SkyCycle: Would it Fly in Vancouver?

Riding along elevated bicycle highways passing over busy roads without having to stop. Imagine the Dunsmuir Viaduct without any motor vehicle traffic. A SkyCycle in Vancouver would be really wonderful. For the most part though, unlike London, there is typically space available near rail lines here making elevated paths on top of them unnecessary. Still, there are a few spots where elevated structures would make cycling a lot better.

Central Valley Greenway

A 750m elevated walking and cycling path from Grandview Hwy North and Clark to near the Home Depot over the False Creek rail yards was seriously considered a decade ago as part of the Central Valley Greenway. Unfortunately, it was killed for budget reasons leaving cyclists to contend with the 13% grade up to Clark by VCC and forcing them to cross two legs of the busy Clark and 6th intersection.

Since it follows the railway, the Central Valley Greenway has a lot fewer stop lights than parallel roads like Broadway and Lougheed Hwy. Last time I used it, I didn’t hit a red light between Caribou Road and Rupert Street. Little would be gained elevating this section. On the narrow section between Lillooet and Boundary, the SkyTrain is elevated leaving space on the ground for the Central Valley Greenway.

Portside Greenway

With the completion of the Powell Street Overpass this summer, the section of Powell Street between Clark Drive and Wall Street will be the only missing link in the Portside Greenway. An elevated path over the railyard in the Port is certainly one possible option. A less expensive solution would be to reallocate a lane of traffic on Powell Street to create a separated bike path.

Low Level Road

The new Low Level Road currently under construction in North Vancouver will include painted bike lanes on both sides of the road. However, with high vehicle speeds and lots of trucks, it will not be a great cycling route for people of all ages and abilities. On the north side, cyclists will be sandwiched between the traffic and a tall concrete retaining wall. Yikes! The Spirit Trail is the alternate route. Unfortunately it is much longer, very hilly and is further from the water.

A bicycle and pedestrian path over the rail yard would be a much better option. Hopefully they will built it soon once they realize that people really want bicycle paths separated from traffic that are flat and by the water.

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Burnaby Leads in Including Separated Bike Lanes in Street Plans

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The City of Burnaby has had the foresight to include separate bike lanes in its street plans for Lougheed and Willingdon in Brentwood Town Centre. As new developments are completed, the separated bike lanes are built adjacent them. As shown, in the photo, the first section on has been completed on the south side of Lougheed a block or so west of Lougheed.

This is a cost-effective method to adding bike lanes that doesn’t impact other users that much if at all. The downside, of course, is that it can take decades to complete the bike lanes leaving gaps in the meantime.

In this respect, Burnaby is leading Vancouver which has yet to include separated bike lanes in the street plans for the majority of arterial streets although there proposals to include them on the streets adjacent to Oakridge Mall and along Great Northern Way as part of the Central Valley Greenway. Still, there are no plans to include separated bike lanes on obvious streets such as Main and Kingsway. Main has a high number of cycling crashes which should make it a priority for improvements. Kingsway, along with streets including Burrard south of 1st, Nelson and Smithe were identified as candidates for bike lanes way back in the 1997 Transportation Plan. Burrard south of 1st will be torn up in 2015 for waterworks. This would be an ideal opportunity to add separated bike lanes at a low cost while minimizing traffic disruption.


As the majority of shops and businesses as well as an increasing number of homes are on main streets, separated bike lanes along them are critical to enable people of all ages to safely, conveniently and comfortably use bicycles in their daily lives.