South Seawall Cambie to Granville Island: March 2018. The Seawall is open again after a winter of building a separated bike path!
Fairview runs along south False Creek between Burrard and Cambie Bridges. It passes Granville Island and goes through park-like residential seaside settings. The Fairview seaside bike route offers some of the most pleasant and gentle seaside riding. It’s warmer and less windy, and the gardens and landscaping along it are extensive and well-tended.
Stop at Granville Island and get something to eat or drink. Although there’s a food court, don’t neglect the a la carte fare from the market vendors. Buy trail mix to eat at the beach, or sit out back of the market and watch the boat traffic through False Creek.
Fairview (2.9 km/1.8 mi) (pink line):
Be aware that the bike and pedestrian paths are combined in places and there are corners where you can suddenly come face-to-face with a jogger, a dog, children, a stroller or someone in a wheelchair. Especially around Granville Island, people are everywhere.
The general rule of combined-use pathways is that bikes should stay on the inside, away from the water. The over-riding (if you will) rule, though, is ride where the pedestrians aren’t.
Our own rule, developed from years of riding is that nothing is predictable. Be wary around the Charleson off-leash dog park, and for God’s sake, don’t run into the stupid information pole stuck in the middle of your path at the same place.
Which reminds us: there’s an “information” pole at Charleson Park. Don’t hit it. Irony of ironies – the hospital is directly south from there. Take the pedestrian overpass and go straight up. Why would they stick an information pole in the middle of the path except to provide directions to a hospital? If you could ride directly south exactly 0.666km from that information pole, you’d be in the hospital’s emergency wing. Is that just a coincidence?
Of the two bridges, Cambie is easiest to cross and not as steep.
Burrard Bridge (2.2 km/1.3 mi from seawall) is west, spanning the mouth of False Creek. Burrard Bridge must be accessed on this eastern side as the bike path is one-way in each direction, and to go across you need to be on the False Creek side.
Although there’s a hilly seaside bypass road that connects the two bridges, a simple way to get to Burrard Bridge is up Anderson from Granville Island up to West 2nd and along east to Burrard.
Cambie Bridge (1.0 km/0.6 mi from seawall) has stairs at the sea side path if you want to carry, but you can ride up Spyglass Place alongside the bridge: go under the bridge to the ramp on the northbound side, slip quickly into low gear, and power up the ramp, checking for traffic and making a precarious hairpin turn, suddenly turning into the path of startled pedestrians. Go over the bridge to Yaletown.
But since you’re already going up to the bridge, you might first want to cross West 2nd and check out the bigger-box stores along Cambie – Best Buy, Canadian Tire, Save On, Home Depot, Whole Foods, among others. Before the Olympic Village development in Mount Pleasant and the opening of the Canada Line’s Olympic Village station west of the bridge on 2nd, this part of Fairview had nothing in the way of shopping. There were two small independent grocery stores and for most anything else you had to go up to Broadway. Now it’s got everything, including crispy General Tso chicken and spicy green beans at the long-standing Szechuan Chili on West 6th.
The Fairview seaside is cut off from the area south by a rail line and too-fast 6th Avenue. That’s just as well, because the roads going up to Broadway are steep here. You’re better going up near or on Cambie, or prepare to walk up a few steep blocks.
There’s limited road access across West 6th apart from the bridges. If you’re at Charleson Park (where the dogs run), follow it to its highest point and you’ll find a pedestrian overpass (the Laurel St Landbridge).
If you need to quickly get to either bridge, take Lamey’s Mill Road/Charleson Road a block south of the seaside, running behind the residential developments. The road’s a bit fast with cars, and hilly, but faster than following the curves of the seaside or navigating the warren of lanes through the residences.
Riding On: Adjoining Seaside Routes
Of the many places we’ve lived in our lifetime, we’ve never been far from something named “Fairview.” As names go, it’s as common as, well, “Mount Pleasant.” Coming up with original names for things isn’t as easy as we’d think. In Fairview, almost all of the continuous north-south streets are named after trees. Granville is an exception. Granville isn’t a tree, of course. Granville was the original townsite name until 1886.
