Bald Eagles

Explore Vancouver by Bike – The New York Times

Explore Vancouver by Bike - The New York Times

When I came back to Vancouver in the late 1980s, cycling in the city was different than it is today. In my memory, the only people brave enough to ride downtown were bike couriers. On sunny afternoons, there were a dozen of them lounging and smoking outside the HSBC bank building on West Georgia Street, waiting for their next outing, looking bored and skeptical, all outlaws.

Ordinary civilians, like me, were introduced to mountain bikes in those days because they could be ridden on trails—that is, safely removed from sometimes deadly city traffic.

All that has changed. Bike couriers have fallen into technology. Vancouver decided to become a “green city”, and we now have a network of protected cycle paths throughout the city centre. Commuting to work, or even just casually riding a bike, is no longer a vital undertaking.

Meanwhile, in 2015 the city also completed the latest seawall extension with separate cycle and pedestrian lanes. You can now walk its length, with little elevation gain, from the Vancouver Convention Center on the north side of downtown, around Stanley Park, along the north and south shores of False Creek, and finally, all the way to the west to the wide sandy beaches in the Spanish Banks. There, in late spring and early summer – especially on weekdays without crowds – bald eagles can be seen rolling in pairs in the updrafts above anchored freighters.

I love the dyke. But then, a lot of us do it here. We walk there. We do it by bike. We crowd the community squares along their entire length in all good weather. When asked how a visitor can really see this place on a short visit, this is what I would say: rent some wheels and hit the levee. There’s no better way to experience Vancouver from so many angles while accessing a range of local tastes and experiences as you go. And with bicycle and e-bike rental shops all over the city center, it couldn’t be easier.

From Canada Place, Vancouver’s downtown cruise port, the most compact version of the seawall would be to circle Stanley Park, the densely wooded 1,000-acre public park that stretches west from downtown and is arguably the crown jewel of the city. Weave your way through buskers and convention-goers near Canada Place and take the bike path at the southwest corner of the Vancouver Convention Centre. From the north side of the building, you’ll get a great view of the working harbour: orange cranes towering over their stacks of quilt containers; ferries crossing the inlet to North Vancouver; the faint roar of seaplanes taking off and heading west across the uprights of the Lions Gate Bridge.

It’s only a few minutes ride from here to the park, bypassing the Coal Harbor Marina with its huge yachts, then the Westin Bayshore. Expect foot and bike traffic. But past the red and white Brockton Point lighthouse, traffic thins out. I find it serene to glide along this stretch, with the Stanley Park forest rising high on one side and those towering mountains right there on the other side of the cove.

Once around the corner under the Lions Gate, car traffic explodes above your head, stop to watch seabirds, fishermen casting lines on the rocks, sailboats tacking and pushing through the anchored freighters.

At a leisurely pace, which I encourage, it takes about 40 minutes to reach English Bay from where you started at Canada Place. Here, I always jump off the seawall to dive into the dense bustle of Vancouver’s West End. Like many others, I used to rent here. And if you stop for a drink at Hotel Sylvie bar, or head to Denman Street for a coffee at Deny’sor for five pork meatballs in beef broth at Legendary Noodleyou might also consider yourself an honorary West Ender.

To complete this short journey, now leave the seawall and continue north on Denman Street. You can walk your bike during this stretch as street life is its own entertainment. When you reach the water at the north end of Denman, you join the seawall and can then follow it to Canada Place.

For a longer trip, around 90 minutes round trip, stay on the sea wall and walk past English Bay, under the Art Deco-style Burrard Street Bridge and into False Creek. Here you will find a very different set of Vancouver scenes and moments.

Home to sawmills and lumber yards as recently as my own childhood, False Creek is now a residential area with waterfront condos, shops, restaurants, parks and other large yachts in marinas along the along the north side of the creek. I always stop to look at the little boats anchored for free: the cruise ships, which, combined with these bath tubs taking people back and forth to shop on Granville Islandgive False Creek a pleasantly lived-in atmosphere.

I turn this into a picnic when I’m here with friends and family. There are excellent waterside restaurants in Yaletown’s upscale converted warehouse district. But 15 minutes past English Bay to the foot of Davie Street, you can have a more casual lunch of pancetta and onion pizza at the Sciue Italian Bakery or a bento from the high-end grocery store Urban rate. Eat on the benches that line the water or in David Lam Park, where you can listen to the children in the playgrounds and watch the wedding parties take pictures under the cherry blossoms.

Just 10 minutes further up the seawall, towards the end of False Creek, past the geodesic dome of world of science, you will find the public square of the Olympic village. You’ll know you’re there when you see”The birds” sculpture: two house sparrows just under 20 feet tall. If you’ve been waiting for lunch, this is prime food truck territory, but a rosemary peach pie and coffee from Terra Breads cafe has never failed to hit the mark either. After lunch, stroll down to the water, lean on the railing and watch the dragon boats, 20 paddlers each, churning the water in a white wake.

Following the signs for the seawall bike path, you will soon arrive at Granville Island. It’s a big attraction, so expect crowds. But it is also a local place. When I lived closer, I shopped at the public market here almost every day. Even now I will stop by to say hello to the people of Tender Land Meats, or watch the fishmongers break down the salmon. You can also stroll through the alleys of the island to see the glassblowers at work. Popine at the end of the pier, you’ll find everything from falafels to hot Nashville chicken, lobster rolls to crispy cod sandwiches. To complete this 90-minute ride, take the bike-friendly Aquabus on the other side of the market and less than 15 minutes from Place du Canada via protected bike paths.

You will have already seen a large part of the city. But as a local, I would consider a shutdown still pending. This is the longer version of the dyke ride and would take just over two hours in total from Canada Place to Spanish Banks and back. Proceed west from Granville Island, around Vanier Park, pass Vancouver Maritime Museum. Pause to admire the heritage boats moored at Elsje Point. I love the Anja with the red sail especially, a Bristol Bay Cutter, the design ancestor of modern racing yachts. Cruise past Kitsilano Beach Park, down West Point Gray Road and around the corner to the Jericho Sailing Center, where kids learn the ropes on their 420s and lasers. Here, Spanish Banks opens up before you: a wide strip of grassy shoreline and sandy beach that heads west.

On summer weekends, the area buzzes with family barbecues, volleyball games on the sand. But for me, the day of the week matters much less than the tides. I time my visit to Spanish Banks for the lowest low, when the sea retreats dramatically, exposing hundreds of meters of sand along a two kilometer beach.

You will need beach shoes. There are tidal pools. With your bike locked, head to the sand flats. The dogs will chase the frisbees up and down. Gulls will screech and dive. The eagles will turn and fly away. And if you walk near the edge of the sand, the freighters will seem almost close enough to touch.

I will invariably turn and face the city at this point. I’ll notice the dense green shoulder of Stanley Park, the soaring and bristling towers of the West End, the crystal-glass constellation of downtown, and the towers of False Creek, all seemingly silent and still from this distance. , a lifeline wedged between the eggshell sky dome above, the steely blue ocean below.

Here’s the best angle in town, I submit. Vancouver in a single macro preview. Definitely worth the trip for a newcomer. Even for this lifer, a revelation each time.

Timothy Taylor is a novelist and journalist. His latest work is a novel about the rise and fall of a celebrity chef. Mr. Taylor lives and eats in Vancouver.