We interrupt this bike ride… for a boat ride

1 08 2017

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There’s something sublime about interrupting a bike ride with a boat ride. It’s like you’re still moving forward, advancing towards your destination, but you’re resting at the same time.

Back in the day you could get that experience puttering out into the Fraser Valley by riding out to Maple Ridge, then hopping the Albion Ferry to cross the Fraser River and then a short jaunt on to Fort Langley.

But the little, free ferry ride ended when the expansive Golden Ears Bridge was built, and the opening of the new Port Mann Bridge provided plenty of safe bike route connections out to the valley.

Today a new ferry service started, and it’s practically in our front yard.

The Q2Q ferry is a pilot project by the City of New Westminster to connect our waterfront neighbourhood with the community of Queensborough, just across the north arm of the Fraser River.

That connection was supposed to be a pedestrian/cycling bridge, but a feasibility study determined such a structure would be too expensive to construct and too obtrusive once it met all the requirements to accommodate the movement of tugs, pleasure craft and barges the regularly move up and down the river.

When I moved out here in 1991, Queensborough was a sort of rural and industrial backwater. Downtrodden boatyards and lumber mills lined the shore, farms comprised the inland of the western end of Lulu Island, the area’s geographical name.

Almost all the lumber mills and boatyards are now gone, and the farms have given way to gleaming new residential developments laced with walking paths and punctuated with parks.

It’s a nice area, but with an old highway bridge the only link between Queensborough and mainland New Westminster, it might as well be on another planet. We can wave to people frolicking on the little beach across the channel, but to get there involves a bit of a drive or ride that can quickly go sideways if there’s an accident on or even near the bridge. Forget about transit.

So a few years ago the city floated the idea of building a pedestrian bridge to link the island to the mainland. We could cross to enjoy the waterfront trails and burgeoning neighbourhood, and they could come over to sample the food at the River Market, shop downtown, go to a restaurant without fighting traffic.

When that didn’t work out, it proposed a ferry service.

A dock is already in place on the island side, as a developer installed it years ago in anticipation of operating its own ferry service to the mainland. Of course, it never happened. And there are docking facilities along the Quay.

 

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This way to the boat.

 

With a boat finally arranged, the ferry service started this weekend. (For more background about the ferry, fellow FRFer and city councillor Patrick Johnstone has an excellent post on his blog)

As it was a soft launch, the service was free; although it will cost a couple of bucks a trip henceforth. And the sunny, warm weather brought out curious crowds, many of whom were left standing on the docks for the next sailing as the boat quickly filled.

Bikes are allowed.

So as the FRF pedaled back from its Sunday ride, I opted to peel out to try the new service out, and perhaps relive the idyllic pleasure of ferry-interrupted bike rides from days of yore. Diesel fumes aside, it was a pleasant enough journey. It’s always interesting to see familiar landmarks from the water’s perspective. Selfie opportunities abounded. Everybody on board was excited.

 

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Leaving the FRF team to take one for the team. A selfie that is.

 

Whether that excitement lasts when the weather turns cold and dreary will be the litmus test of the prospective service.