The Central Valley Greenway – If a Greenway is full of Semi’s, is it still a Greenway?

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If a Greenway is full of Semi’s, is it still a Greenway? The Good, the Bad and the Ugly on the Central Valley Greenway

(Note: this is Part 1 of a 2 part series on the Central Valley Greenway. You can find Part 2 here.)

Click here for an updated, complete guide to the Central Valley Greenway – plus Video

Central Valley Greenway
Buses, trains and automobiles … oh my. Which part of this looks like a GREENway?

There are moments on the Central Valley Greenway (CVG) when you could be on the wonderful Galloping Goose Trail in the wilds of Vancouver Island – and other moments when you are just half a metre away from certain death. Oddly, these moments are sometimes just minutes apart. That’s how startling and abrupt the transitions are on this ambitious, largely wonderful, but also deeply flawed bike route.

The Central Valley Greenway runs all the way from the New Westminster Quay, via Burnaby, to Science World in Vancouver – a total distance of 24 km. It could be the perfect solution for commuters – if only it weren’t for the downright UGLY bits. Most of these are in the New West to Burnaby section, the first 15 km. I’m going to talk about that section in this post, and go on to the better part (from Burnaby to Science World) in a subsequent post.

Here is a video that shows the entire CVG, speeded up three times.

Signage on the Central Valley Greenway

The signage on the Central Valley Greenway is AWESOME – some of the best I have ever seen on any bike route anywhere. It was not always this way. I went on the inaugural ride on the happy summer day when the route was officially opened.

Central Valley Greenway
June 2009: Cyclists gather near the New Westminster Quay for the official opening of the CVG

On that day, the signage was far from complete. But clearly there had been a mad scramble to get everything ready for the Grand Opening – so there were several paper signs taped to light posts along the way! I found this quite endearing: it showed that they really tried.

And that’s the almost poignant thing about the Central Valley Greenway. They really, really tried. In fact, you’ve just gotta give them full marks for trying. The spirit was so very willing – but unfortunately, the execution was sometimes lacking. At times the route soars impressively to the heights, like this bridge – but at other times, it really, really sucks.

Central Valley Greenway
The rather awesome pedestrian/cyclist bridge that was built specially for the CVG, spanning Winston Street in Burnaby

Starting off in New Westminster

The Central Valley Greenway is like the little girl in the poem: “When she was good, she was very, very good – but when she was bad, she was horrid!”

The first part of the CVG combines both the very, very good, and the horrid. Starting off on Columbia Street from the quay is not an auspicious start. You’re on Columbia Street in central New West – an interesting, historical place to be – but no place to be on a bike, the painted bike lanes notwithstanding! I am going to put in suggestions on how to make the Central Valley Greenway all it clearly aspires to be, in case anyone in authority ever reads this post (and I will do my best to make sure they do). Here’s the first:

Suggestion # 1: Make the Columbia Street part a physically separated bike route (see for example what has been done on Dunsmuir Street in Vancouver).

After cycling in heavy traffic up the hill past Royal Columbian Hospital, you reach the happy, happy spot where you turn right onto Sherbrook Street. From here on you are on quiet residential streets all the way to Hume Park.

Hume Park

Central Valley Greenway
Hume Park on the Central Valley Greenway is one of the many Good bits of the CVG

Hume Park is one of the Good parts of the Central Valley Greenway, as you might guess from the word “park.” It’s regrettably short, but fun while you’re in it. Two items of note in the park:

  1. The one and only washroom on the route is in this park.
  2. The route runs right by an off-leash dog park. This is not usually a problem. However, the day I first took Maggie on this route, an unleashed dog attacked her and bit her hand. Only her thick winter cycling gloves saved her from losing a thumb. She did end up with 10 stitches in her hand, and at our wedding a week later she had a large bandage around her hand (fortunately the dog chose her right hand).

After Hume Park a pedestrian crossing gets you across the very busy Columbia Street. Then you get to one of the Bad bits – blessedly short. You’re on a very narrow sidewalk, next to Columbia Street. Cyclists are supposed to travel in both directions here, and also a sign requests that cyclists yield to “peds”. It’s all just an accident waiting to happen – one day a cyclist or pedestrian could be pushed off into the stream of very fast-moving traffic.

