Vancouver’s Cycling Culture – Anything BUT a Dull, Grey Monoculture!

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Vancouver’s Cycling Culture

Vancouver has been accused of having a dull, grey cycling monoculture. Nothing could be further from the truth! In Vancouver the cyclists are as diverse as the population.

Canada's Green Party MP Elizabeth May, looking resplendent at Vancouver Pride
Canada’s Green Party MP Elizabeth May, looking resplendent at Vancouver Pride
Three “dull grey” cyclists I met on the Bike the Blossoms Ride in Vancouver – at Terra Breads on 5th Street

I am grateful to many readers who have supplied ideas and photos for this post.

I thought I’d start out with a blast from the past: here’s a Vancouver cyclist from 1925, on a bike that was decorated to look like a horse (Copyright 2010 Vancouver Public Library):

Sadly, the technology of the times means we have lost the colours, but I am betting this cyclist and his bike were anything but dull and grey.

Moving to the present day, Vancouver is beginning to provide the infrastructure to ensure that cyclists are starting young – and of course, the young are all about bright colors and fun!

Once our cyclists grow up, there are all kinds of cycling activities going on that are anything but dull and grey. For instance, Vancruisers is a club for local cyclists who favour cruisers, including choppers, beach cruisers, krate bikes and rat rods. They host a number of fun, rainbow-coloured events. One of these is the Little 100 race. Here are some photos of the colourful (and entirely not-grey) participants, taken by Ulrike Rodrigues (who has many other great photos on her site).

And then of course there are their beautiful bikes, also photographed by Ulrike Rodrigues:

Bryn from Vancruisers tipped me off to the Wig Rides that Vancruisers holds regularly – here is a photo of some of the participants. I don’t know when last I saw such a non-boring group of cyclists!

Clearly there’s no shortage of colourful cyclists in our city! But let’s not forget, we also have a BEAUTIFUL city to showcase our bikes. Here’s a photo by Peter Ladner that makes this point:

And of course, Vancouver has recently become more beautiful thanks to the addition of the new, improved, safer, separated bike lanes (Burrard, Dunsmuir, and Hornby). Here’s a late fall shot of a cyclist on the Dunsmuir Bike Lane, courtesy of Paul Krueger.

Our new bike lanes feature bike traffic signals, which have caused a bit of confusion for some. So some friendly flag people were roped in to help out on the new Hornby Bike Lane, creating another flash of colour in our diverse city (photo courtesy of Paul Krueger).

Vancouver’s recent and dramatic bike lane improvements can be credited to Vision Vancouver and Mayor Gregor Robertson. And as Gregor is anything but a dull, grey cycling advocate, I thought I’d throw in a photo of him. This one shows him with Brian Hever, a resident of Yaletown House, trying out the care facility’s new Duet Bike in Yaletown (photo from Metro).

The improvements in our cycling facilities give us much to celebrate. Check out Tony entertaining cyclists with a song about bike lanes at the Wentings Bike Shop (Mission) Celebration Station during the 2009 Bike to Work Week. (Not actually in Vancouver, but one of our neighbours!)

Moving back to Vancouver, the Museum of Vancouver’s Velocity exhibit in 2009 showcased diversity in bike culture, both past and present. These photos courtesy of jnyyz (who runs the Toronto-based blog, Biking in a Big City):

And let’s not forget Vancouver’s Critical Mass Rides, held on the last Friday of every month, which draw every conceivable variety of cyclists, and enable participants to show off their creative bikes:

Speaking of political statements, I spotted this anything-but-dull bike parked besides the Occupy Vancouver demonstration (held in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement) outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, in October 0f 2011.


Of course, no post on Vancouver cycling culture would be complete without a hat tip to North Vancouver, which gave birth to North Shore mountain biking. (Photo by Peter J. Dean.)

Vancouver Cycling Culture

Thought I’d close with one of Paul Krueger’s great photos, taken on the new Hornby route:

Vancouver Cycling CultureKind of says it all! However, I am very much aware that this post does NOT say it all when it comes to the diversity of Vancouver’s cycling culture. Please let me know about things I have missed – I could feature them in a follow-up post!

If you want to know more about Vancouver’s Cycling Culture, read Ulrike Rodrigues’s fascinating, in-depth article.



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  1. Marisa Lee says

    Great post AJC! How about including seniors if you do a followup, I see many seniors on my rides (not that young myself). Also down in East Vancouver I have seen youngsters playing bike polo!!

  2. says

    Pretty nice collection of photos!

    I remember a few months ago I was riding home around 9PM at night along the Ontario route as I approached W 10th, and about 10 bikes decked out with assorted multi-coloured lights like MonkeyLectrics and others, along with music, rode by in the opposite direction. I thought that was pretty neat.

    • says

      Thanks Alex! Yes, I think it adds a note of fun (the lights). The whole cycling scene can get so serious. (I should speak, I’m one of the worst offenders!) Still, it feels good to be out there looking and feeling light-hearted! A couple of small boys thought my bike was totally cool the other night, which I took as high praise indeed :)

  3. Harold Bridge says

    I seldom go into that out-the-way place Vancouver.
    Despite that, I recently completed my 10 year stint to achieve the CKAP 100,000kms.
    “Out-The-Way Place” you question?
    Landbound cities like Calgary and Edmonton expand concentrially, whereas coastal cities, such as Vancouver expand in a uni-directional way, so that the real city centre is constantly moving.
    As a result after 125 years, Vancouver is now an out the way place.
    The problem became apparent in 2008 when a group of enthusiasts put on an excellent bicycle exhibition called “Velo-City”. The display was at the far western end of Vancouver. I asked some people if they attended, they did not.
    South of the Fraser River Surrey is central. North of the Fraser River Port Coquitlam is central; ie approximately half way between Wreak Beach and end of tidal water at the Mission Bridge.

    • says

      Good point – and it doesn’t help that there are few viable ways to get into Vancouver. The Central Valley Greenway helps, but the transit system is expensive, and traffic lanes are congested at best.

  4. says

    I think it’s good to promote cycling
    because we can save our money from buying imported oil from other countries which we actually could use it for supporting the local economy. In addition with the reduction in the emission of CO2 gases, the atmosphere of our city will be healthier.

  5. says

    North of the Fraser River Port Coquitlam is central; ie approximately half way between Wreak Beach and end of tidal water at the Mission Bridge.