In the summer of 2015, our friends at Bikabout wrote a how-to blog post for families that wanted to start their vacation in adventurous fashion by bicycling to Boston’s Logan Airport. Bikabout advocated use of the Blue Line to cross Boston Harbor to Maverick Station, from which riders could pedal to bike parking located at Terminal A or E.
Since that time, we have become aware of a number of intrepid folks who regularly begin their trips out of town by pedalling the more challenging “overland” route to Logan, through Sullivan Square, Everett, Chelsea, and East Boston. We also realized that there are precious few resources available online for those wishing to undertake advance reconnaissance for such a journey. Just before flying out of town is not the time to investigate and improvise optimal bike parking at the airport, right?
So, taking Massport’s online listing of airport bike parking (a little lacking in the details department) as a starting point, we set out to provide a sketch of the journey to Logan; create the definitive guide to bike parking at Logan under current conditions; search for that holy grail of a safe, secure, convenient, weather-protected parking space for one’s steed; and proffer some suggestions as to how the situation could be improved.
Over the Rivers and Through the (Neighbor)Hoods
With three exceptions, the ride from Cambridge/Somerville/Medford to the airport involves reasonably comfortable conditions consistent with what one generally experiences riding around the greater-Boston area. The three most challenging points are: Sullivan Square, Beacham St, and the Andrew McArdle Bridge.
Sullivan Square is a well-known point of peril, particularly for eastbound cyclists. If you make it around the circle onto Route 99, heading toward Everett, you will be rewarded with a very nice buffered bike lane across the Medford Bridge, with fine views of Boston Harbor off to the right.
The next difficulty to contend with on your Odyssean journey to
the aerodrome is Beacham Street in Everett, the industrial badlands from which everything you might consume in your daily life is trucked to your local retailer. Despite being replete with scenic wonders . . .
. . . the pavement is in deplorable condition. Hold on tight and, if making the trip other than in daylight, consider bringing extra illumination. The road also features a steady thunder of large fuel trucks and tractor trailers. (Note: a somewhat more circuitous route bypasses part of Beacham and takes you through some scenic, secret wetlands to boot.)
Beacham soon dumps you out into the comparatively calm streets of Chelsea, and the only remaining problem is the McArdle Bridge, which crosses the Chelsea River into East Boston. The center span of this bridge features corrugated metal that cannot be stably traversed with ordinary bicycle tires and that poses a very high risk of pinch flats for those with skinnier tires. Pro tip from Raphael Dumas: cross the bridge on the sidewalk. Still corrugated, but a finer mesh that’s easy to negotiate. Views from the bridge are pretty cool.
East Boston has, in tight proximity to the airport, vibrant neighborhoods that few air travelers ever see. Few other than two-wheeled travelers, that is.
The local streets soon bring you to the lovely East Boston Greenway (ECG), the official starting point for our airport bicycle parking survey.
Wheel ‘n Fly
Bremen Street Park
Massport generously includes a couple of bike parking areas in Bremen Street Park, along the ECG, in its list of airport bike parking.
However, we found it difficult to take this seriously. Despite being very scenic, the parking is non-covered, not monitored, non-surveilled, and not particularly close to the airport. To cap it off, most of the entrances to Bremen Street Park are closed at night, which could create some serious complications for those with off-peak arrivals or departures. So, while the soft verdant grass here would make for a great picnic spot, keep riding along for airport parking.
The situation improves somewhat at the Airport Station on the Blue Line. Here, the parking is (mostly) covered, well lit, and flanked by a pair of prominent surveillance cameras.
It is also convenient to the shuttle buses that run regularly from the T to the terminals. The main issue is probably security, since this location is unlikely to be monitored overnight. We noticed a couple of bikes here locked down with fortress-like redundancy.
Economy Parking Garage
The bike parking at the airport’s Economy Parking structure merits serious consideration for the bike-to-air sojourner. The parking is protected from the weather. There are shuttle buses steps away running to the terminals. There is video surveillance. A parking attendant sits in a booth, steps away, 24/7, providing a level of monitoring. (Though the fact that, when queried, he did not know where the bike parking was located, was less than confidence-inspiring. Hint: fifty feet in front of your face.)
A slight oddity: this bike parking was completely unutilized–at least on the day we visited. Crickets. Also, from the amount of bird guano on the racks . . .