Central Valley Greenway Suggestion # 2: Fix this somehow! I really don’t know how … but there must be an engineer somewhere who could figure it out!

Brunette River Natural Area

Central Valley Greenway

Assuming you have made it this far, you are now in for a treat. Turn sharp left off the sidewalk, and suddenly you are in cyclist heaven. This part of the route meanders for about 3 km next to the Brunette River. It’s just as stunningly peaceful and beautiful here as the Galloping Goose Trail – and yet you are actually travelling between two major highways, Lougheed and the TransCanada.

Watch this video for a sense of what it feels like to be cycling on this part of the CVG:

I only have one quibble with this part: there are no lights. This effectively eliminates the Central Valley Greenway as a commuting route from New West to Vancouver in the winter.

Suggestion # 3: Put lights along the Central Valley Greenway in the Brunette River Natural Area (like the lamp posts in the other parts of the route)

The really, really ugly

You will find yourself feeling relaxed and happy next to the Brunette River. You may feel that the bad bits are behind you, and that now you can relax and enjoy the GREENway. That would be a mistake, because soon you will pop out of the forest, and quickly find yourself at the intersection of Cariboo and Government Streets. The photo of a train, bus and cars (and a very unsurprising absence of cyclists) at the top of this post was taken at this intersection.

Once you have waited for trains and traffic, and managed to get though this horrible intersection, you are on Government Street for one block. This is a brief respite from the horror, as a separated bike route has been erected here, to protect cyclists from the traffic. No wonder this guy looks so happy!

Central Valley GreenwayBut at the end of this block, you hit the truly UGLY part of the CVG. Government Street becomes Winston Street, and simultaneously becomes a truck route. Granted you have a fairly wide bike lane to travel in, but you are right besides heavy, speeding traffic.

You totally have to check out this video – it shows the very, very worst of the Central Valley Greenway – one of those moments when, as I said, you are just half a metre away from certain death, while on the “Central Valley Greenway.” This video was not even taken at rush hour. I ask you, what part of this scenario is reminiscent of a green valley?

Seriously, is this safe cycling for everyone? Would you want your grandma or your child this close to a semi? While I was negotiating this horrible part – which goes on for a full 5 km – I had to chuckle as I remembered the words in the official Central Valley Greenway Route Map:

“Most sections are suitable for all kinds of walking and wheeling (pedestrians, … cyclists, wheelchair users … )”

Yeah, right! I’m here to tell you that even cyclists were scarce on this part of the Central Valley Greenway – and I damn sure never passed any wheelchair users!

Suggestion # 4: Put a physically separated bike lane on Winston (as has been done on Dunsmuir Street in Vancouver); the north side is wide enough for a two-way separated bike lane.

Finally you get to the part of Winston Street where the route goes onto the sidewalk, and if you have an ounce of religion in you, you thank your God. A block later you reach the wonderful pedestrian bridge.

Just in front of the bridge is one of the whimsical bits of practical (impractical?) art that have been installed alongside the Central Valley Greenway. It’s kind of a bike rack, but an arty version. Not particularly useful, as no one in their right mind would actually leave their bike parked in a spot like this. But nevertheless, pleasing in a totally useless, arty kind of way. Like the hand-taped signs when the CVG opened, these bits of art remind you that somebody, somewhere is really, really trying.

Central Valley Greenway
Whimsical “artwork” on the CVG: ornate wrought iron bike racks that no sane person would actually use. (One of these bikes is mine, the other is a kid’s bike that had been abandoned here.)

And here’s the Good News: once you have cycled up this bridge, and are sailing down the other side, all of the truly UGLY parts of the CVG are behind you. From now on, it’s all downhill, metaphorically speaking. To read about the rest of this trail, click here.

UPDATE: Please see the very encouraging response to this critique, from Translink’s Planning Department – although I have to add that as of April 2014, none of these promises have actually been fulfilled.

Central Valley Greenway
The worst is behind you! Prepare to enjoy the rest of the CVG …

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  1. says

    I’ve only done the entire thing twice. I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to ride on that separated part by Government ‘n Cariboo or if it was pedestrians only, so I took the lane on the 4-lane road. Probably should have just assumed it was ok, it looked wide enough! Last time I did the Winston section was around 11 PM on a saturday night so I didn’t get any busy truck traffic, but just the occasional racecar boy (lol, so much better…).

