a bike on a red line against a green/grey turned aeroplane looking menancing
Biking to the airport is eminently possible, but airports don’t always support this option (Image: Tina Tiller)

SocietyOctober 6, 2023

How easy is it to bike to the airport in New Zealand?

a bike on a red line against a green/grey turned aeroplane looking menancing
Biking to the airport is eminently possible, but airports don’t always support this option (Image: Tina Tiller)

We assess what New Zealand’s airports are doing to accommodate cycling, what they could be doing better and why normalising cycling as a way to get to the airport is a good idea.

One of my resolutions for 2023 was to bike to Auckland Airport. I was sick of taking three buses, paying stupid amounts of money for taxis or having to drop unsubtle hints to potentially reluctant relatives. The final straw was having a Jetstar flight, scheduled to leave at 6am, cancelled two hours before. I had to pay the taxi anyway, and decided that next time I wanted to go to the airport, I would take myself. 

A few weeks later, with another early flight, I had an opportunity. I woke up early to bike from my house on New North Road through the back streets of Sandringham and onto the Southwestern Pathway, seeing just one person, fishing from Ngā Hau Māngere in the early morning darkness, my backpack strapped to my bike rack. Not a fast cyclist, it took me just over an hour on my non-electric bike, most of which was on protected and separated cycleways. This is nearly three times as long as it would have taken in a car but faster than the three-bus method, free and with no delays for traffic.

I arrived with 10 minutes to spare. Several cars honked at me as I wandered through the car park, looking for a bike rack. I eventually found it tucked in a shadowy corner of the carpark building opposite the drop off area, locked my bike with two locks – hoping this would be enough to ensure my bike would still be there when I returned three days later – and sauntered to check in past the flow of cars, sitting down on my flight with tired legs and a sense of accomplishment.

cartoon images of trains buses and bikes
Most people drive to the airport, rather than biking or using public transport Image: Tina Tiller

Since then, I’ve cycled to Auckland Airport several times, and Christchurch Airport once. It’s made me wonder why this option to get to important transport hubs is in many cases neglected, even though lots of domestic travel in New Zealand would fit criteria to make cycling appealing. 

What are those conditions? Ideally, you’re only going to be away for a few days, meaning your bike won’t be abandoned for weeks at a terminal, and you don’t have too much luggage (although panniers and bike trailers are good options). It’s much easier to cycle to the airport in the city where you (and presumably your bike) live; very few airports in New Zealand offer bike hire services directly at the terminal.

Your bike needs to be secure so you’re confident leaving it behind: a problem Locky Docks help to solve, although in general I feel that airport CCTV and security guards also make for relatively secure places to leave bikes. My parents have an electric tandem bike, which means I’ve had the experience of being picked up, and picking up others, via tandem, which is an excellent experience for everyone involved. 

“People will ride their bikes to airports if they can leave them there securely,” says Cleve Cameron, from organisation Big Street Bikers. “If you’re only going for a day or two, it’s an appealing option.” Of course, Cameron is invested in making cycling to airports better – his organisation makes Locky Docks, free-to-use secure bike stands that can also charge e-bikes. As of May, there are 10 Locky Docks at Wellington Airport, and the organisation is “talking” to other airports too, although it can take a while to navigate council processes to install them. 

a man putting a bike in a ping steel cage to lock it on a sunny morning
A Locky Dock with e-bike charging in Christchurch (Image: Supplied)

“It’s really important to have bike infrastructure at transport hubs, and that includes airports,” Cameron says. While he acknowledges that cycling to airports will never work for everyone, there are lots of reasons to bike, rather than drive or take public transport to airports: you don’t have to pay for parking, petrol or bus tickets, you have flexibility about when to leave, and you get exercise en route – especially appealing if you’re travelling for reasons that will mean you are sitting down the rest of the day. 

But it takes more than just a bike rack, too. If you’re of the sweaty persuasion, showers can be a blessing to you and your fellow flyers. There’s no point biking to an airport if it’s really far from your house or on dangerous and unpleasant highways, or if your e-bike has no secure place to charge. If you’re travelling with a bike in a box, it’s ideal for airports to have tools available where you can assemble your bike at the other end. And if you’re tired or encountering unpleasant weather conditions, it’s ideal to have affordable public transport if going both ways to the airport feels difficult. 

In the spirit of our assessment of public transport options to New Zealand airports, The Spinoff thought it was time to look at how easy it is to cycle to New Zealand airports, and how it could be better. (Note: Wellington now has an excellent and affordable airport bus service.)

A brief note: Transport is one of New Zealand’s highest emission sectors, contributing to 38% of our emissions in 2020, and aviation is the highest emission form of transport. Exercise, enjoyment, avoiding traffic, saving money – all of these are good reasons to bike to the airport but if you’re taking a flight, you’re not reducing emissions. 

a carpark with a small bike rack and one bike surrounded by some motorbikes
Auckland Airport’s bike rack is covered … mostly (Image: Shanti Mathias)


In terms of transport links, Auckland Airport does OK. If you’re coming from the central city, there’s a direct route along the Southwest Pathway, a separated cycle path that follows State Highway 20 until Onehunga, then, after a brief time on roads through Māngere Bridge, has separated cycleways all the way to the domestic terminal. It’s about 20 kilometres cycling from central suburbs, and even less if you live in the south or eastern parts of the city. However, if you live on the North Shore, biking to the airport will be extremely difficult unless your flights line up with ferry operating times, since there is still no bike lane on the Harbour Bridge. The airport is also pretty far to bike if you live in West Auckland. 

