Cycling uncertainly in Burnaby

Post by Mike Klassen in


A ride out to Burnaby made me grateful for Vancouver's real respect for cyclists

I probably know the geography of Burnaby as well as the City of Vancouver, spending a lot of the years of my youth out there, as well as summer jobs during university. I was surprised by the Maclean's survey that placed Burnaby in top spot as the most well-run city. I reviewed the survey methodology for a bit, then got impatient trying to read the numbers.

One place Burnaby can't boast about much yet, however, is their bicycle infrastructure. Certainly the city is trying to catch up with neighbouring Vancouver with its "urban trails" initiative, but if a trek I took with my wife across the city last week is an indication, Burnaby has a long way to go.

We left East Vancouver and rode a well-marked route along the Ridgeway bike route, then turned north along Earles (no crosswalk button at Kingsway yet) to 29th Avenue out to Boundary Road. According to the map supplied by Translink (which was the top result for a "vancouver bike routes" Google search), we could just hop on Fir Street. No such luck – as it turns out the route is on neighbouring Moscrop Street, connecting to Vancouver's 29th Avenue bike route.

Bike routes running through west Burnaby: confusing or non-existent

We experienced a little bit more than some crossed wires between Burnaby and Translink. We finally finally found Fir Street behind some bushes and an unmarked sidewalk, and proceeded east to the Deer Lake area.

Burnaby's suburban neighbourhoods developed in an hodge-podge manner over the last forty years. The further east you go the more cul de sacs you encounter. Huge lot sizes and massive houses to match. Community after community almost completely dependent upon cars. Sidewalks seem to be set out for walking the dog and not much more.

Building walkable communities in Burnaby is made challenging by the terrain. There is lots of water, both lakes and streams, and greenways that cut through its middle. In Burnaby's west is BCIT campus, quite possibly the most frustrating mess of academic buildings and parking lots in Metro Vancouver. I think it should be bulldozed if possible and a real plan for an institution with housing, student residences and shopping should be built up in its place.

It appears dependence on the car has put huge pressure on certain routes across the city like Willingdon and Canada Way. Speed bumps are the city's most often used traffic calming device. Cars trying to avoid congestion on major Burnaby thoroughfares like to duck down side streets. Speed bumps are almost as annoying to cycle over as drive.

Finding signage, crosswalk controls and properly marked bike routes through Burnaby was a hit and miss affair where we rode. In some cases roadway confusion about bike routes was potentially dangerous. For example, moving east along Moscrop Street past Wayburne Drive it's not clear that you have to cross over to the north side of the street to the urban trail, making you vulnerable to oncoming traffic.

Later in our ride we took a route marked on both Burnaby's and Translink's bike map, Elwell Street. When we encountered the six-lane arterial Canada Way we were by this time not entirely surprised that there was no bike crossing here. No crosswalk or controlled intersection. We just had to wait for the traffic to clear, pray and RUN! to get to the other side.

Southeast Burnaby: risky connections across town

Burnaby's "Highgate" neighbourhood (formerly Middlegate until it was rebranded by developers) is caught in a transition. Made up mainly of fifty-year old three-story walk up apartments, it's the one of Burnaby's low income communities. At its edge new buildings and a master plan are creeping their way in. Unlike so much of what we've ridden through, there is local shopping, dining and lots of transportation options.

For cyclists, it continues to be a challenge. Twice now I've tried to figure out how the bike route marked on Walker Street is supposed to connect with the BC Parkway on the south side of Kingsway at Edmonds Street. Again there are no signs, no marked bike lanes and no crossing in place here.

The BC Parkway is one of the real nice features of south Burnaby, but it's suffering from years of neglect. In places it's a pleasant ride, in other spots it's frightening. Graffiti and decay cover buildings near the Royal Oak and Metrotown Skytrain hubs. So much of the route is vulnerable due to lack of attention to CPTED principles. Thugs roam the Skytrain station perimeters, presumably dealing drugs. Blind corners invite threats to personal safety.

We can't blame the City of Burnaby for all the problems the BC Parkway faces, it was built by the Province during Expo after all. But today the Burnaby portion of the route is co-managed by that city and Translink, and there is a plan in place for modern improvements. It would be nice if there was a clear mark on which side pedestrians should walk, and where cyclists should ride. We nearly ran into people on the Parkway despite attempts to share the route safely.

