As a committed cyclist, why would I leave Wellington, recently listed as one of the top ten bicycling destinations in the world, for a three month sabbatical at UBC in Vancouver – a city that didn’t make the list this year?
There are a lot of similarities – both cities are Pacific ports surrounded by mountains, which provide both challenges and opportunities for bicycling. Vancouver is bigger, and in general flatter. On my first day in Vancouver I joined holiday hordes cycling and walking around the Stanley Park seawall, and felt very much at home – just like a weekend on the Wellington waterfront shared cycling and walking route.
Over much of the city, there is a network of bicycle priority routes – when I bought a new bike from a shop on busy Broadway, I was able to ride practically all the way back to UBC on streets where bicycles had priority over cars.
Vancouver has a mayor committed to cycling (will this be the case in Wellington after the election?). One result is that the city is developing separated bicycle paths on key inner city routes – the Dunsmuir bike path (pictured) has concrete planters separating cyclists from the motorised traffic on the rest of the one way street, and Hornby Street is scheduled for a similar treatement. This will mean that cyclists can traverse much of the inner city on separated routes, and I daydream about a progressive Wellington City Council putting similar paths along Thorndon and Jervois Quays, and up Taranaki Street, for example.
What I’m really enjoying in Vancouver is being able to take my bike on public transport. It takes about an hour to bike into the centre from UBC along a pleasant coastal bike route. At Granville Island, a frequent ferry service takes bikes, saving having to climb to the Granville Bridge across False Creek. If I don’t feel like biking the return trip, I can wheel the bike onto a Skytrain, then change to a bus out to UBC. All Vancouver buses have bike racks – a substantial commitment, but one that has paid off in optimising point to point journey times, and about one bus in three is carrying a bike. It would be great to be able to put a bike on a bus to Karori, for example.
So I’m enjoying exploring Vancouver by bicycle, learning a lot to apply in Wellington, and I’ll certainly vote to get Vancouver back into the top 10 bicycling destinations!