Choosing the right route important

Week four is Six to Weeks to Cycling Readiness series

Mapping out a safe and efficient bike route to get you to work and back takes a little planning

Bike? Check. Helmet? Check.Interest in staying healthy, feeling good and reducing greenhouse gas emissions?

Check, check and check.


But where in the heck do you ride this thing on roads that won’t stress you out, put you in danger or cause you to blow a lung climbing one of Nanaimo’s notorious hills?

Great question.

Mapping out a safe and efficient bike route to get you to work and back takes a little planning, but not as much as you might think.

As local cycling guru Richard Littlemore notes, drivers and cyclists have very different priorities when it comes to choosing a route to commute on.

“Drivers tend to want straight, wide roads with high speed limits – most seem to want no speed limit whatsoever,” said Littlemore. “Cyclists want trails with no traffic, or back streets with only the odd, slow moving car.”

Fortunately, Nanaimo has a plethora of scenic and direct side streets that run parallel to busy motorways that cyclists can choose.

What’s more, in 1994 the city recognized a need to improve cycling infrastructure to allow the ever-increasing amount of cyclists using local roadways safe and efficient passage and has been addressing the issue since.

As a result, great trailways like the E&N Trail and Parkway Trail have become common routes for cyclists, while busy roads like Departure Bay Road accommodate cyclists with dedicated lanes due to an increased road width from the standard 3.9 metres across to 4.7 metres.

Gord Foy, city engineer, said cycling routes are on the radar when road improvements are made.

“Whenever we upgrade a road, we consider if a cycling lane is a viable addition to that improvement,” said Foy. “And we do the same for pedestrians. Wherever we can improve access for all modes of transportation we try to do it.”

A key example of local improvements for cyclists includes the upgrade of Bowen Road near the Quarterway Bridge.

In what was previously a sketchy area for cyclists due to high speeds and a narrow roadway, once the project is complete in 2012, cyclists and pedestrians will have an excellent route to access the downtown and university areas.

To view all of Nanaimo’s 180-plus kilometres of bike routes and trails, visit, click on the ‘departments’ tab and follow it to parks, recreation and culture.

Once there, click on ‘parks, trails and field’ and look for the cycling link in the tab bar on the left. A brochure highlighting the city’s bike routes can be downloaded, and the city says it will be updated this month, just in time for Bike To Work Week 2011 (May 30 to June 5).

Another project on the go is the city’s first dedicated bike lane on Fourth Street that, at Vancouver Island University’s urging, will give a viable option for students and other commuters to ride safely back and forth to the campus from nearby neighbourhoods.

So the infrastructure is there and improving but the practical question remains: Which route do you take to get to work on your bike?

David Grey, president of the Greater Nanaimo Cycling Coalition, said the initial challenge is to find a route within your comfort zone and to give the route a practice run to ensure it meets your needs as a cyclist.

“Don’t overdo it to start,” said Grey. “Build up to it. You don’t want to get to work so tired and sweaty that you’re uncomfortable. Riding your bike should be a stress release, not stressful. So don’t push too far, plan ahead and ease your way into it.”

One of the most important aspects of a good route is flow. Having to constantly stop and start, or even dismount, can kill a cyclist’s mojo, as can traffic lights that can’t be tripped by a cyclist’s weight, resulting in long waits.

A good route requires little stopping, minimal hills, few cars and even quick little deeks through park trails or side streets that enhance the adventure value and make cycling more enjoyable.

“If you come across something like lights that don’t change for cyclists or unsafe road conditions, let the city know,” said Grey. “They are very fast at responding.”

Littlemore said exploring a bicycle route doesn’t necessarily have to be done by bicycle.

“This exploration might appropriately occur in a car and/or on foot,” he said.

For more information on Bike To Work Week and other route planning tips, visit or and help Nanaimo celebrate the bicycle.


Fast or safe? Find your comfort level

Anyone who has driven in downtown Vancouver lately will have noticed that bicycle couriers seem never to ride in bicycle lanes. With a tight schedule and an apparent disregard for traffic laws or personal safety, they’re forever choosing the shortest distance between two points – even if it means cutting right in front of you.

That’s not how cycle commuting should work. Depending on your risk tolerance, you’ll want to find a route that avoids traffic without taking you too far out of the way.

But here’s one area where you shouldn’t ask for advice. Find something that feels right – for you – and then be confident that you picked the right route.

Richard Littlemore, director

Greater Nanaimo Cycling Coalition


Keep following the News Bulletin’s six-part series (part 1 was published April 21) on what it takes to try bicycle commuting in the weeks leading up to Bike To Work Week, which takes place May 30 to June 5.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Oak Bay wins Vancouver Island basketball championship in Nanaimo

Third-place NDSS will get to challenge second place Claremont for a berth in provincials

Nanaimo drag queen Rick Meyers receives Victoria drag group’s highest honour

Queen City Sisterhood to bestow ‘sainthood’ upon ‘the divine’ Vicki Smudge

Qualicum Beach approves Pheasant Glen zoning amendment

Majority of residents who spoke at public hearing endorsed proposed amendment bylaw

Make your house a home at Nanaimo spring home expo

Building renovation and decor show taking place at Beban Park till Feb. 23

‘Frankenstein’ to be adapted as silent film made in real time at Port Theatre

Production merges stories of author Mary Shelley and character Victor Frankenstein

HIGHLIGHTS: Day one and two at the 2020 BC Winter Games

Athletes had sunny – but cold – weather to work with in Fort St. John

Tyler Toffoli scores twice, Canucks crush Bruins 9-3

Stecher, Miller each add three points for Vancouver

Zamboni driver, 42, earns NHL win over Maple Leafs

Emergency goalie called into action for Carolina Hurricanes

Governor general says multiple solutions needed for ‘complicated’ overdose issue

Julie Payette met at a fire hall with firefighters and police officers as well as politicians and health experts

Council approves two retail cannabis stores for Ladysmith

Their applications are now in the hands of the provincial government

Court awards Nanaimo woman $300,000 after crash exacerbates her fibromyalgia

Judgment follows 2015 motor vehicle accident on Turner Road

Affordable seniors housing complex pitched for Nanaimo’s hospital district

Seafield Crescent complex would include two five-storey buildings

Exclusive: Pamela Anderson talks plans for waterfront Ladysmith property after 12-day marriage

Anderson says she can pay her own bills. Peters denies making comments suggesting she can’t

Suspect steals seaplane, crashes into another in Vancouver habour

Police responded to the incident at 3:30 a.m. on Friday

Most Read