  2. says

    I rode the CVG during the first weekend (from Vancouver to Burnaby) and there were parts of it that were downright dreadful. I’ve never made it as far as New West, but maybe I will someday.

    I did the ride again about a month ago, and was disappointed to find that most of the route was still ugly and uninspiring:

    I’m interested to see your review of the rest of the route to compare it with my own impressions. Cheers!

  3. says

    I really like the Central Valley Greenway. Possibly because I’ve managed to avoid the ugliest bits.

    I have found the CVG to be a great running route. You can run between Science World and Hume Park in New Westminster with hardly any intersections to cross and you’re isolated from traffic for most of the route. The pedestrian route goes through Burnaby Lake down twisting trails (not Winston Street).

    As a cyclist I have never gone past Burnaby Lake so I didn’t know Winston Street was so nasty. I thought the worst part of the trail was the stretch between Costco and the Burnaby Recycling Centre, which is still unfinished.

    • says

      That part (between Costco and the BRC) is HORRIBLE – it stinks, and there’s all the heavy machinery. It’s been billed as temporary even since the CVG opened. They are finally working on it at the moment, by the way – started a coupple of days ago. So maybe, just maybe, they are finally going to put in the real deal. And dare we hope that they will reduce that totally ridiculous double cement block thing, where you have to slow down to almost a full stop to get through?

      I did not know about the pedestian route past Burnaby Lake. It would have been so wonderful if they had taken the cycling route that way too.

  4. says

    It’s interesting to read such a different opinion on this route! This is my daily commute. Where you head over the overpass, I go straight across Lougheed. My belief is that part 2 is some of the most dangerous sections of the CVG with uncontrolled crossings of major roads (Boundary) and a pathway running parallel to Great Northern Way!

    Brunette river is great in the dark if you have good lights on your bike. Little to no traffic, no pedestrians, no off-leash dogs. You can travel quickly and enjoy the quiet environment. During the evening commute it is hazardous and must be taken slowly with extreme caution. Pedestrians walking 3 abreast with iPods on, off-leash dogs, cyclists on the wrong side of the pathway…

    I can understand the concerns about calling the stretch along Government a “Greenway”, but it is a very efficient route for commuting. There are no turns, no stop signs, no crosswalks to ride in. The bike lane is actually redundant here. It provides no value other than reassuring cyclists that they belong here.


    • says

      Thanks for your reply Rob – great to get alternative views!

      I guess what I forgot to do was declare up front my frame of reference. First of all, I think there are two kinds of cyclists: the first kind are strong and athletic, most often male, with excellent bike skills. They are usually fearless, and the rest of us know them as the guys who pass us at amazing speed! I refer to them as the Serious Cyclists. The other kind of cyclist is pretty much everyone else. When I assess a route, I am mainly thinking of the second kind. I would hazard a guess that you are probably the first kind? This would explain why you are comfortable on Winston. I get that – I use it for training rides on weekends, and it’s great in terms of just being a long stretch of rolling road.

      Second of all, when I am passing judgement on a route, I am doing so within what I would call a “wife-and-kids” frame of reference. If I bike on a route and I think, “Would I let my 10-year-old daughter bike here?” and the answer is “Over my dead body!” then the route is “Not good.” If I think “Would I let my teenagers bike here?” and the answer is “Hell no!” then the route is “Bad”. And if I think “Would I want my wife to bike here?” and the answer is “Not if I could possibly persuade her not to!” then the route is “Really Bad” – what I called “Ugly” in my post.

      I guess it is pretty idealistic of me to hope for a world in which my kids could cycle safely. But I really think I have the RIGHT to harbour such hopes – I pay enough taxes to expect the kind of infrastructure that would preserve the planet, keep people healthy, and keep my family alive. I am not hoping for EVERY route to be like this – just ONE route for every major direction.

