Gateways on the Central Valley Greenway: The Wonderful and the Weird

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The Central Valley Greenway runs from New Westminster to Vancouver, via Burnaby. It’s a wonderful cycle route, much used and loved by thousands of BC Lower Mainland cyclists. But wow, it is a route of extremes, with many sublime parts, and some horrible bits, as described in a previous post.

In response to some debate on this blog, I thought I’d zero in on the wonderful and weird gateways on the Central Valley Greenway, going from east to west.

The Central Valley Greenway comprises an Alice-in-Wonderland-like mishmash of the sublime and the absurd. To kick off with the absurd, here is the entrance to the Brunette River Natural Area:

The east entrance to the Brunette River Natural Area is set up as a kind of agility test for cyclists. Photo courtesy of Dweebert.

But wait, there’s more.

An inexplicable concrete block at the eastern exit from the Brunette River Natural Area on the Central Valley Greenway. Photo courtesy of Dweebert.

For no reason that I could possibly fathom, there is a giant, concrete block strategically placed adjacent to this narrow entrance. Is the idea that if you are so uncoordinated that you cannot get your bike through the narrow gap, you deserve to fall on the concrete block? Or is it just a further test of agility? Or perhaps the beginnings of an interesting art project, akin to Stonehenge, only smaller?

After that, the intrepid cyclist immediately bounces back from the absurd to the sublime. The whole length of the Brunette River Natural Area is sublime, as it winds its way through jaw-dropping splendour as impressive as the Galloping Goose Trail on Vancouver Island. At the other end, the western access to the Brunette River Natural Area used to be just as awful as the east access, with a large gate blocking the cyclist’s way, leaving only a narrow gap between the gate and an unappealing ditch. Now, however, it looks like this.

Gate at the West entrance to the Brunette River Natural Area on the Central Valley Greenway. Photo courtesy of Dweebert.

Talk about an immense improvement! Now one can just cycle through, without having to squeeze through a tiny gap and risk falling in the ditch. And cars are still effectively barred, which I guess is the point of all these gates (only some have really gone to lamentably overkill lengths).

Right after this uplifting moment, cyclists encounter another excellent improvement that was recently made on the Central Valley Greenway. It’s at the intersection of Cariboo and Government, which I have previously described as really, really ugly, because of the combination of four lanes of often heavy traffic, plus a train crossing. Previously cyclists had to negotiate the four lanes of traffic, while crossing the railway line, to take a left onto Government. Now, there is this wonderfully wide track on the side of the road for cyclists to cross over.

New and improved intersection of Cariboo and Government. Photo courtesy of Dweebert.

This is a massive improvement, so THANKS to whoever conceived it and made it happen. I only have one criticism: there is no signage that actually says this is for cyclists. So the first time I used it, I was worried that I was illegally riding on the sidewalk (and we all know that makes some motorists angry enough to want to kill cyclists – although no one knows why this is so). I have now decided that it is most probably intended for cyclists, and therefore OK to use.

After this one goes on for miles and miles without serious impediment or obstruction in the form of bizarrely designed gateways. Until one gets to the unpleasant “temporary” bit of the Central Valley Greenway on Stillcreek. Just after surviving the truly nasty industrial Stillcreek bit, replete with road debris, puddles, potholes and various vehicle dangers, the fearless cyclist encounters this:

This entrance way changes quite frequently, but this is a pretty good idea of what it usually looks like: narrow, convoluted, and concrete-blocked. And I use the word blocked deliberately. This is yet another test of cyclist agility.

Next, my personal “favourite” on the CVG – this one just plain drives me crazy:

This is at the Costco end entrance to the nasty “temporary” bit that links with the nasty industrial Stillcreek bit. There are two parallel concrete blocks that force cyclists to do an intricate little figure 8. For no good reason that I can ascertain. Or am I missing something?

Of course, many of the gateways on the Central Valley Greenway are entirely sensible:

This is the entrance to Hume Park on the Central Valley Greenway in New Westminster. It’s effective, in that it excludes cars. But it’s trouble-free, and does not require any special agility. This makes it accessible for all cyclists, including children.

Here’s hoping that eventually all the gateways on the Central Valley Greenway will look like this!


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  1. Stephan says

    What about the lack of lighting in the temp part on Still Creek? Its a primary commuter route but extremely dangerous after dark which is very early these days-especially when it rains and there is a giant puddle in the middle, which could also freeze in these cold temperatures.

  2. Katherine says

    In general I love the CVG but I do have a complaint on accessibility. Isn’t the CVG supposed to be accessible for all? I have a sister who rides a trike due to CP (cerebral palsy) – she rides it all over the Lower Mainland and also likes the CVG. But the gates you have written about (and a couple of other spots too) are really really tough for her. it hurts me to see her battling with them because she is very proud and will not ask for help.

    thank you Joe for highlighting these problem areas. I say hear hear for here’s hoping that one day all the gates on the CVG will look like the one in the lsat picture.

  3. says

    Not seeing any signs, I had wondered the same thing as you about whether we were allowed to ride on the path on Government. But thinking about it afterwards, I’m sure that’s what’s intended.

    • says

      Yes, that’s exactly the process I went through, Alex. At the time I felt uncomfortable, but then I thought – what on earth else COULD it be except intended for cyclists … still it would be great if there was a sign, or painting on the ground, so that all cyclists don’t have to wonder about it …

  4. Graeme says

    For comparison, here’s another photo, this time of what the City of Burnaby thought was appropriate when building the older Burnaby Mountain Urban Trail. I think this is the only gateway along the whole trail, which takes you from Government Street all the way north to Hastings. (Well, there is a standard green gate at the south end of this wooded bit, but it nice wide spaces to pass on either side. There also may be a gate on the little bit that heads northward for a couple of blocks from this very spot.)

    I almost fell navigating this gateway when I was getting used to clipless pedals. I still get a little nervous every time I approach it on a bike.

      • Graeme says

        I’m assuming you’re sorry about the “falling” part, and not the “almost”. It kind of goes with the territory of learning to use cleats, and I am happy to say I didn’t once completely fall while learning. I did manage one rather spectacular crash that crossed the whole width of a multi-use path, but I managed to land on my feet.

        By the way, my advice to those learning to use cleats is to bike on secluded routes for a couple of weeks. Murphy’s law being what it is, it seems the most potentially embarrassing incidents always find an audience.

        • says

          :) yes, I meant sorry about the falling, not the almost! I recently went back to cleats, and in no time at all had a complete (not an almost) fall. The good part was that I discovered I have enough muscle on my thighs to be able to fall heavily sideways and not be bruised or injured – and the other good part was the happy fact that no one was there to see me fall (and if a cyclist falls in a forest and no one sees him, did he fall at all?) Therefore, good advice about practicing in seclusion, Graeme!