Cycling in Vancouver
Both yesterday and today I’ve been taking advantage of Vancouver’s various cycle paths to put a good deal of enjoyable kilometers under my tires. It’s hard to compare Vancouver cycling with cycling in Toronto, but I can put it this way – in Vancouver, I actually look forward to getting on my bike.
In Toronto, getting on a bicycle means crashing over gaps in the poorly maintain roads – not that Vancouver’s are perfect, but the lack of freeze thaw makes things easier. In Toronto, being in a bike lane means constantly having to anticipate a door prize – Vancouver does have some of these death-trap bike lanes, but for the most part you can ride on traffic-calmed streets that are actually set up for bicycles to go through. I tend to think of Vancouver’s bike routes as “bike highways”, although you can’t actually go that fast on them.
But, aside from all these planning and weather differences – the real reason cycling in Vancouver is an order of magnitude more enjoyable is simply that there is more to see. An hours cycling in Vancouver can take you up Commercial drive, down the central valley greenway to Science World, along the downtown seaside bike route by Yaletown and the West End, past English Bay, Lost Lagoon, and then twisting around the Stanley Park Seawall back to the West End. Sure, Toronto has some nice places, but they don’t repeat, don’t all tie together with the geological nice-ness of Vancouver.
Sure, Toronto has the Don and Humber Valleys, which can provide a good half-days cycle each – but getting to them from anywhere you might live means trekking down dangorous and poorly maintained city streets. Bloor Street this summer was in a state of disrepair that would embarrass a third-world dictator – and this means you can’t ride fast enough to not be an obstacle to traffic. Neither does it help that most major streets in Toronto connect to high speed freeways, which changes the pace of driving in general away from a tempo at which bikes can be anything but a nuisance.
People in Vancouver lead charmed lives. And it’s not like they don’t take advantage of it – everywhere I’ve been today has been chalk full of people, all sorts. The Beaches, the bike racks, the walking paths, there are folks out everywhere. And yet, as I sit in the shade near the Second Beach concession in Stanley Park, nothing feels crowded. The opposite of the fireworks then. No, but even the fireworks at Kits beach last night were not really crowded – the rain kept too many Surrey-ites away for that.
It’s often said that Vancouver isn’t any “fun” – that we have a real shortage of festivals compared to other “World Class” cities (whatever “world class” means, anyway). To remedy this there are some new events happening – yesterday I spent a bit of time at a free music festival in Crab Park, and also stopped to listen to a few songs at the South-Asian music celebration festival at Plaza of Nations. Both of these events were extremely poorly attended. Now, this might be because they were poorly advertised, or just because they were lousy events – but I have a feeling that poor attendance to events like this might have something to do with the fact there are plenty of things to do on a sunny Saturday in Vancouver other than go to a mediocre free concert.