      So with that frame of reference in mind – would I want my daughters or my wife to be biking in the pitch dark along Brunette River? No, definitely not. (Although from your description, I would love to try it myself sometime.) Would I want them biking on Winston, where one slip from an inexperienced cyclist, or one absent-minded move from an inattentive teenager could put them in the route of a semi? No, absolutely not. Pretty much the same goes for Lougheed – I find it an exhilirating rush to scream down there as fast as I can, in the bike lane – but I would want something separated and safer for my family. And not just for my family – I would like EVERYone’s kids to be able to have the fun and health benefits of cycling – but it’s not even remotely possible for this to happen safely, yet.

  5. joe blow says

    ‘Serious’ cyclists are mostly male? Will you /let/ your wife ride the route?

    You’ve got an even lower opinion of women than you do of the trail, eh?

    I think you’ve got some good points about the trail in this post, but you might want to be careful not to condescend to those you are writing to.

    • says

      Yeah, I was worried that it might come across as condescending. But I didn’t want to qualify every single point. But now as I have indeed come across as condescending, I will have to! Most bike commuters are male, simple statistical fact (changing right now, but still not 50-50). Around 7 to 8 out of every 10 of the cyclists who overtake me are male, anecdotal observation. On the other hand, obviously there are legions of women who would leave almost every man in the world in the dust … such as Selene Yeager, whose blog I have a link to (Fit Chick). By the way, I don’t classify myself MYSELF as a Serious Cyclist – just an average (and middle-aged) cyclist. As to my wife, suffice it to say that she only started cycling a year ago, and that was after major back surgery. So yeah, I am a little protective. Especially as she is way braver and more daring than I am, and scares me half to death when we bike together and I try to keep up with her as she darts around like a super hero. (In fact as I type her legs are covered in scabs and scars from the many falls she has had in this one year, due to the fact that she will try anything – she jokes she now has the legs of a 9-year-old boy!) Note I said that I would try and persuade her not to … she wouldn’t listen anyway, but that WOULD be my gut instinct, yes!

      Although you are right – I SHOULD have said “Would I WANT my wife to cycle there,” NOT “Would I LET my wife cycle there” – very bad choice of word, with the clear implication of condescension, now that I think of it … darn. I always ask my wife to vet all my posts before I publish – I guess I am going to have to start asking her to vet my comments too! At any rate, thanks for picking up on that – I am going to edit that before I offend anyone else.

  6. Graeme says

    When was the last time you visited the railway crossing at Government & Cariboo? They’ve done some major upgrades there in the past month, and there is now a very wide path for cyclists/pedestrians to cross the railway tracks. I believe that there is no concrete barrier, so I fear that some drivers will find a way to use it to bypass the crossing gates (or whatever they’re called); however it is a pleasure to be able to ride straight across the tracks and not have to drive onto gravel and then up to the little bit of urban path that heads east from this intersection.

    I’m always wary of dogs, and it would probably be good to have warnings for peds/cyclists both in Hume Park and along the Cariboo path. (Regardless of whether dogs are allowed to be off-leash in the latter path, the dogs I see every day are rarely leashed.) I had never really considered being bitten by one, but slow down simply from fear of them running under my wheels.

    The worst part of the New West portion of the CVG is, in my experience, where Fader crosses Braid. I was actually hit by a mini-van there last year because the driver didn’t see the light change against the evening sun. Drivers aren’t accustomed to having to stop there, and I think some bright, flashy yellow lights to warn them that a pedestrian or cyclist is coming would be a great service.

    • says

      It was just a few days ago. I saw that paved section next to the crossing, and I did use it because it was better and safer. But I was not sure if that is supposed to be for cyclists, because nothing is marked … and a couple of people have expressed the same confusion. I am always worried that while I am just trying to negotiate a tricky spot, I will be ticketed because I am breaking some law – in this case, it would be riding on the sidewalk.

      Sorry to hear you got hit by a van! Were you seriously hurt?

      • Graeme says

        I got off very lucky. A few hours in the hospital waiting for x-rays, and a bit of bruising on my back. I was back on the (replacement) bike within a week.

        The bike didn’t do so well. I like to say I was working on a new folding bike design, but still have a few kinks to work out.

        You can see the damage here.