. . . it looks like it may have been quite some time since they saw any regular, non-avian, visitation. Pro-tip: Bring a bag for your seat, if not a big bag for your whole bike!
Rental Car Center
Another option falling into the not-half-bad category is the parking at the airport’s Rental Car Center. This, dare we say, stylish little facility . . .
. . . has much to recommend it: It is covered. It is stylish. It is surveilled. There are people around. And the fact that some very nice bikes, the nicest we saw, were locked there is perhaps a testimony to its virtues. An added merit of the Rental Car Center is that it is easy to bike to from Maverick Station/the East Boston harbor path without the need for much negotiation of busy airport roadways. One potential concern: perhaps there are too many people around. Lots of shuttle buses and rental cars coming and going. The bikes are in a fishbowl for any malefactors intent on scoping out nice bikes to steal.
Terminal Parking for your (daring) Convenience
If you’ve read this far because you shun the idea of relying on any form of transportation besides two feet and two wheels, fear not. There is parking at the terminals…
… but don’t expect to find parking for bikes on any signage. The two closest terminals to the rest of the world, A & E have bike parking outside at the westernmost end of either terminal. This may be to encourage cyclists not to actually ride through the rest of the airport searching for bike parking.
In alphabetical order, Terminal A had two sets of racks we could find. They’re right next to the taxi stand, and agonizingly close to what could have been comprehensive weather coverage from a stratum of concrete overlays. The racks are lit, but no security cameras could be found. There’s an employee human resourcing the taxi stand, but we were unable to determine whether there was a 24 attendant. Nor were we able to determine, as in the economy garage above, how likely such an attendant would be to come to the rescue of your bike from thieves grinding its lock.
And, if you’re planning on flying to faraway places from Terminal E, here’s the bike parking for you. The photo features Raphael’s duffel precariously perched on his rear rack before he flew. Once again the location is lit, uncovered, and unsupervised. There’s quite a lot of foot traffic here from people waiting for the Silver Line and various other shuttles. However there’s also an abandoned and pilfered bicycle standing as a warning.
However, this glowing review of Terminal E bike parking from someone who reached out to us via Twitter, shows that the pilfering of the bike is not a recent phenomenon.
@DumasRaphael Term E is a few feet off from roof cover – if rain’s at angle bike stays clean. The abandoned Schwinn has been there 5 years.
— Andrew Schwartz (@ndrewSchwartz) June 13, 2016
We could not avoid the conclusion that the bike parking at Logan is on the whole a disappointment. Especially when one considers the vast attention, resources, and assurances Massport has lavished on folks bringing their cars to the airport.
Taking the current state of affairs as a modest beginning, we think the best options are either the Economy Parking garage (probably best for those heading to terminals C or E; bring a bird tarp), or the Rental Car Center (probably best for those heading to terminals A or B). You can then hop on one of the shuttles to your terminal.
- The central parking garage stood out as one of the biggest missed opportunities. It’s a little more stressful to get to but with a little effort it could provide convenient access to all terminals. There is a high demand for car parking here, but there also seemed to be several nooks and crannies that are currently underutilized and could be repurposed for bike parking, even a bike cage a la Alewife or Forest Hills
- There are some surprisingly low-stress, pleasant, even pretty ways to meander through the airport. There are also some high-speed death traps. If biking were to be more widely encouraged, explicit signage would go a long way so folks don’t need to rely on prior knowledge, glancing at apps, cue sheets, etc.
- If Ferry service across the harbor were cheaper and more frequent, and equipped for bicycle transport, this could be a unique multi-modal (and fully outdoors!) option.
- Beacham St. is a critical regional link for cyclists to Chelsea, East Boston, and Winthrop, it should be upgraded and/or bike-ped lanes should be added to the Tobin Bridge.
Hubway, when it eventually expands to East Boston, should place at least one station at the airport so that intrepid travellers or commuters could bike in without having to commit to a return trip. It would also serve as an important demonstration that it is possible to bike to the airport while providing good visibility to bicycling and Hubway as a viable mode of transportation in Boston to visitors. We’ve already started suggesting locations, feel free to support our submission or add your own.
Steven Bercu, Raphael Dumas, and Phil Stango are volunteers affiliated with the Boston Cyclists Union.