Cycling the Arbutus Greenway

I had seen others doing it and it looked like fun. So today was the day I finally hopped on the Arbutus Greenway for myself.

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This former railway track was recently converted into a paved pathway, connecting Marpole to Granville Island. It provides a designated north-south route for cyclists and walkers to get from one end of the City to another, something sorely lacking up until now.

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I loved it. It was so convenient to hop on 70th Avenue in Marpole and ride to 41st and onto Southwest Marine Drive to meet up with some friends at UBC. On my way home, I took 16th Avenue back to the Greenway so I could cover most of the path. It’s 8.5 km long—here’s a map.

These vibrant poppies and purple wildflowers near 70th were a delight to see as I started out.

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Community gardens line the right side of the path as you’re heading north. Someone had fun with these scarecrows.

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I loved seeing parts of the City I hadn’t seen before. I was riding slowly up Vancouver’s spine, admiring houses that belong in a fairy tale, smiling at strangers standing in gardens with a hose in hand, and breathing in the scent of wildflowers spilling onto the pavement.

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It was a leisurely ride devoid of traffic and steep hills! Most of the intersections had helpful signage that indicated to cross with pedestrians at the light, like you can see these cyclists doing at Arbutus and 16th.

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Benches and portable toilets were available along the way. The biggest hill from this point riding south was winding through the Quilchena neighbourhood. But it provided some fabulous new lookout points, including slices of ocean.

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Something to note is that there aren’t many trees along the trail so shade isn’t an option, which you really notice on hot days like today.

Between Nanton Road and Quilchena Park, these colourful rocks stopped me in my tracks. Their messages and the conversations they inspired were my favourite experiences along the route.

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Painted all colours of the rainbow, they are as diverse as the people I saw using the path: cyclists, walkers, joggers, seniors, kids, families, rollerbladers, people in wheelchairs, skateboarders, you name it.

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“Pretty cool, eh?” An oldish man spoke to me from the walking side of the path and I said, “Totally cool.” He pointed a little further down where a plaque explained this public artwork done by York House Grade 2 students, a Vancouver Biennale project.

I told him this was my first time on the path and he said he walks parts of it almost every day. “So it’s well used?” I asked. “Oh yeah,” he replied. He said it’s packed on the weekends and he’s particularly encouraged to see a lot of seniors walking with canes on it. He said many seniors don’t feel safe navigating heavy intersections, so this designated route gets more people out enjoying nature and the city who wouldn’t otherwise. I completely get that as a cyclist who doesn’t love riding on busy streets!

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Near the sign, I spoke with another man who was admiring the rocks. He said this Greenway really was a case of “build it, and they will come.” Apparently it’s just a temporary path though with plans to make it into “a destination that fosters both movement and rich social interaction – inspired by nature and the stories of the places it connects” (from the City website). I kind of like it just as it is though, with the exception of adding more public art and trees.

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I ended up having a third conversation with someone along the Greenway when I stopped at 57th Avenue to pick up a few things from Choices Markets. One of the Rainbow Rocks said “Make community” and these friendly encounters with strangers seemed to affirm the spirit of that message already, an experience I don’t take for granted in Vancouver.

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Romer’s, River, and a Ride

I’ve discovered my new favourite cycling route and it’s close to my home—even better! It borders the Fraser River which isn’t quite as glorious as the ocean, but hey, it’s still water.

The Artist and I had discovered the River District earlier this summer after a friend’s recommendation to eat at Romer’s Burger Bar.      

I forget what burger this was but it was delicious.

I forget the name of the burger but it was delicious.

Then we decided to bike there one Sunday morning. We took Kent Avenue east, a semi-busy industrial street that eventually leads to a dedicated bike path along the water.

The light gravel path is flat, making it a nice ride.

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Looking west towards Oak St bridge

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Looking east to what lies ahead

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Elegant townhouses along the way. Love those oval windows and steep angular roofs!