  7. Brennan Anstey says

    I used to commute the CVG a few times a month to get to work. I agree to look out for red-light runners at Braid and Fader, I’ve seen trucks completely ignore the light. An equally dangerous and more locally notorious intersection is McBride and Columbia. Drivers are blinded by a retaining wall (which could be removed and scaled back a bit for visibility) and OFTEN (80% +) run the red light going up the hill turning right from Columbia to McBride. I feel like a squirell when I cross McBride, even when the walk signal is flashing. And boo to the “dismount your bike” sign, that seems to me to be a sinister punishment to cyclists for complaining about the intersection (seriously, it didn’t use to be this way until we complained – it used to be legal to ride across with elephant footprints).

    I agree on barrier separated bike lanes on both Columbia and Winston. I also think that a barrier separated lane coming down Columbia in Sapperton near the hospital (going towards the Quay) would substantially improve the safety there (there is lots of room). The downill bike lane and parked cars setup is asking for a door to cyclist collision (I end up riding on the painted line or in the “motor vehicle” lane out of fear).

    Also in Sapperton there are a few hazardous bumps bumps on a very skinny of section of sidewalk in front of the church/community garden (across from the car repair shop/dealership). And I know cyclists are supposed to take the uphill detour to avoid this because a better solution could not be found but I also know that we rarely do. Should be a quick fix to grind down those asphalt bumps to make things a bit safer and more comfortable until a way to widen that section is found (make one car lane detour up the hill instead?).

    • says

      Brennan, I love the idea of getting the cars to detour up the hill instead! I can imagine the outcry that would cause … but cars have engines, and that detour is really too steep for many average cyclists.

      I think separated lanes on Winston and Columbia would be WONDERFUL. That would cause me to start using the Burnaby to New West route again. We tried it once – a Sunday outing, where we biked to the Quay, had lunch, then biked back again. I found the bit on Columbia really scary. And we did end up at the hospital that day – oddly enough, not because of a car, but because a dog viciously attacked my wife in Hume Park, and pulled her off her bike. Still, needless to say, we have not tried that jaunt again.

    • Graeme says

      I forgot about McBride/Columbia. You definitely have to watch the right-turners here!

      I usually go half a block up Cumberland to the lane behind the church. It’s a very short distance to climb, and the lane is perfectly safe. (Do watch for turners off the Brunette wye when coming down the hill on the north end, however.)

  8. Andrew says

    Joe, you seem to have missed the dangerous part ofCVG-New West while, in my opinion, over-weighted the dangers of the Columbia St. sections.

    In my opinion, the most dangerous part of the CVG in New West is the intersection of McBride and Columbia. Here right turning vehicles from Columbia onto McBride turn blindly into the crosswalk which is situated ~10 metres uphill from the corner and is blocked from driver view by a wall. The City has made the intersection no right turn on red when ped/cyclists are present but this is almost completely ignored by drivers. The current situation is unsafe and is a good example of spending a lot of cycling infrastructure money in a bad way. (in my opinion we can’t afford to spend the little cycling infrastructure money we get in a bad way).

    On the other hand the CVG through Columbia downtown may be intimidating, but it seems to be reasonably safe. Cyclists are mostly away from parked car doors and they can make good eye contact with drivers in the reverse-back in parking areas. You should be aware that this section of Columbia St is the first example of a road diet in the lower mainland. Columbia St used to be a 4 lane commuter road. While not perfect, the reduction of lanes and introduction of the bike lanes has calmed and reduce traffic and greatly improved the atmosphere downtown. Take your time when you go through this section and you’ll find it works well.

    Sorry to hear about the Hume Park incident. I’ve been through there many times and never encountered an unleashed dog that wasn’t on the other side of the fence.

    Not sure where the semi’s are in New West (your title). Used to be a big problem in Queensborough Boyd St. bike lanes, but the City has solved this with pylons to keep the trucks out. Has worked well. Now truckers hungry for donuts sometimes park in the vehicle traffic lane, but not in the bike lane.

    • says

      Thanks Andrew – it’s clear that you know the New West part better than I do. Good points, and let’s hope that intersection will be worked on.

      I was talking about the semis on Winston, which is actually a truck route.

