The City of Richmond has a Trails Brochure which includes information on Richmond cycling. It encourages people to explore Richmond’s unique island ecology and natural environment by cycling around the Island of Richmond. One of their suggestions is to do a 47.5 km circumnavigation of the island. Ever trusting, Maggie and I followed this suggestion. Based on this experience, I have some advice for you: DON’T! Whatever you do, do NOT follow the City of Richmond’s advice and try to circumnavigate the Richmond Island on a bike. There are SOME BITS of this route that are well worth doing, as I will discuss – but the total circumnavigation is RIGHT OUT. Let me tell you about the nightmare we experienced when we wasted a lovely fall day trying to do this.
We set out with the Trails Brochure map and plenty of water, expecting a pleasant ride, much like our bike ride on the West Dyke Trail. We could not have been more wrong.
We parked on River Road, and set off eastwards on the Middle Arm Trail. (For advice on finding the Dyke Trails, see my post on the West Dyke Trail.) According to the map kindly provided by the City of Richmond, we expected to stay happily off road most of the way. Yeah, right.
Lost in a car park … with no signage anywhere to be seen …
Within minutes we were in a car park, with no sign of any trail or bike lanes, anywhere. And of course, no signage – a situation which was to be the norm all day. Clueless, we elected to follow another cyclist who seemed to know where she was going. We found ourselves on the very busy, multi-lane Sea Island Way. By sheer luck we then spotted a bike lane route on No. 3 Road, so we took a left at the hideously busy intersection in front of the Starbucks, and caught up with the bike lane. This led us back to River Road, where we heaved a sigh of relief because we found an off-road trail next to the Middle Arm of the Fraser River. A premature sigh of relief, as it turned out. Very, very premature.
The next few kilometers were, without a doubt, the WORST, MOST AWFUL so-called bike route I have ever been on. Take a look at these photos, and see what you think:
Then the “trail” stopped completely, and we had to cycle for many kilometres on River Road, a narrow road on which we were nervous every time a car passed. Then we were relieved to come across this:
But just 200 meters later, we came across this:
So we doubled back, and found ourselves with no choice but to continue on – wait for it – Westminster Highway! Boy, was that ever not fun! Sure, it had a bike lane, but if I wanted to spend my Sunday on a busy road full of speeding cars, I would NOT be consulting a document called “Trails”! Admittedly it is not a real highway, but usually I have a really strict rule about NEVER cycling on anything that has “highway” in its name. I’m an average cyclist, not a daredevil.
We were stuck on Westminster Highway for many horrible kilometres, and then, slap bang in the middle of nowhere, we came upon this sign:
Again, we had no choice but to push on. After ages on the now non-existent bike trail, we reached No. 6 road, which was quieter but had no shoulder, then Steveston Highway, which had a bike lane but was frightening, and eventually No. 5 road, which again had no shoulder and was downright scary. All the while, I was wishing I had got around to giving my mother copies of our insurance policies and wills, and wondering who was going to take care of the children, with us gone … really, really NOT having fun.
FINALLY, we got back to a trail beside the river, where for the first time that day, we encountered other cyclists:
After this, although the signage remained non-existent and we continued to feel lost and helpless, at least we were no longer in mortal danger. And there was finally something to look at that was not just speeding cars.
The next part of the ride was on the South Dyke Trail, which was safe and very beautiful, and which I will write about when I am feeling better about Richmond cycling. Then we came to the picturesque docks in the lovely village of Steveston, and stopped for a much-needed dinner at Correlis Mediterranean Grill Restaurant (and a medicinal glass of wine for our shattered nerves). Next was the lovely West Dyke Trail, and then we were finally back at Maggie’s car, happy to still be alive and in one piece, and vowing NEVER to trust a City of Richmond brochure again!
Come on, City of Richmond – this is a shameful, embarrassing excuse for a trail! Please stop advertising it until you’ve spent some money to make it safe enough for use by human beings.
- MANY more off-road trails
- SIGNAGE, for heaven’s sakes, so that people are not constantly lost!
- BIKE LANES on the parts where you cannot arrange off-road trails
- And to NOT be on major roads!
And in the meantime, the “Trails” brochure should warn people that the circumnavigation of the island is for skilled cyclists only, and NOT for families with children.
I would suggest that the City of Richmond takes a look at what has been achieved on another island – Vancouver Island. See for example my post on the Lockside Trail. Now that’s a situation in which the natural environment has been turned into an asset that can be enjoyed by all. Even more important, that’s a trail where people are SAFE – it’s not an embarrassing attempt to take credit for a complete shambles in which there has been no effort at all to make the natural environment fun and safe for people.
Here is the City of Richmond’s response to this post about Richmond cycling.