River District feels like this mysterious up-and-coming neighbourhood at Southeast Marine Drive and Kerr St that no one really knows about. And yet obviously people do because there’s quite the vibrant community there—condos, townhouses, a park, a Farmer’s Market every Saturday in the summer, and a bustling Romer’s Burger Bar (maybe because it’s the only restaurant there at this point).

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The website markets the River District as a “master-planned” neighbourhood similar to Yaletown, yet without the steep prices.

Here’s a blurb about it:

River District is Southeast Vancouver’s newest and largest waterfront community. River District, an award-winning project being developed by Wesgroup Properties, will be a complete community with unique sustainability features.  Covering 130 acres and including 7,000 homes, River District will include shops, restaurants, schools, daycares, parks and a community centre. Designed by a world-class team of planners, architects and engineers, River District will offer a new way to live, work and play in Vancouver.

Yeah, I’d live, work, and play here.

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The pier near Romer’s

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the main intersection

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If you keep following the bike path, it won’t be long before you reach this park in Burnaby, making you feel pretty hardcore that you just biked to a different city.

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1 2 3 4 5 things I’m riding/wearing/reading/hearing

Considering it’s Friday before the long weekend, and it’s sunny and almost the end of summer (cringe), I thought I’d feature my five favourite things literature/art and urban-related as of late. This will likely be my first and last pinterest-y style post.

my sweet ride

1. My bike that I’ve been using to ride to and from work most days this summer. I don’t love so much the bike, but the basket. Look at that steel-wired frame. Not one of those flimsy wicker baskets at the front, which maybe look more cool but can’t hold much more than a purse. This baby can hold cartons of milk from the grocery store. It fits a backpack with a change of clothes and my lunchbag. Probably the best $30 I’ve spent. It’s much more enjoyable riding a bike when you don’t have to carry something on your back.

Coal Harbour on a necklace

2. This necklace. I came across Black Drop Designs at a farmer’s market in Fort Langley the other week and fell in love with this urban-inspired photo jewellery. I asked if she had any New York scenes – she didn’t. So I got Vancouver instead – Coal Harbour to be precise, even though you can’t tell what city it is by looking at it. That’s the benefit of New York’s skyline.

alphabet scarf, kind of like alphabet soup

3. My other favourite fashion accessory that represents the literary side of me – a silk alphabet scarf. Reading. Writing. Words. I love wearing letters around my neck. This should be the item I wear when I have writer’s block. Maybe it would inspire something with its random repetition and conglomeration of letters.

my friend’s debut novel

4. This book, Before We Go. My friend wrote it. We did our Master’s at UVic together. She was one of my first friends in grad school, who I saw Easy A with in theatres early in the year, feeling uncertain of this grad school thing we had gotten ourselves into, who I made sugar cookies with in her Oak Bay basement suite at Christmastime, along with the other girls in our West Coast Lit class who became a family-away-from-family. She’s starting her PhD this fall with a book already under her belt. I turned to the back cover when I bought it at Chapters and smiled. There she was. She inspires me.

You really should check out this novel, especially if you like young adult fiction. It just so happens to take place in Victoria, in only a 7-hour time span one New Year’s Eve. She balances the line between sorrow and laughter well, which is not an easy thing to do in a work of art.

The Land of the Living

5. Matthew Perryman Jones. Speaking of art, I read an interview with musician Matthew Perryman Jones the other day and it compelled me to do some research. He talked about this thing called duende that inspires his music.

Do you ever have those words or ideas you hear about and you know you will love what they mean or what they stand for even if you don’t exactly know what it is yet? I felt that way about this word. Duende. Dark sound. Mystery. The sadness that lingers on the edges of certain songs. Real love songs. The sadness that can’t be explained but you know is there. You hear it. You feel it. Impossible to describe but impossible to deny. Stumbling upon this word, I felt I had been given a tiny key into MPJ’s music. I discovered him through Noisetrade and fell immediately in love with his songs, not quite able to put my finger on what it was I loved about them. I think it’s this duende that lives in them.

Listen to this song – I think you’ll hear what I mean.