  9. says

    I’ve cycled the CVG twice from from Vancouver to New West and then I took the BC Parkway back into Vancouver. There’s lots of room for improvement. Burnaby has some confusing and dangerous spots. The BC Parkway has some really nasty bits (I know it’s not the CVG) but I had to mention it. It would be so great to have route like the galloping goose trail in the lower mainland that goes for a fair distance.

    • says

      Laura, thanks for bringing up the BC parkway. That’s another whole story. I have not been on it for a couple of years, but the last time I was, I got lost a couple of times – I mean, COMPLETELY lost. I wrote about it here – – and made a complete joke of it, but it was not at all funny at the time. I think I should get out and check it out again. I agree with you that it wold be great to have a REAL off-road route, like the Goose. There are some short ones in Richmond – check out – but nothing remotely like the Goose.

  10. says

    I have cycled the CVG many times. I commuted it daily from North Road to Winston/Government for the first year. Other than that, I’ve cycled from False Creek to North Road on many occasions. Not sure what all the fuss is about. It’s a wonderful route. Granted there are areas for improvement, such as there is with many bike routes in the Lower Mainland. Cariboo & Government does come to mind. Winston isn’t so bad, it’s much better with the marked bike lane even if it is a false sense of security at times. Columbia Street through downtown New West from the Quay area is pretty good in my opinion for an on-street lane. That stretch is one of the few spots in the Lower Mainland where drivers stick pretty close to the speed limit probably due to the common police presence. Hume park is beautiful. My office has moved to Coquitlam, but often such as today I’ll take the long way home, riding from Braid Station to North Rd.
    Honestly, consider what the alternative was before this was completed? Things are much better than they were a few years ago. I often dreaded cycling on Lougheed with idiots driving in bike lanes, honking at me when I’m waiting in the bike lane at a red light. Being passed way to close by drivers and truckers alike… Being cut off. CVG is a blessing. The Brunette R. stretch is amazing. Ok, granted I would be nervous having my kids ride the Winston stretch.
    Remember when Vancity members contributed $1,000,000 towards the CVG? That was awesome.

    • says

      Ken, I agree with you that it’s way way better than it was. And don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for it. And for myself, I love it (except Winston and Columbia). I went on the inaugural ride, and was very excited about it (although I did think at the time that they would fix the problems quite soon, and they still haven’t, which is disappointing.)

      But I do think we have the right to insist on bike routes that are safe for the whole family, and to keep demanding that until we get them. Don’t know if you’ve ever biked in Montreal, but that’s what I would like to see here: safe, separated, bike lanes going everywhere.

      • says

        Good points, it took them forever to complete the intersection at Cariboo and Government. And yes, it would be nicer overall to have more routes that are safer for families. Happy pedaling….

  11. says

    I ride the CVG at least once a week from Victoria & Broadway to the modern train bridge at Sperling, and I love it. I have no experience with any other part of the trail. I commute from my home at 30th & Main to SFU where I work. This part of my commute (the CVG) is the best part of my trip by far. I have zero complaints. I just love it. I think we should be thankful for what we have. “Don’t be greedy, be grateful,” is what my dad always used to say. For years I used the Adenac/Union/Frances bikeway with its tiresome bumpy ups and downs. The CVG is such a marvelous and refreshing change from Frances/Union. Again, I totally love the CVG. But I guess that’s because my route does not involve any of the bad parts.

    • says

      Hey Barry. I agree that the part you mention is a great route – for adults. ANd you are fortunate as you avoid the worst bits. But as I’ve mentioned a couple of times, the guideline for assessing bike routes is supposed to be, “Is this safe cycling for all?” If for example it would be really unsafe for your 10-year-old kid to use it, then it’s not safe cycling for all. While I admit this is a tough yardstick, I would not go so far as to say it’s greedy – more about being inclusive, I would say.

      That said, I do really agree with you that we should be thankful for at least having what the CVG currently is – as I think I said in the first half of my review of the CCG, parts are awesome – soaringingly wonderful! :)

  12. Bill Barilko says

    Putting lights along the Brunette River route would be both foolish and selfish.

    Selfish to think that human needs come before those of the Salmon Smolts that live in the stream and the few animals who still live in the area-Raccoons/Coyotes/Squirrels and the like.

