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Tampa International Airport recognized as bike-friendly ⁠— thanks to future upgrades

Tampa’s airport is the nation’s first to receive the designation from the nonprofit League of American Bicyclists. It was also the first to apply.

TAMPA — Ride your bike to Tampa International Airport? Where? On the George J. Bean Parkway, the cars-only roadway leading to the airport without any bike lanes or sidewalks?

No one in their right mind would do that. But some airport employees do bike to work via W Hillsborough Avenue. It’s also possible to pedal onto airport property from the south via W Spruce Street and N O’Brien Street.

Still, not ideal.

So the airport is working to improve its cycling environment, and those efforts recently led the Washington D.C. nonprofit League of American Bicyclists to name Tampa International its first bike-friendly airport in the nation. It received the league’s bronze Bicycle Friendly Business award, which recognized its contributions to building a more bike-friendly America through engineering and education.

Tampa International was the first airport to apply for the designation, said Amelia Neptune, the league’s director for the Bicycle America Friendly program. The designation, which the airport got on its first try, addressed not just existing bike lanes, but also what the airport is doing for the future and whether it supports cycling in general.

Related: Danger on two wheels: Here are 11 of the Tampa Bay area’s most treacherous intersections for bicyclists

“The physical infrastructure is important, but it’s not the only thing we look at,” Neptune said. So it matters that the airport is building a new bike and pedestrian path that will loop around its under-construction SkyCenter office and hotel development and cell phone waiting lot.

“We are trying to get better,” airport spokesman Danny Valentine said.

Eventually, that path is planned to connect to a network of regional biking and pedestrian trails, Among them, Valentine said, is a planned sidewalk extension along O’Brien Street that will allow safer bike travel between the airport and the Courtney Campbell Causeway Trail.

Tampa International Airport is building an internal bike trail (shown in magenta on this map) that is planned to connect to regional trails (shown in green) via an extension of sidewalks along N O'Brien Street (shown in yellow). (Tampa International Airport map) [Tampa International Airport]
Related: Five scenic Tampa Bay bike routes for the casual rider

The airport also is:

• Building covered bike parking and repair stations at its employee parking lot off of Hillsborough Avenue.

• Including indoor bicycle commuter facilities and amenities at the SkyCenter One office building now under construction.

• Installing eight new bike racks and a repair station at the transit curb in its rental car center.

“We’re big believers in transportation options that offer an alternative to cars and improve connectivity, reduce transportation costs and promote wellness and sustainability," Tampa International Chief Executive Officer Joe Lopano said in a statement announcing the award. "Cycling can achieve all of those goals, and that’s why it is so important to support it for the 10,000 people who work at the airport as well as travelers.”

Related: Tampa airport pushes ahead with office building, more expansion