After a breath of fresh air in the stunning forest of Central Park we continued back home through Vancouver along well-marked routes. We followed East 45th avenue, and both felt a sense of relief to be back on the Vancouver street grid. Turning north along Nanaimo, the bike route is adorned with beautiful landscaping and public art. We can thank Vancouver's senior planner and greenways goddess Sandy James for these immaculate touches all around the city.

We continued back on the Ridgeway where more public art hangs from telephone poles. For a brief slideshow of images taken along the route, follow this link and click the image for the notes to appear.

Sometimes you have to get out of your element to see how good you've got it. Burnaby may be #1 in Canada according to Maclean's mag, but when it comes to cycling infrastructure Vancouver is showing Canadians how to get it done.



I am sorry that poor route information marred your ride in Burnaby. For future reference, 8,000 copies of Burnaby's free Bike Map are distributed annually through libraries, parks, community centres and bike shops. It can also be accessed on line by going to:

Significant resources have been put into cycling infrastructure over the past decade and, while there is much work to be done, a network of urban trails, bikeways and cycle roads is falling into place. This year we opened the Central Valley Greenway - parts of which are still under construction. Next year we will open the Park-Crest and Mid-Town Bikeways which are under construction.

The BC Parkway is a TransLink facility. Over the past year a new vision for the Parkway has been developed with involvement of stakeholders. Details of the process can be accessed by going to:

Developing a successful cycling network is more challenging where topography and a discontinuous street grid conspire against it, but with input from the community and community groups such as the VACC and BEST, Burnaby is gradually overcoming both.

Regards, Ian Wasson

Burnaby may well be trying, but there is still much work to be done. Their position next door to Vancouver only highlights how much more effort is needed.

Here's another Burnaby cycling experience story:
The big budget Central Valley Greenway bike trail opened on June 27th, traveling from Vancouver's Science World to New Westminster Quay.

Burnaby knew about this opening date for months, but for some reason they had not completed all of their sections like Vancouver and New Westminster did. In fact on opening day they were working on a section on Government Street between Brighton Ave (where the Lougheed & Gaglardi Costco is) and Cariboo Road.

Better late than never I guess? Just when you think they're on the right track: they dug up the side of the road but didn't get around to paving. Still the same unfinished unpaved situation months later. I haven't have been by in a few weeks, so who knows, maybe they finally got around to finishing it.

Further, the section between Gilmore and and Willingdon is pretty sketchy: it goes to gravel (slow for all and impassable for roller bladers), down to a single lane and there's this arched bridge that you're supposed to dismount to cross! So much for biking efficiently and getting anywhere,

There is a one block section east of the Willingdon Costco that goes through the Burnaby recycling yard that is bad as well. It's gravel, filled with potholes and should be paved.

Come on Burnaby, you're the best run city in Canada.

Took me almost 2 hours to get from North Burnaby to New West this morning after trying to navigate my way along the Central Valley Greenway trail.

Unfortunately Jeff L., Burnaby still has a LONG way to go - although it does seem like construction is occuring at a slow and steady pace (perhaps by next summer it'll be finished).

I previously read about some of the construction and signage issues along the Burnaby section of the CVG, but thought that 13 weeks (since its official opening) was probably enough time for the Best Run City in Canada to work out the kinks along the route....WRONG!

Apparently, Burnaby has thought it adequate to place signs, at random, along the route reminding riders every so often that they are still on the "Greenway" - most of which is nothing more than a gravel trail or narrow bike lane along a heavily used, industrial road - without bothering to use directional arrows!!! You are simply left guessing which direction/road/bike lane to take, and hope you come across another sign...if not you just have to backtrack.

The worst section is the split between the CVG and Cariboo Bikeway. While there is a sign at the corner of Cariboo and the road leading to the RV Park and the CVG trail, the sign is on Cariboo and has no arrow indicating that you should turn left. I can't imagine how many people endured the ride up Cariboo hill only to find themselves miles from the CVG trail.

Get your act together!

Check out!

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