  6. Dave Reid says:

    @Robert No doubt.

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