Great Bike Rides in and around Vancouver!
This Vancouver bike ride goes from the Convention Center to Science World in downtown Vancouver, via the Hornby Street Bike Lane and the Seaside Bike Route. Vancouver cycling offers spectacular, scenic bike rides in and around Vancouver for all. This is the first in a series of guides and videos to show you some of the best Vancouver bike rides – whether you are on vacation or stay-cation, Vancouver cycling offers something for you!
Overview of this Vancouver Bike Ride
Terrain: almost all off-road, mainly smooth rolling
Location: downtown Vancouver
Distance: 6 km (3 miles) , one way – return the same way, or via Skytrain
Difficulty level: easy – there is one tiny uphill at the beginning, and the rest is flat or slightly downhill
Type of bike required: any kind, but hybrid or cruiser would be best
Safety level: very safe, almost entirely off road
Suitable for: the whole family. Unaccompanied children should not do the route, because there is one short part where you have to suddenly merge onto a (quiet) road that has cars on it
Congestion: Varies, can be very quiet if you pick your time well – and very busy if you don’t
Parking: There is lots of (fairly expensive) parking in downtown Vancouver; or you can walk to the Convention Centre if you are in a downtown hotel; if you are in a cruise ship you are already at the Convention Centre; or you can get to the Convention Centre from the Waterfront Skytrain Station (about 300 m away)
Average Joe Cyclist Rating: This ride definitely rates a Gold Bike-Star for a very enjoyable family bike ride with diverse, lovely scenery, and lots of interesting and fun things to do. And you can lock up your bike and enjoy the many delights of Science World!
Watch a narrated video about this great Vancouver bike ride
Here is a video that shows the entire route, with directions. It’s a joint effort – Joe filmed it with his new GoPro camcorder (click here to read about how he dropped it 10 stories and yet it still survives). I narrated the video (because of my lifelong knowledge of Vancouver and its history). I hope I have provided a lot of interesting details that will really bring this ride to life for you. I know that Joe was fascinated by it.
- From the Convention Centre, bike up Burrard Street for two blocks in the separated bike lane on the right-hand-side of the road
- Turn left at Hastings Street and bike for two blocks in the separated bike lane on the left-hand-side of the road
- Turn right into the Hornby Street separated bike lane on the left-hand-side of the road
- Cycle all the way to the circle at the end of Hornby Street (after Beach Avenue)
- Turn left onto the Seaside Bike Route (another separate bike lane) and follow it all the way to Science World
- Visit Science World if you like
- Turn around and come back the same way; OR catch the Skytrain back from the Main Street Skytrain station, which is just across the road from Science World
Things to see along the way
- Convention Centre
- The Marine Building at 355 Burrard Street
- Cathedral Place
- Vancouver Art Gallery
- Law Courts of British Columbia
- False Creek
- BC Place
- Rogers Arena
- Telus World of Science (aka Science World)
- And tons of other things!
With many integrated on and off-road bikeways, Vancouver cycling is a great way to see this beautiful city. This post covers a 6 km (3 mile) trip from the Vancouver Convention Centre to Science World at the east end of False Creek. This Vancouver bike ride will take approximately 20 to 25 minutes without any stops – but much longer if you want to hop off and see some of the sights along the way. The bike ride is suitable for all ages and abilities.
We start at the Vancouver Convention Centre, at the north end of Burrard Street. Take note of the mountains across Burrard Inlet – these are the North Shore mountains, and show you which way north is in Vancouver. As long as you can see the mountains, you can orientate yourself in Vancouver. This route will take you south through downtown in a separated bike lane with a small on-road connection to the separated bike lane along the north side of False Creek, travelling east to reach Science World.
We start cycling south up Burrard Street. As we cross over Cordova Street you will see the beautiful Marine Building to your right. This building is one of the best Art Deco buildings in the world, and even though you have just started out it is worth stopping and enjoying the Art Deco flock of geese that grace the arched entrance, and the amazing art display in the building’s lobby. This building has been featured in many TV and film productions.
At the next block, Hastings Street, you turn left and travel in the cycling lane on the left-hand-side of the street until you reach Hornby Street. Turn right on the far side of Hornby and travel south to False Creek in the separated bikeway. This cycling infrastructure is still relatively new in Vancouver, so beware of cars and pedestrians crossing without warning. It’s not like cycling in Montreal, where the enormous number of cyclists have taught locals to be very careful about crossing bike routes. There are also numerous advance signals to allow traffic to clear the intersections, so be mindful of the bike traffic lights.
The lights are synchronized for automobile traffic not bikes (if in fact they are synchronized for anything at all) so be patient and slow down when you see the lights turning red ahead. This way you will not have to hop on and off your bike at every intersection. In the video you see Joe has to do this frequently.