Historically Fairview has shared the same fate as the rest of False Creek – sawmills, ship fabricators, metal work, wood processing, transportation and warehousing, and so on, but it became residential up the slope once the access opened up.
Fairview was hard to get to from downtown, so it didn’t develop until the city was getting fairly large and prosperous. Bridges were put in, and a commuter streetcar system was added in around the 1900s.
When the decision was made in the sixties to restore False Creek and put in residential development in place of industry and commerce, the seaside developments were built.
Cultural Harmony Park:
At the eastern-most extent, past Granville Island, you come up to a road called Creekside, approximately the site of a native reserve set up in 1870. Follow it south to get to the Burrard Bridge crossing, or continue along the shoreline and descend to the seaside path to the right of the cul de sac (dead end) onto a narrow divided path and around a sharp blind curve. It’s not the safest bit of path: it’s fast, it’s narrow, you can’t see around the curve; there’s a seemingly misplaced totem pole drawing bewildered and lost tourists at the corner, there are dogs, people jogging on the wrong side, people coming down the stairs from the walkway over the Marina, cyclists coming at you at blinding speed, and crows yelling directions at everybody.
It’s also sort of a dank under-the-bridge place, an ogreplatz tucked between Fairview and Kitsilano that no one has any immediate use for, but may need later. It’s a slightly sketchy wasteland, but you’d do well to take a moment to relax at Cultural Harmony Park.
Cultural Harmony Park is planted with exotic plants commemorating Vancouverites who have in some way contributed to our cultural harmony. We like the purple-flowered Empress Tree best.
The columns of Burrard bridge tower overhead. Burrard Bridge was built in the early 1930s in an Art Deco style to connect downtown Vancouver with Kitsilano along Burrard Street. The green netting above is there to capture bits of concrete falling off that might hit and injure you. It is certainly interesting to study from below.
This is most importantly also the location of the Squamish village of Snauq (or Senawk, etc.), and that explains the welcoming totem pole in this most obscure location. The longhouse was situated under the bridge, and fields were nearby. Snauq was part of a native reserve to which natives moved to work in the sawmills and other industries as Vancouver developed.
Query: “How many Indians do you suppose lived around Burrard Inlet and English Bay before the white-man came?”
August Jacks (exaggerating): “About a million! There was a settlement at E—yal—mough (Jericho), another at Snauq (Burrard Bridge), at Ay—yul-shun (English Bay Beach), at Stait-wouk (Second Beach), at Chay—thoos (Prospect Point), at Whoi—Whoi (Lumberman’s Arch), at Homulcheson (Capilano), at Ustlawn (North Vancouver), at Chay-chi1-wuk (Seymour Creek) — there was nothing at Lynn Creek — and more settlements up the inlet besides the one at Kum-kum-lye (Hastings Sawmill).”
Conversations with Khahtsahlano, 1932-1954. P 31.
Although this area was a native reserve set up in 1870, ten acres here were expropriated by the CPR for the building of a trestle across False Creek in 1886, and was turned over to the Musqueam band in 2002.1
The narrow rise of land directly above the totem pole is the foot of the old CPR Granville Trestle (1886-1985) seen in many old pictures. You can follow its direction off into the downtown across the Creek. Over this ran the trains to the canneries at Steveston, up the Arbutus corridor, and over to Kits Point where there was a naval reserve and where one day, speculated the CPR in the early years, there might be a large port.
Where you see the little park and the boats to the side, once were situated the inter-tidal squats of unemployed men during the 30’s and 40’s.
We find it peculiar that such a now-obscure and rude piece of land should be so rich in history. Telling about the squatters in the past reminds us – there are still homeless people who find refuge by living in the woods here, so best to pay your respects and move on.