Once you get to the airport, there is a bike rack where you can park your bike in the corner of the carpark directly opposite the drop-off area for cars, under cover and not in direct view from the road, although this is very poorly signposted and slightly difficult to find the first time. It feels like an afterthought: there are usually one or two bikes parked here, as well as several motorbikes, although I have also spotted bikes locked to poles in other parking lots. A spokesperson for the airport said a new airport strategy is considering more charging and locking options for bikes, and more bike parking is already in the works at the airport’s new outlet shopping area. There are showers that can be used free of charge in the domestic terminal if you’re sweaty. There is nowhere to charge your e-bike. 

If you don’t want to bike all the way back, then you’ll have to bike 20 minutes to Puhinui Station, where you can take your bike into town via the Southern Line train, but you’re out of luck if you want to take a bus, since Auckland Transport hasn’t followed Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin in adding bike racks to its buses

a bike lane in wellington
A bike lane on Wellington’s harbour, heading towards the airport. (Photo: Wellington City Council)


Wellington’s airport is much closer to the city, making it a much more appealing prospect for cycling than Auckland – if it wasn’t for the wind, that is. The airport is well-connected to bike links: there are separated cycleways all around the harbour that get you most of the way to the airport. It’s about eight kilometres from the central city, and even easier if you live in the southern suburbs. If you’re coming in from the Hutt or Porirua, the distance is much greater – about 25 kilometres – but there are some cycleways of varying quality along arterial routes. 

At the airport, there are Locky Docks that can be operated with Snapper or credit cards, and can charge e-bikes. There are also standard bike racks. These are all located on the lower level, near the airport bus stop. Cameron Jackson, head of transport at Wellington Airport, said that Locky Dock use has been increasing as the weather gets warmer, with more than 30 people each month. “It’s a pretty solid start, given this was over winter and it usually takes six to 12 months for the usage to bed in. It’s visibly obvious that more and more people are using them each day.”

There are showers available in the domestic terminal. If you only want to cycle in one direction, the Airport Express bus – slightly more expensive than normal buses but faster – has bike racks. The budget option is only a few hundred metres away, where there’s a stop for the number 2 bus, which has bike racks too. If you want to take the train, the bus hub in Wellington is right next to the train station in town: trains allow non-folding bikes outside of rush hours and folding bikes at all times. 

lots of planes and lots of tarmac
Air NZ planes parked up at Christchurch airport. (Photo: Supplied)


Despite being the city with the highest percentage of cyclists, Christchurch Airport doesn’t have great transport links for cyclists – yet. The distance is manageable, though, at about 10 kilometres from central suburbs. If coming from the central or south city along the arterial cycle routes, the most direct way to the airport is four-lane road Memorial Ave, which doesn’t have cycle lanes for most of its length; exposure to traffic is especially unpleasant if you have a trailer or are on a tandem (it makes it hard to hear the other tandem rider). However, once constructed, the Wheels to Wings cycleway along arterial Harewood Road from Papanui will offer a direct route to the airport for travellers and people working in the airport area. 

At the airport, there’s a well-lit bike rack that is easy to find near the drop-off area, and “conversations” about a Locky Dock are in the works according to Locky Dock’s Cameron. There are also multiple bike assembly stations, with tools and pumps, for people who have taken their bikes on the plane and want to be able to ride away. 

If you don’t want to ride both ways to the airport, there are multiple city bus routes that come all the way into the terminal, and these buses feature bike racks. 

Illustration of an e-bike and a car
Very few airports offer secure lock-ups where e-bikes can be charged, so people resort to cars instead. (Image: Getty Images)

Other airports 

I also investigated the bike infrastructure availability at a number of other New Zealand airports. 

  • Dunedin Airport is nearly 25 kilometres from central Dunedin, most of which is along state highways with no cycle routes and therefore pretty unpleasant to cycle. There are no bike racks or bike assembly services at the airport, but a spokesperson confirmed that as cycle trails become more popular through the region, they may reassess this. While Dunedin’s buses do have bike racks, none go to the airport. 
  • Queenstown Airport is about eight kilometres from central Queenstown – very bikeable – and even walkable if you’re coming from Frankton. There’s a covered bike rack and bike assembly area directly outside the arrivals door. 
  • Hamilton Airport is about 15 kilometres from central Hamilton, with bike routes in progress. There is a bike rack at the airport, although it’s currently been removed for a car park upgrade. 
  • Nelson Airport has a covered bike rack and bike assembly area. It’s also possible to hire bikes at the airport (the only New Zealand airport with this facility as far as I know), and it’s about seven kilometres from the airport to the central city.
  • Lots of other regional airports, including Gisborne, Hawkes Bay and New Plymouth have bike racks and assembly areas, and are often close enough to towns to be practical to bike to, even if there aren’t protected lanes. The bike parking setup in Hawkes Bay looks especially swish and secure.
Keep going!