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Airport chiefs want more people to cycle there in bid to reduce motor vehicle traffic

Bosses at London Heathrow Airport are calling for London’s Cycle Superhighways to be extended westward to help reduce the amount of motor traffic heading to the travel hub.

According to Telegraph Travel, congestion charging is another option being explored by the airport operator to meet a new national policy set out in Parliament today.

Reducing motor traffic, noise and pollution levels is a condition imposed by the government and which has to be met before the proposed third runway can be built.

road.cc's guide on: How to fly with your bike

The Civil Aviation Authority says that currently 41 per cent of passengers travelling through Heathrow arrive there other than by car, using public transport and other means.

The airport needs to increase that to 55 per cent, and its expansion director, Emma Gilthorpe, says that encouraging people to ride a bike to the airport is one option.

She said: “We will work with the Government to deliver the target. There are different ways we can do this; the first is by making public transport easily accessible.”

Turning to cycling, she said: “What we would like to do is to create the potential to connect the airport to the rest of the [Cycle Superhighway network] so you can get here and get around the airport on bicycle, which at the moment is possible but challenging.”

Raising the prospect that motorists might be charged to use the roads around the airport in a bid to cut pollution, she added: “If we get to the point where we think we have made a lot of change and made alternatives available then an emissions charge is something we would contemplate.”

The airport already taken steps to encourage more of the thousands of people who work there to commute on two wheels, appointing a cycling officer in 2015.

> Heathrow appoints Cycling Officer to get local staff riding to work

Clearly, cycling to the airport presents some logistical issues that would need to be overcome – at first sight, it would clearly be unsuitable for people with bulky luggage, unless some solution such a places people could drop their bags the evening before the flight and pick them up at Heathrow could be found.

Whle people travelling just with a small backpack might find it easier, they would need somewhere to freshen up pre-flight, as well as secure parking to know their bike was safe while they were away.

And while people cycling while towing carry-on roller suitcases is a common sight in countries such as the Netherlands, without fully protected infrastructure for the length of the journey, it would be a brave soul who would try that on west London’s roads.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

21 comments

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wycombewheeler [1199 posts] 8 months ago
2 likes

April 1st? either they need the airlines to be more bike friendly or they need somewhere to store bikes securely for days.

I can imagine employees arriving by bike, but passengers is extremely unlikely.

before even considering how I take my luggage by bike.

Maybe if they started a bike box hire faculty I could bike pack my holiday. That would be awesome. turn up / collect bike box / pack bike / fly

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multifrag [92 posts] 8 months ago
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This only makes sense for ferries, where you can park your bike normally. None of the airlines will allow the bike as baggage without it being in atleast a carboard box...Cycle to heatrow with a cardboard box on your back?

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Edgeley [481 posts] 8 months ago
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It is forbidden to cycle to Terminals 1 - 3.     Only motor vehicles are allowed in the tunnel.

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redhanded [26 posts] 8 months ago
8 likes

Passengers cycling is completely missing the opportunity for cycling.

 

Over 70,000 people work at Heathrow. It's the largest single site employer in the U.K. 

 

Just naking it easy for people to cycle to work from the surrounding area would be s major improvement.

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ktache [627 posts] 8 months ago
5 likes

They need to reduce pollution?  We are talking about an internatioonal airport here, where jet airliners take off and land.

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Al__S [1253 posts] 8 months ago
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THEY TOOK AWAY THE CYCLEWAY THROUGH THE TUNNEL TO THE CENTRAL AREA.

 

It was there, they ripped it out. this is the their map of cycle facilities in the area- spoiler alert, a load of rubbish.

 

I can't find anything about how secure the parking is. Even if aiming at short haul business/short stay leisure, the parking better be damn secure.

 

For taking bikes on places, that would require some sort of parnership with a transport case lease firm?

 

Seems like they have good words but clueless about what they're providing or trying to provide?

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jfparis [16 posts] 8 months ago
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ktache wrote:

They need to reduce pollution?  We are talking about an internatioonal airport here, where jet airliners take off and land.

To justify no breach in emmissions, their environmental studies are pretty much assuming that everybody (but LHR) achiving big cuts

In that context encouraging public transport and cycling make a lot of sense. 

