The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

19 07 2010

I am nothing if not a creature of habit. Especially on the bike.

I like to start my rides at about the same time of day. I stick to a few basic routes that I know very well and trust the traffic flow.

But seeing as I’m on vacation this week, and in the interests of blog fodder, I decided today to bust out from regular 65 km ride to and from UBC.

Oh, I rode out to UBC as usual; but on the way back, I veered south with the intent of traversing the new SkyTrain bridge into Richmond for the very first time, and then explore the Other Side of the Fraser River.

I rarely venture to the Other Side of the Fraser River by my own free will. Other than the airport, there’s no real reason to go there; it’s just bland, flat suburbia, with a mix of light industry and a big-ass casino.

But with my bike’s drivetrain worn to the point of lurching whenever I apply heavy pressure to the pedals, and my bike shop awaiting replacement parts, bland and flat were just what I needed.

So at Cambie, I turned right and headed down the bike lane towards my rendezvous with another bridge.

Unlike the Pitt River and Golden Ears bridges, the approaches to this bike crossing are very clearly marked, no guessing needed, no balancing on a narrow sliver of pavement riding opposite to the direction of traffic.

The approach to the SkyTrain Bridge to Richmond is clearly marked.

The bridge itself is a wonder. Built to carry SkyTrain across the Fraser, it is flanked on one side, and just below the rail guideway, by a wide, partly-covered path for cyclists and pedestrians.

The views are of the industrial river hard at work, log booms being pulled and jostled by red or green tugboats, light industry on each shore, the busy Granville bridge full with cars just downriver. The jets zooming low overhead every couple of minutes as they approach the runway at YVR are a bonus. It’s literally planes, trains and automobiles.

Planes, trains and automobiles, all in one glance.

In fact, the only unfortunate part of this bridge crossing is its destination, a busy, dusty, noisy industrial park.

As I’m totally unfamiliar with the roads in Richmond, all I knew was to look for River Road and head east. Alas, River Road starts and stops in a few places, so I had to feel my way through a couple of detours to get back on track.

River Road runs beside the Fraser River, of course.

The route is busy with trucks, wide pickups and fast-moving BMWs, even as it leaves the industrial parks and hugs the Fraser past dilapidated boat yards and shanty houses on the other side of drainage ditches.

The Fraser has been a working river since the beginning of time.

Eventually River Road carries me back into a part of New Westminster that is an island in the Fraser. That means another bridge to get home.

If the SkyTrain Bridge is the Good, the Pitt River and Golden Ears bridges the Bad, then the Queensborough Bridge is the Ugly.

While the approaches are well marked, the bridge crossing itself is extremely narrow and noisy, with huge trucks and speeding cars buzzing your ears from just the other side of the protective barrier. Not a lot of fun.

Traffic buzzes uncomfortably close on the Queensborough Bridge.

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