Every year the trip by car to Vancouver gets a little bit longer, a little more hectic, and generally less convenient.
Especially if the destination is downtown. The ferries are expensive, the waits are long, and Vancouver’s traffic is like navigating one Colwood Crawl after another.
Taking a harbour-to-harbour sea plane has usurped travelling by car to Vancouver in terms of time spent travelling and convenience, but is much more costly. Taking transit, bus and Skytrain, is cheaper and free of the anchor that a car becomes downtown, but is much more time consuming.
Saanich resident Trevor Barry has made the trek multiple times.
|Trevor Barry has biked to Vancouver several times. It isn’t always easy but he makes it work.
(Trevor Barry Photo)
The first leg involves getting to Swartz Bay. The choices are to ride the Lochside Trail or, if it’s 5 a.m., Barry finds the traffic of the Pat Bay Highway is tolerable. The latter saves time from the meandering dog legs of the Lochside.
At this stage, and other stages, there is a bus option, but keep in mind only regular-sized bikes fit on the front of a bus. No baskets or long tail bikes (the Skytrain is, of course, forgiving in this regard). But that defeats the purpose, Barry said.
Second leg: The ferry ride over. Easy, but also silly that BC Ferries charges an extra few bucks for a bike, Barry said.
“At least cyclists are the first loaded and unloaded, and most ships have decent bike racks on the lower vehicle deck (which is monitored nowadays to be free of people).”
The BC Ferries buffet tastes good when resting lactic legs, Barry added. The cost is easier to bear too, with added savings.
The third leg, from there, is a matter of destination. Barry has ridden to downtown Vancouver and the University of B.C. multiple times. He’s once ridden into New Westminster (in a deluge of rain) and has done a couple trips out to Maple Ridge and Mission.
The biggest barrier is no doubt the highway and how to avoid it.
To start, the causeway out to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal has a protected lane on the other side of the concrete barrier. Then you’re in traffic until either Tsawwassen Mills mall where you can hang left across the railway overpass and down into Ladner, or to the recreation centre.
From Ladner, if Barry’s in a hurry, or it’s bad weather, he’ll grab a bus to Richmond at the transit exchange, he said. Preferably, he’ll ride up the highway, of take the scenic route past Boundary Bay.
Either way, you end up at the Ministry of Transportation’s Massey Tunnel Bike Shuttle. It’s about 18 kilometres to the shuttle and another 23 km into Vancouver from there.
If you’re going to ride there, be sure to memorize the Massey Tunnel bike shuttle’s schedule. It is more frequent in the summer, less frequent in the winter, and if you don’t time it right, you can be stuck there for hours or miss it outright.
Seems obvious, but don’t your bike through the tunnel. Barry did.
“I very foolishly cycled through the Massey Tunnel my first time,” Barry said. ” Stupid, stupid, stupid. So scary. #neveragain.”
Otherwise, everything about cycling within Vancouver is wonderful, Barry noted.
“It’s pleasant. The hills are bearable. The infrastructure is amazing. And the traffic is slow and aware for the most part.”
Barry isn’t the only cycling commuter who’s made the ride. Corey Burger of the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition has navigated the seven-hour day. The time commitment alone is probably the biggest challenge, he said, as the safer routes, away from the highways, need just that.
“One challenge is the differing interpretations by each municipality you travel through of what constitutes a bike lane (if any),” Burger said.
One thing of note is that, while it’s added kilometres, the Skytrain Canada Line bridge has a pedestrian and cycling option attached to it. Unfortunately, you end up transitioning through major intersections with little or no bike infrastructure.
Again, once you reach the side roads of South Vancouver, the ride is fairly safe.
On this side of the ferry, Burger points out that it’s time for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to upgrade the cycling connection to Swartz Bay terminal.
“Kudos to the BC Ferries planning team who met with GVCC, including me, to chat about it,” Burger said. “They know that as they do the terminal planning, they need to better accommodate cyclists arriving at the ferries.”