Though we love our bike lanes and routes in Vancouver, we’re also blessed with an abundance of riding trails where we don’t have to stop and start at intersections, stay on the lookout for sudden vehicle manoeuvres, or breathe in second-hand car exhaust as we pedal.
Some of my favourite spots to get away from the tarmac and traffic include Pacific Spirit Park, Iona Beach and Stanley Park.
If you’re tired of picking your way through crowds along the sea wall, the trail network inside Stanley Park offers a calmer, quieter experience. The bonus is that it’s easily accessible.
Wide, flat paths make for comfortable riding on almost any kind of bike, and there’s space to ride with friends or family.
Start from Prospect Point or Lost Lagoon and explore trails like Bridle Path, Thompson and Tatlow that wend their way through the centre of the park. Bikes aren’t allowed on all trails, so keep an eye out for signs and stick to the paths where wheels are permitted.
Pacific Spirit Park offers longer trails and a stronger sense that you’re away from the crowds. Entering the trail network at the point where SW Marine Drive leaves the park (at Camosun and 41st Avenue) gives you immediate access to beautiful rides such as Salish, Council and Hemlock. Riding through the huge stands of old growth trees as sunlight filters through the branches truly makes you feel as though you’ve left the hustle and noise of the city far behind.
The primary paths are well maintained and smooth, although some of the side trails have a few exposed roots and loose rocky sections that make for a slightly bumpier (though never technically challenging) ride.
Beyond Chancellor Boulevard, the trails drop down to the beaches along Spanish Banks, offering a beautiful cruise home if you time it right to catch the sunset.
Watch out for little steps and steep stretches on some of the downhill sections if you take this route. Richmond’s Iona Beach is a popular haunt for road cyclists, but there’s also great riding for the casual cyclist.
From the main parking lot at the beach, ride the Iona Spit pipeline out into the ocean. A packed gravel path takes you four kilometres along the jetty to a lookout point swept by fresh sea breezes. The wonderful views of the North Shore mountains are to your right, and planes take off and land at the Vancouver International Airport on your left. There are picnic tables back at the beach, as well as two ponds and a marshy area filled with wildflowers and a variety of bird life to take in at the end of your ride.
Of course, these are many other easy cycling trails in and around Vancouver; these are just a handful of my personal favourites.
There are few better ways to recharge than cycling a quiet trail and spending time on your bike away from the traffic.
Kay Cahill is a cyclist and librarian who believes bikes are for life, not just for commuting. Send a comment to firstname.lastname@example.org.