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