But on cycling to the airport they are pi**ing in the wind. They would be better off financing / building cycleways for the neighbouring communities. That would contribute toward the cut they need.

I would love a nice protected / maintaine cycle route all the way to windsor from central london but I would never use it to go to the airport. That said could be different for local staff

 

PS: should tell them that asking Chris G about advice on cycling might not be a good idea

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Christopher TR1 [139 posts] 8 months ago
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I have explored the possibility of a "travel bike" (Ritchey Breakaway or S&S couplers). But really, why make it so difficult & expensive for us? All they need is some bike parking in the cabin. Yes it takes up a little more space, but somebody taking their bike onto the aircraft is going to have very little other luggage (and no massive bike box in the aircraft hold).

RORO air travel. If I were king......

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OldRidgeback [2798 posts] 8 months ago
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Much as I'd like to, it's a bit impractical seeing as how I live in South London. And I expect it'll be even more impractical for anyone not living actually in London, like  most people in the UK. If I lived near and was going for an overnight trip, which I do quite a lot of with work, then it might be feasible, but when I'm on a business long haul or a family trip, how much of my stuff could I carry on my MTB?

It might be good to encourage a lot of the Heathrow workers to cycle and I expect they'd like to do away with some of their parking problems. But trying to get them to go for it? well, let's just say it'll take some selling.

I often do work trips that mean I have to be at Heathrow very early in the morning for 6am flights. Since the tube isn't running at that time, it means I have to take a cab. Taking the caris not feasbile since the parking area is some distance away and my wife needs the car anyway. What would help though is if I had somewhere secure to park my motorbike close to the terminals. Now that would cut down on car transport to the airport and let's face it, a motorbike takes up a lot less space than a car. Cycling to Heathrow would not be feasible for me at all.

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arfa [851 posts] 8 months ago
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It's possible if travelling light but what do you do with your bike at the other end ? Gift it to the local tea leafs and buy another one on return ? Hope that the airline will let you take it on ? I often use a Brompton around London and can readily carry enough gear for business trips but I have absolutely no idea whether the airline would let me take the bike on with me. As a result of this and no secure storage, it's a non starter (aside from them getting rid of the cycle lane through the tunnel).
I fear this will be more "gesture" politics with a lack of joined up thinking predetermining it's failure.

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stenmeister [343 posts] 8 months ago
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Sounds like a Chris Grayling idea because bikes reduce pollution and hopefully if enough people cycle to heathrow then it will offset all the pollution from the new runway. And if it doesn't work then it doesn't matter because business is booming 

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ClubSmed [386 posts] 8 months ago
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arfa wrote:

It's possible if travelling light but what do you do with your bike at the other end ? Gift it to the local tea leafs and buy another one on return ? Hope that the airline will let you take it on ? I often use a Brompton around London and can readily carry enough gear for business trips but I have absolutely no idea whether the airline would let me take the bike on with me. As a result of this and no secure storage, it's a non starter (aside from them getting rid of the cycle lane through the tunnel). I fear this will be more "gesture" politics with a lack of joined up thinking predetermining it's failure.

There many possibilities regarding this, just off the top of my head:

  1. Boris Bike station at the airport
  2. Left baggage facility
  3. Lock Boxes
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TimC340 [77 posts] 8 months ago
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This is about the 55000 people who work at Heathrow, not about passengers. 

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meoln10 [1 post] 8 months ago
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I once got a minicab to the terminal with my bike in the back, left my bike in 'left luggage' for the day whilst i did a return flight to Germany - and then cycled home to north london along the canal towpath.     logistically possible, but never repeated.    

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P3t3 [413 posts] 8 months ago
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This is really interesting, the motivators for change are strong here, but they are also different to the usual council road improvements.  

Are we going to see major change to streets being forced through by a private corporation and if so how are they going to approach it?  Are LHR going to study what really works in terms of cycle infrastrucutre and then implement it?  Or in reality is this just noise made to placate the government and we are going to get a load more white paint on the roads for car tyres to wear out?  if it is the former then how are they going to placate the local community, they have already shown that they are prepared to make themselves extremely unpopular locally in order to get what they want.  

I wonder what proportion of LHR staff arrive to work by car?