    Foolish to think it would all stop with lights-next someone would want a paved trail, then access for god alone knows what civilised ‘convenience’.

    • says

      Wow, never thought of all that. Good points. As I always say, I live and learn by getting other people’s opinions. Thanks for sharing the wisdom, Bill :)

  13. says

    Hi Joe,

    As promised, here is the response from the planning department at TransLink! I will also post it on your blog in the comments.

    The CVG was part of Transport Canada’s Urban Transportation Showcase Program, which wrapped up in March 2009 in accordance with the multi-agency funding agreement. There has been a fair bit of criticism on the Buzzer Blog about launching the CVG prematurely, while some segments were incomplete or built to an interim standard. We were obliged to launch it as close as possible to the federal project deadline of March 31, 2009, after six years of planning and project delivery, and held our opening celebration in June to correspond with Bike Week and the completion of the Winston Bridge, which provided important connections. We acknowledge that the some areas are constructed to a interim design standard, due to budget or other temporal challenges. The major achievement of the project was to deliver a functional CVG, and it has been a valuable facility for thousands of people since it was launched. TransLink values feedback and will share it with our partners. At this point each municipal partner is responsible for improvements along the CVG that will achieve the ultimate design standard. Again, now that the cities fully own and manage their sections of the CVG, comments should be directed to them.

    Blog Part I: Downtown New Westminster to Winston

    Signage. Compliments appreciated. We will aim for 100% consistency, and timely completion on the next facility. We will also recommend larger fonts for the yellow destination signs.
    Jurisdiction: Cities

    Columbia Street – downtown.
    Average Joe Suggestion 1: separated path
    It is quite true, this is a high traffic street and may not comfortable for a good many riders, particularly new or young riders. Downtown New Westminster was considered a CVG destination, and an enhanced cycling facility objective was considered in the context of multiple City objectives: downtown revitalization, aesthetic improvements, enhanced pedestrian environment, and traffic calming. The compromise was to remove two lanes of traffic and to implement back in angle parking, an innovation in this region, which is safer for cyclists than parallel parking and opened up more road space for cyclists.

    The ultimate vision for New Westminster is a low level multi-use route running from Braid along the waterfront to the Quay which would provide a scenic, flat and comfortable separated route. It will take some years to acquire the necessary lands and resources to achieve the low level route, as most of it will be implemented as development occurs. This route is also identified in the Metro Vancouver Parks greenway network.
    Jurisdiction: City of New Westminster.

    Columbia Street – north east of Cumberland
    Average Joe Suggestion 1: separated path

    The original alignment for the CVG was routed along the Brunette River waterfront through the Sapperton industrial area. Because of serious budget deficiencies, technical challenges of crossing massive rail yard, and the need to meet the project completion deadline in 2009, the route between Hume Park and Cumberland was proposed by the City as an alternate which would provide a connection with the BC Parkway and the New West waterfront at the Quay. The choices were to work with Columbia Street, or stop the CVG at the Burnaby border. It is acknowledged that the on street portions of Columbia are busy and challenging to ride. Again, the low level route along the Brunette River in Sapperton, meeting up at Sapperton Landing (around Cumberland) is the optimal long term solution here.
    Jurisdiction: City of New Westminster

    North Road
    Average Joe Suggestion 2: a solution requested
    Exiting Hume Park and entering Burnaby, Columbia Street is actually named North Road. The City of Burnaby has identified the scope required to make a separated multi-use path here which requires path widening and a new bridge across the Brunette River. The New Westminster portion would consist of a multi-use path to the south of the Brunette River.
    Jurisdiction: Cities of New Westminster and Burnaby

    Brunette River Natural Area
    Suggestion 3: lights
    This corridor is owned by Metro Vancouver and managed by its Parks department. Metro Vancouver Parks has a policy of no lights in this area, for reasons of environmental sensitivity and because lights might create a false sense of security in this forested area which has limited visibility and surveillance at night.
    Jurisdiction: Metro Vancouver Parks

    Cariboo Road
    The unfinished intersection at Government was problematic for over a year and a source of frustration to all. The City was waiting for the railroad to install panels to permit a level crossing of the tracks, which only they can do. This work was completed in September 2010.
    Jurisdiction: City of Burnaby

