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.”

I was wrong, or wrongish. Much of the Central Valley Greenway is off-road, and some of it is wonderfully green, but five kilometres on our ride followed a dotted-line lane along industrial Winston Street — booming with heavy trucks (I imagine) on a week day. We were lucky to have chosen Saturday morning for our trip, when Winston Street is more like a quiet rural road.

Just east of Winston my sister and co-tourist Morna McLeod and I deserted the Central Valley Greenway for a different route, so I’ll offer just a couple of comments on the east Vancouver and Burnaby stretches. Average Joe Cyclist provides a definitive guide to the Greenway, with a video.  Blogger Maggie calls the 24-kilometre trail “challenging but very interesting.” Colleen Macdonald has a shorter piece on letsgobiking.net.

Still Creek east of Gilmore

Approaching Sperling-Burnaby Lake station

From where we began our trip at Commercial Drive, the Greenway passes through a zone of detached homes that have evolved from trackside to gentrified in the past 20 years. But the landscape soon becomes industrial, however, with continuous views of railway track and fencing. You skirt the doorways of the Renfrew and Rupert SkyTrain stations, creating potential for conflict between cyclists and pedestrians, although Morna says she has not seen any problems as an occasional user of the trail.

Crossing into Burnaby at Boundary Road, you begin to notice sections of Still Creek. Much of the creek was paved over in the industrial boom of the mid 20th century, but it is slowly being uncovered, and the salmon have apparently returned. After a bridge crossing of Winston Street by the Sperling-Burnaby Lake station, the trail takes a long detour to the south through a landscaped industrial subdivision. We stopped for a cake-and-cherries break at Warner Loat Park, on the edge of the much larger Burnaby Lake Regional Park, and soon after this we left the Greenway for the Burnaby Mountain Urban Trail and the Burquitlam neighbourhood.

Commercial Skytrain station on the Millennium line

Central Valley Greenway east of Commercial Drive

First evidence of Still Creek looking west from Gilmore

Vintage industrial sheds across the rail tracks from Still Creek Drive. The lettering on the abandoned bus says “Vancouver Sightseeing”

Municipal plantings at the City of Burnaby recycling depot

Separated pathway along industrial Still Creek Drive

Cycling bridge to Sperling-Burnaby Lake station

A development surge in Vancouver’s River District

The River District, in Vancouver’s extreme southeast corner, offers a quiet riverside walk, lunch at a good pub restaurant overlooking the water, and a feeling of imminent transformation.

The area was identified for conversion from industrial to residential use at least as early as 2004. At that time, residential development was already proceeding in a former industrial area to the west, in a two-block-wide band between Marine Drive and the Fraser River. Continue reading

Back on Kingsway

South side of Kingsway one block east of Knight

A few years ago, the launch of a lone high-rise project at Kingsway and Knight Street provoked debate over the City of Vancouver’s management of tower development.

A Parisian touch? The inner lane at King Edward Village, with designer lamps, a public library (coloured letters) and animal gargoyles overhead.

Critics protested that  King Edward Village would ruin the character of the nearby communities of Cedar Cottage and Kensington. Optimists predicted that the development  would become the heart of a “lively, attractive shopping area.” A few grumpy urbanists saw a future dead zone, and this, arguably, is the current state of affairs, although in my view the design could have been worse. Continue reading

In the shadow of Vancouver’s traffic viaducts

Vacant lands next to False Creek in downtown Vancouver. The city government’s plan will see the removal of two elevated roadways, the extension of a waterfront park and up to 20 new residential towers.

The first Georgia Street automobile viaduct was built in 1915 as a bridge over railways and industrial lands. The current Georgia and Dunsmuir Street viaducts are orphan remnants of a failed plan to run a freeway from Highway 1 into downtown Vancouver.

2011 study reported that the viaducts carry about 40,000 vehicles every day. However, Vancouver Council voted in 2015 to tear them down and tidy up the underlying street network. The viaducts are ugly, and they’re a waste of land: it’s estimated that their removal will enable the development of housing for as many as 10,000 people. Continue reading

Skytrain-oriented development at Joyce/Collingwood

Aberdeen Park, Vancouver

Aberdeen Park, Vancouver

Metro Vancouver’s elevated rapid transit system, Skytrain, is now 30 years old. Over time, Skytrain development — real or promised — has supported construction of at least 150 residential towers, some of them located in isolated, pedestrian-unfriendly clusters away from services.

Public space, low-rise high-rise development, near Vanness Avenue

Public space, low-rise high-rise development, near Vanness Avenue

Joyce/Collingwood, at the eastern edge of the city of Vancouver, may be the most liveable of the post-Skytrain tower developments. The tower landscape has been softened by continued construction of four- and six-storey buildings, parks and pathways, and a neighbourhood house (social services and recreation centre) paid for from development charges. Retail and commercial services are available along historic Kingsway up the hill. But there’s also a plan to build more towers, and this is creating tensions in the community. Continue reading

The phantom Skytrain extension — a Vancouver perspective

Recent medium-density housing, 10th Avenue near Ontario St.

Recent medium-density housing, 10th Avenue near Ontario St.

Our previous post on the proposed Clark-to-Arbutus Skytrain extension was picked up by Price Tags, a definitive urban affairs site for the city of Vancouver.

This generated a number of messages to Fraseropolis.com, including the following from MB, who supports a Broadway Avenue project rather than the 10th Avenue dig that was contemplated in our report. I have transposed one sentence for clarity, and added a couple of editorial notes.

The 10th Ave alignment has many challenges related to the disruption of an old, established community. I suggest severely disrupting resident’s lives over 25 blocks for cut and cover would have a much greater political pushback than disrupting traffic on Broadway. Using C&C on non-arterials in historic neighbourhoods is engineering from the Dark Ages. Continue reading

The Arbutus Skytrain extension – a phantom tour

1-Arbutus transit extension.jpg

J Trudeau

During Canada’s recent federal election campaign, Prime-Minister-to-be Justin Trudeau promised funding support for transit in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland — “to extend rapid transit along Broadway to Arbutus, bring light rail transit to Surrey, and increase SeaBus service during peak periods.” It’s part of a commitment to invest C$20 billion in Canadian infrastructure projects over 10 years. This announcement may breathe new life into a transit project that, judging from online discussion, appears to have lost momentum over the past three or four years.

Track's end, near VCC

Track’s end, near VCC

The proposed extension of Skytrain into the west side of the City of Vancouver has been on the books since the Millennium transit line was built in the 1990s. The Millennium line runs west from the Coquitlam border through Burnaby into Vancouver, ending abruptly near Vancouver Community College, almost at the dividing point between the east and west sides of the city. The western extension of the line would relieve pressure on Vancouver’s Broadway Avenue bus corridor, home of the limited-stop B-99 services that had 55,000 boardings per day in 2013. Continue reading