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arfa [851 posts] 8 months ago
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As it is off the top of your head Clubsmed, i will fill in a few details
1 Boris bikes don't extend as far as Heathrow. Even if they did, a 10 mile ride on one would be very slow and sweaty.
2 and 3 have you seen the left luggage charges ? It's cheaper to park a car !
As things stand, it's not feasible on a practical or cost basis !

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ClubSmed [386 posts] 8 months ago
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arfa wrote:

As it is off the top of your head Clubsmed, i will fill in a few details 1 Boris bikes don't extend as far as Heathrow. Even if they did, a 10 mile ride on one would be very slow and sweaty. 2 and 3 have you seen the left luggage charges ? It's cheaper to park a car ! As things stand, it's not feasible on a practical or cost basis !

  1.  Boris Bikes could be extended, that does not just mean a station at destination but also some along the way. I don't see an issue regarding 10 miles on one, I have done the same on the "Next Bikes" here in a suit without issue.
  2. The costs could be subsidised, maybe by parking increases  3
  3. We are not talking about as things stand, we are talking of a new infrastructure and therefore, hopefully, new facilities
  4. As stated by a previous poster, the airport is the biggest single site employer in the UK so if the facilities are only good enough for employees then it is still a huge win.
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arfa [851 posts] 8 months ago
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I admire your optimism Clubsmed but we are talking about plans to be submitted by Chris Grayling, so.....
I absolutely agree that if they can get more staff to cycle in that is a good thing and anything that helps this is a plus. That said, the extension of Boris bikes has been very slow and at its current rate, it's unlikely to get out to Heathrow for a generation (you can't even take one near city airport currently).
My original post was more of a reflection of where we are and given the tunnel cycle closure, we live in hope as opposed to expectation !

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LastBoyScout [287 posts] 8 months ago
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OldRidgeback wrote:

I often do work trips that mean I have to be at Heathrow very early in the morning for 6am flights. Since the tube isn't running at that time, it means I have to take a cab. Taking the car is not feasbile since the parking area is some distance away and my wife needs the car anyway. What would help though is if I had somewhere secure to park my motorbike close to the terminals. Now that would cut down on car transport to the airport and let's face it, a motorbike takes up a lot less space than a car. Cycling to Heathrow would not be feasible for me at all.

I, too, could use the motorbike to get there when I'm off on my own on business trips, but I'd still need somewhere dry and secure to lock up my helmet, leathers and boots (>£1000 worth!) for the duration of the trip.

I live about 25 miles from Heathrow and I wouldn't cycle there for numerous logistical reasons.

I've used the train and Railair buses to get to Gatwick and Heathrow when it was just me or me and my wife, but getting from our house to either terminal with the kids is easiest by car.

We have used parents to give us a lift to the airport, but that's even more polluting, because it means they then have to come and pick us up again, so twice the journey time - same problem with private hire taxis.

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Prosper0 [102 posts] 8 months ago
1 like

Pootling over to London city airport on the bike before flying is one of life's little pleasures. It's not rocket science. 

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congokid [321 posts] 8 months ago
2 likes

I don't think airport staff would be persuaded to cycle in larger numbers than they already do, particularly given the local area and the predominant ethnic background of residents who tend to be under represented in active transport modes elsewhere.

An estimated 16,500 of the airport's 76,000 strong workforce live within 5km, and Heathrow estimates only around 800 employees currently arrive by bike (which is actually a lot more than I would have imagined). 

As for my own experiences, in the '90s I visited Heathrow frequently as a contractor to the communication department. Mostly I took the Express from Paddington, and occasionally I took the cheaper but much slower Piccadilly line. Most of the time, I chose the quickest option which was to drive (this was before the airport drop off charge was introduced).

Parking in the car parks really gives you a flavour of what the air quality around the airport is like. Most passengers arriving by tube wouldn't notice it so much, but it really is something you don't want to spend much time breathing in. On one occasion I took the local bus service from the airport to another HAL office nearby. It wasn't that far as the crow flies, but is a circuitous, traffic dominated route that would have been really unpleasant (noisy, smelly dangerous) to try and walk or cycle.

Having said that, a visit to Ho Chi Minh City last year was an eye-opener. Many of the runway apron operating staff, who in western airports would probably be zooming around in liveried vehicles, were making those journeys on bicycles.