Pedaling on the Central Valley Greenway

Under the SkyTrain guideway just east of Rupert station, Vancouver.

It would be nice, perhaps, if cycling was the dominant mode of transportation in our West Coast urban world. We’ll never know. In reality, most people cringe at the idea of riding side-by-side with cars and trucks.

Winston Street through industrial Burnaby, 11:30 a.m. Saturday

When I told a 60-something friend about my plan to pedal across Vancouver and Burnaby for fun, she said, “That’s dangerous!” I said, “No, we’ll be riding an off-road trail. Local governments built a safe route from downtown Vancouver to New West.” Continue reading

Managing traffic through New Westminster

Pattullo Bridge, Saturday afternoon

Pattullo Bridge, Saturday afternoon

New Westminster within the region, from the New West Master Transportation Plan

New Westminster within the region, from the New West Master Transportation Plan

New Westminster is at the crossroads of Metro Vancouver, with commuter traffic  pouring through from all directions and industrial zones in neighbouring cities around more than half its perimeter

The city government’s 2014 Master Transportation Plan reports 75,000 vehicles per day on the Pattullo crossing of the Fraser River, and 80,000 on the Queensborough crossing. This compares with fewer than 63,000 on the Lions Gate Bridge and fewer than 45,000 at the north end of the Massey Tunnel (provincial estimates for the same year.) Continue reading

The Traboulay-PoCo Trail

The Traboulay PoCo Trail alongside the DeBoville Slough, Port Coquitlam

By DeBoville Slough, Port Coquitlam

As an easy but interesting and varied urban bike trail, the Traboulay-PoCo Trail in Port Coquitlam measures up to anything I’ve experienced in Canada. This 25-kilometre loop passes alongside five different bodies of water. It’s virtually 100 per cent separated from traffic, with only occasional road crossings.

I was reminded of this route when I purchased a book called Easy Cycling Around Vancouver  as part of a plan to spend more time on my bike. None of the trails in the book are in Vancouver, if that matters; they’re all in the suburbs or beyond. The mountains, rivers and inlets that carve up our region are a barrier to car commuting, but they’ve helped planners and local governments build a remarkable inventory of recreational multi-use trails for the use of residents and visitors. Suburban cities like Port Coquitlam are working hard to make their downtown villages complete and attractive; a facility like the PoCo Trail connects neighbourhoods with the downtown, and puts the outdoors at the doorstep of downtown residents. Continue reading

Driving is risky; walking, even more

Poco 1

The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia’s most recent crash statistics attracted scant notice from the media, despite the finding that 281 people died in automobile-related crashes in B.C. in 2012. This is in a population that carries 3.2 million operating licenses.

From 2008 through 2012, we lost an average of 331 people per year to traffic fatalities, the equivalent of having a packed airliner fly into Burnaby Mountain every Christmas Eve. This is an urgent matter for British Columbians, and for local governments in particular; but we tend to devote our attention to slighter issues, such as the unproven risks attached to the blips emitted by the electric company’s metering equipment. Continue reading

To the origin of settlement in Fraseropolis

A stone marking the site of the original Fort Langley, B.C., founded 1829The Golden Ears Bridge forms part of the Trans Canada trail. As you cycle south, it takes you over the Fraser River and over a Metro Vancouver poop processing station, and lands you in a terrain of mills and warehouses. Do not despair.

Derby Reach, looking to Maple RidgeFive minutes to the east, staying on the trail, the industrial lands give way to agriculture; fifteen minutes later you’re at Derby Reach, a fine regional park on the river that contains a marker for the original Fort Langley, the first point of white settlement on British Columbia’s coast. Continue reading

A tour to Port Hammond

Port Hammond, the most extensive neighbourhood of heritage residences in the District of Maple Ridge

The Hammond brothers arrived from England in 1862, an early date for white settlement on the B.C. coast. The Cariboo gold rush of the late 1850s had brought a small influx of settlers to the Fraser Valley, and a few farms had been established on the Albion Flats in the future Maple Ridge; at New Westminster, the seat of colonial government, Her Majesty’s soldiers were still living in tents.

The plan for Port Hammond Junction subdivision, registered 1883.  Most of it was never realized. By 1883, with the railroad’s arrival, the Hammonds prepared to subdivide their farm on the Fraser into urban plots and sell them. Their subdivision was registered as “Port Hammond Junction.” Development was slow until the early 1900s, when a mill was established next to the railway line. The Hammond Cedar Mill still dominates central  Hammond, and is one of the largest private-sector employers in Maple Ridge. Continue reading

Creating cycling routes for the cautious majority

In the years between 1995 and 2005, governments spent about $100 million creating pathways for cyclists in Metro Vancouver. Census figures show this spending failed to increase cycling’s share of work trips outside Vancouver City; cycling’s slice of the pie held to a near-invisible 1.0 per cent.

Even so, governments have continued to spend — on separated pathways, such as those around the new Golden Ears and Pitt River bridges, and on marked routes along city streets.  Metro Vancouver’s cycle route maps are becoming more and more elaborate.  Continue reading