Wellington Cycling – a view from Vancouver

Cyclists on Dunsmuir cycle path, Vancouver
Cyclists on Dunsmuir cycle path, Vancouver

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!


2 thoughts on “Wellington Cycling – a view from Vancouver

  1. caroline

    My sister is living in Vancouver at the moment and visiting her last year I was very impressed with the priority streets too, and the bike racks on all the busses. They made it very easy to get around by bike even as someone unfamiliar with the area.

    I am mildly surprised that Wellington made the top ten (although reading it i find it is more for mountain biking rather than cycling around the city). I used to commute in from Lower Hutt, and from Newtown, I found both commutes enjoyable if unrelaxing. But we have all the things you could want though within easy cycling distance (lovely city, beaches, mt vic, miramar peninsula), so we could easily be world class if we could just reallocate a bit of space so people felt safer giving it a go.

    Currently living in London where the commute is different again, it is a case of knowing where to avoid, rather than which routes to take. Even the superhighways have trucks parked on them, and other cycle routes take you off on circuitous and disorienting detours. Having said that though, there are are a massive number of people riding bikes here, and with LCC and now the Times campaigning for safer conditions it feels like things are really starting to happen. Good to see the cycling scene growing in Wellington too. Exciting times!

    Great blog, keep up the good work!


  2. One project that I’d like to do this suemmr is a series of fine quality photographic portraits of the cyclists of Bremen. I’d like to set up a portrait studio on a busy corner, where cyclists can just pedal in on their bike, pose for a portrait in front of a studio screen and with studio lighting, leave their contact details and move on. You see so many well dressed, and often beautiful (especially in suemmr) cyclists there, I think to bring such an exhibition to Darlington would shock the majority of our citizens – that kind of sense of identity as a cyclist is very rare here.


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