By Jennifer Patterson
Ditch the car and explore Vancouver the way it’s meant to be seen: by bike. Our year-round mild weather makes this city the perfect place to embrace the two-wheeled mode of transportation, and the multitude of bike-friendly streets and trails caters to riders both big and small.
Hit the Road
The biggest don’t-miss is none other than our famed 22-km (14-mi) seawall. Start downtown, near the Olympic Cauldron at Convention Centre West, and make your way along Coal Harbour, around Stanley Park, and past English Bay to False Creek. Next pass by the Telus World of Science, Granville Island and Vanier Park, ending at Kitsilano Beach. Most of the route is divided into separate lanes for walkers/joggers and bikers/in-line skaters, but congestion on sunny days leads to confusion, so keep a watchful eye out for rule breakers. For those wishing to continue the water-edged journey, take the bike route along Third Avenue in Kitsilano as it leads to bike paths at Jericho, Locarno and Spanish Banks beaches, which offer the best views of the city. The bikes lanes on Burrard Street Bridge and in the city centre make it convenient and safe for those travelling to and from the downtown core. Vancouver also boasts many cyclist-friendly streets, and a quick look online at www.translink.ca reveals the best bike routes around town—perfect for zipping to a farmers’ market or to one of the city’s 200 parks. The Metro Vancouver cycling map is available for purchase at London Drugs, Shoppers Drug Mart and various sports shops around town.
Looking to see more of the surrounding cityscape? Point your bike east and head along the 24-km (15-mi) Central Valley Greenway (CVG) that leads from False Creek to the neighbouring cities of Burnaby and New Westminster. Your eye candy for the journey: the coastal mountains, Burnaby Lake and the Fraser River. Green signs illuminate the path, but the handy printable map from www.translink.ca is a good safety blanket.
Head south to Richmond and follow the clearly marked paths on the dyke, alongside the Fraser River and Strait of Georgia, down to picturesque Steveston on the waterfront.
Prefer rugged terrain to paved bikeways? Head to the North Shore for gravel, dirt and wood-laden mountain trails. Pros know the ropes, but a beginner’s best bet is a guided tour (see Endless Biking). Pacific Spirit Park at the University of British Columbia caters to off-road bikers too, but without the steep incline of the North Shore mountains. Head further north to Whistler, where mountain biking reigns supreme in summer.
Grab Your Gear
If you came prepared with a bike in tow, you are good to go. Your fellow bike-less travellers have plenty of options for hitting the road in style. Deep in the heart of the West End, conveniently close to Stanley Park and the seawall, are a couple of shops stocked with renter-friendly merchandise. Spokes rents mountain, hybrid and cruiser bikes for the discerning cyclist. For something a little different grab a tandem bike, and meander around the city on a bicycle built for two. Bayshore Rentals caters to the peddle-ready crowd with a large selection and complimentary helmet rentals. For guided tours contact Cycle City Tours. Daily excursions include The Stanley Park, The Grand Tour (read: best of the city) and The Food Tour, a cool mix of cycling and food sampling. Those seeking something a bit more extreme should head to North Vancouver’s Endless Biking for private lessons, guided tours and rentals.
The Ground Rules
- Wear a helmet. It’s mandatory and fines for going without range from $29 to $100.
- Stay off the sidewalk. Don’t ride your bike on it unless a sign says otherwise—it’s illegal.
Pay attention to stop signs. Just because you’re biking does not make you exempt from road rules.
- When it gets dark, light it up! Use reflective gear and bright lights before sunrise and after sunset.
- Take off those headphones. While one ear bud is permitted, having both ears blocked while listening to pumped-up jams is a no-no.
Pedals on Parade
The city is awhirl with biking events in June.
- The cycling world descends on the downtown core for Velo-city Global 2012, Jun. 26 to 29. This four-day event draws delegates from around the globe to discuss the best ways to further develop and create bike-friendly cities.
- Velopalooza, from Jun. 15 to Jul. 2, celebrates summer with a two-week festival offering everything from bike bowling to a parade to group rides to workshops.
- Nudist alert! The World Naked Bike Ride heads through town later this month. Prepare to see plenty of flesh in this clothing-optional ride.
- Drivers know to avoid the downtown core on the last Friday of every month as Critical Mass rolls through town. This monthly event started as a grassroots operation in the ’70s and now brings together more than 1,000 bikers as they take over the streets on a forever-changing course.