Travelling towards Georgia Street you will pass Cathedral Place on your right, which is home to the Canadian Craft Museum; another great place to stop and visit. Once you cross Georgia Street you will notice the Neo-Classical building on the left side, housing the Vancouver Art Gallery. This building was built in 1906 and was home to the Law Courts of British Columbia until 1983 when Robson Square was completed. This is a worthwhile stop, and houses a lovely terrace restaurant if you want to stop and eat. It’s licensed, and you don’t have to pay to get into the Art Gallery to access the restaurant.
Just past the Art Gallery, you pass Robson Square on the left. In 2010, the traffic was closed on Robson Street between Hornby and Howe to make a central gathering spot for the Winter Olympics, with a zip line and large screens erected to televise events. As you make your way past the open square you will pass by a low profile building with terraced gardens on your left. This is the home of the Law Courts of British Columbia. The concept is a skyscraper on its side, designed by Arthur Erikson. The challenge was to make sure that sunlight could still reach the street and keep Vancouver as green as possible. This stretch of the bikeway is full of lovely shade trees.
Crossing Nelson Street you are now entering the hospital district, with St Paul’s Hospital a block west on Burrard Street. These buildings are filled with medical practitioners and clinics, along with residences. As the bikeway comes to an end there is one four way stop intersection to negotiate and then a short transition onto the street before you travel around a traffic circle at the dead end and turn to your left. You are now on the Seaside Bike Route, one of Vancouver’s greatest bike routes.
You are also now in False Creek North, which was home to a World’s Fair held in Vancouver in 1986 – Expo 86 (short for World Exposition on Transportation and Communication – which was fitting, as it kicked off many improvements in Vancouver transportation, including the Expo Line of the Skytrain).
The False Creek area was an active heavy industrial area up to the 1970s. Then the south side of False Creek was developed in conjunction with the Granville Island Public Market. In the 1980s the north side of False Creek was cleared for Expo 86 and then developed by Concorde Pacific into the new Yaletown neighbourhood. Finally the southeast section was developed as the Athlete’s Village for the 2010 Winter Olympics and is now one of Vancouver’s newest neighborhoods. This entire area has been retrieved from heavy industry and turned into one of the most livable and beautiful areas in the world.
Next you will travel along the Seaside Bike Route east to Science World. On your way you will pass many residential developments on your left-hand-side and marinas to your right. You will pass the Roundhouse Community Centre which houses art exhibitions, meeting spaces, small theatres and sports facilities. Further along you will reach David Lam Park, home to outdoor concerts during the Vancouver International Jazz Festival each June; along with playgrounds and sports fields. At David Lam Park you could catch an Aquabus – more about that in a future post!
You will also pass on your right the BC Enterprise Centre (formerly the BC Pavilion of Expo 86) and the glass-roofed open air theatre, The Plaza of Nations, also a legacy of Expo 86. This area has been designated the Theatre District due to its proximity to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, the Playhouse Theatre, Rogers Arena (home of the Vancouver Canucks Hockey Team) and BC Place (home of the BC Lions Football Team). You can’t miss BC Place, which appears to have huge poles coming out of its domed roof – these are actually part of its new retractable roof. It made headlines when it was new as it was said to have leaked the first time it rained, but it seems to be fine now.
Next you will notice a large tract of paved vacant land to your left, which is the former home of the Vancouver Molson Indy auto race. This event was held in August from 1990, until the growing number of residents raised strident concerns about the ear-splitting noise, and it was discontinued in 2004.
You are now approaching Science World, another legacy building of Expo 86 (it was at the time the main entrance to the fairgrounds). I highly recommend a visit to the Telus World of Science, now housed in the newly-named Telus Sphere. There is something for all ages in the centre, daily movies in the IMAX theatre, and very casual dining. There is bike parking right outside Science World, as you can see in the video and in this photo. But lock your bike up very securely – Vancouver is home to many wonderful people, but also to many bike thieves.
For those of you who wish to ride further, continue to the right and travel the south side of False Creek along the Seaside Bike Route, passing under all three of the city bridges and continuing around to English Bay and further along, Point Grey/UBC (University of British Columbia).
Or you can turn to your left at Science World and follow the directions to reach the Central Valley Greenway (CVG) which follows the Millennium Line of the Skytrain system from Vancouver to New Westminster Quay. Both routes offer a combination of separated and shared bikeways. The Seaside Bike Route along False Creek is much safer and easier, and you can read all about it in this post.
If on the other hand you are tired and want to get back to the Convention Center, you can either retrace your path (because both of the bike lanes are two-way), or you can load your bike onto the Skytrain. Main Street Skytrain Station is just across the road from Science World. A few minutes on the train will get you back to downtown Vancouver. But bear in mind that you cannot take bikes on the Skytrain towards Vancouver during the morning rush hours (7.00 a.m. to 9.00 a.m.).
Ride on, Ride Safe, and Have Fun!
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