    Winston bicycle Lanes
    Average Joe Suggestion 4 – separated path
    The City of Burnaby’s long term plan is to replace the existing bicycle lanes on Winston with a separated multi-use trail (aka “Urban Trail” in Burnaby), exactly as per your Suggestion 4. This would make a huge difference to the quality of experience on the CVG east of Sperling for both cyclists and pedestrians. At present, there is no sidewalk on Winston and so the CVG pedestrian traffic is routed through Metro Vancouver’s Burnaby Lake Regional Park, which for the same reasons as the Brunette River Natural Area, has no lighting and is only open during daylight hours.
    Jurisdiction:</b City of Burnaby and Metro Vancouver

    The map – and suitability ratings.
    TransLink notes the excerpted quote from the CVG Route Map: “Most sections are suitable for all kinds of walking and wheeling etc”. This is a really helpful comment on an oversight, and we will be making a note in the next map issue about the high traffic streets, noting they may be less comfortable for some riders. For the same reason, we distinguished between types of routes on the map.
    Jurisdiction: TransLink

    Blog Part 2: Winston overpass to Vancouver.

    Douglas Road and Still Creek Drive to Gilmore

    The City of Burnaby will be rebuilding Douglas Road, and Still Creek Drive all the way through to Costco in 2011/2012. It is acknowledged that the current interim route is unpleasant, and fortunately there is a quality solution in the near future for this section which will be a fully separated, multi-use path on the north side of Still Creek Drive and east side of Douglas Road. We are please to pass on the compliments on the rest area just close to the intersection of Still Creek Drive and Gilmore. The credit goes to the City of Burnaby.
    Agency responsible: City of Burnaby

    Great Northern Way
    As you noted, the slope connecting Clark Drive with the False Creek Flats is steep and a challenge for cyclists. One reason for providing a path on both sides of Great Northern Way between Clark and Glen Drives is to give cyclists more space and choice. The original vision for the CVG was to provide a bridge connection for non-motorized users between the False Creek Flats and Clark Drive at the top of the escarpment. Unfortunately the bridge was unable to proceed as part of the project because of cost and time constraints. As for the driveways, it would be worth letting the City know of your concern and experiences there.
    Agency responsible: City of Vancouver

    Safe cycling for everyone?

    Your observation that the point of view of seniors and/or kids is key in assessing bike routes is very valid. It echoes the philosophy of Gil Penalosa of Bogotá, Columbia, who heads an organization called 8 to 80 Cities which urges leaders to ..”make decisions about our built environment based on what would be good for an 8 year old and an 80 year old which would result in great cities for all”. ”. Through TransLink’s Bicycle Working Group, a forum involving representatives from the municipalities in the region, there are active discussions and plans to advance standards for cycling facilities which suit a large segment of our population which is interested in cycling, but concerned.

    We appreciate the time you have spent in creating this commentary and hope that understanding some of the context and forthcoming developments is helpful. It is important for the walking and cycling communities to focus their advocacy on projects which are important to them, and advance the realization of those projects realized. It took years of dreaming and planning to get the CVG to the present point. We consider it a work in progress.

    • says

      Thank you Jnenifer! And my sincere thanks to Translink planning department as well. I am blown away by the comprehensive response, and by their ability to respond so positively to criticism – it takes a big person (or department) to do that!

      I am also excited to hear of the plans in the pipeline to address the problems and make the CVG even better, as well as accessible for people from 8 to 80.

      I appreciate that it “took years of dreaming and planning to get the CVG to the present point” – and I would say that despite being a work in progress, it is also a dream realized. I was at the inaugural ride, and I still use it whenever I can.

      Please don’t get me wrong – despite my criticisms, I think it is one of the greatest cycling routes I have ever used. As I said on my blog, some parts are soaringly awesome! Personally I enjoy most of it (except Winston), but I would just like to see my mother and my kids able to share the joy.

      To make sure that as many people as possible read this inspiring response, I am going to take the liberty of posting it, rather than leaving it to potentially be buried in the Comments.

  14. Joel says

    Thank you for a wonderful resource for area cyclists, and extremely informative and entertaining writing.
    Joel, Burnaby