The master plan for National Airport seeks to improve passenger convenience with major changes in roads and parking facilities. We hope that the airport authority will include pedestrian and bicycle access. These airport users can be accommodated with almost no inconvenience to drivers and Metro passengers, and at little expense.

The airport property is bordered along its entire western edge by one of the most popular hiking/biking trails in the United States, the Mount Vernon Trail. Every week in good weather it is used by many hundreds on foot and many thousands on bicycle. It is readily reached from a network of trails throughout the District and suburban Virginia.

The distance from the trail to the proposed airport parking complex is less than 100 yards. A safe connection between the two would give the public access via the trail to all public facilities at the new airport. The airport authority should plan for safe pedestrian and bicycle connections to the nearby bike trail and to Crystal City. In addition, the authority should incorporate safety measures where new roadways will cross the trail and provide bicycle parking for both short- and long-term users.

If access is not provided, some daredevils will attempt it anyway, by dashing across airport roads. If adequate bicycle parking is not in place, bicycles will be locked, with no malice intended, to posts, trees and railings -- to the detriment of the airport's appearance and useability. New-design bicycle parking, on the other hand, is attractive, functional and unobtrusive.

If access and parking are suitable, airport employees who live near the network of trails will be able to walk or bicycle to work. They would also allow people to reach the airport under their own power, to meet passengers, to see someone off, to visit the ruins of historic Abingdon House, to take a commuter flight or to enjoy the sights with family and friends. For every one who chose to travel there by nonmotorized means, there could be one less car on the road and one more available space in the parking garage. Access for the low-tech traveler helps satisfy two of the goals of the master plan -- reduced traffic congestion and easier parking. Pedestrian and bicycle access would make the airport more convenient for everyone. -- Dave Schutz and Charlie Martin