6 historical photos from Vancouver’s first bicycle ‘craze’ (PHOTOS)

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Some people scoff at Vancouver’s bike culture, while others couldn’t imagine life without their trusty two-wheeler.

The truth is, biking has always been a bit of a “thing” in Vancouver, well before there were bike lanes. As the population began to increase at the beginning of the 20th century, so did the use of bicycles on city streets. The spike in cycling use was so big that Vancouver’s first City Archivist, Major James Skitt Matthews, documented it in his seven-volume series, Early Vancouver. 

You can check out his 1931 excerpt on Vancouver’s bike ‘craze’ below, along with these awesome photographs from the Vancouver Archives.

The Vancouver Bicycle Club at Prospect Point, 1985

Matthews, James Skitt, Major, Vancouver Archives Item: St Pk P174

A high wheel bicycle race at Brockton Point, 1902

Matthews, James Skitt, Major, Vancouver Archives Item: Sp P57

Bicycle race at Hastings Park, 1926

Thomson, Stuart, Vancouver Archives Item: CVA 99-1514

Cycling in Stanley Park, ca. 1890

Williams, Donn B.A., Vancouver Archives Item: CVA 586-1339

Terminal City Cycling Club ca. 1896

Matthews, James Skitt, Major, Vancouver Archives Item: Sp P16

Canadian Youth Hostel bike hike at concession stand, 1943

EARLY VANCOUVER, VOLUME 1, PAGES 79-81 by Major James Skitt Matthews

15 JULY 1931 – Bicycles and Bike Paths

The bicycle ‘craze’ was prevalent in Vancouver, as elsewhere, about 1900; almost every family had at least one, some had more; nearly all young men, and most young women, many elderly men and some elderly women rode. It was a convenient mode of travel in a city as yet unprovided with a full street car service; a growing city badly scattered, and among a people who, as yet, had acquired no individual wealth to speak of. Motor cars were still some years off, many had neither facilities, room, nor means to possess stables or buggies. The bicycle was no longer the unwieldy “penny-ha’penny,” big wheel small wheel affair. The “safety” bicycle had come, and with it the Dunlop pneumatic tire; and the “coaster brake” was soon coming. Both wheels were the same size now; it was easily mounted and dismounted, and a fall from it rarely gave much hurt, as the old high wheel, hard tire “wheel” did.

According to the City of Vancouver website, cycling is the fastest growing mode of transportation in Vancouver. From 2008 to 2011 alone, trips by bike increased by a full 40% and those numbers are only increasing with the introduction of bike share programs.


We’ll be celebrating Vancouver’s favourite mode of transportation at the first-ever Awesome Grand Prix presented BICICLETTA, happening July 28th in Jonathon Rogers Park. There will be food trucks, a beer garden and of course, tons of cycling! You can learn more about the event HERE.

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Adam Nanji is the Content Manager at Vancouver Is Awesome. When he’s not scouring the city for awesome news, he performs as ¼ of local band, Belle Game. Adam grew up in Vancouver and earned a degree in Cultural Studies with a double minor in Communication and Gender Studies from McGill University. He’s passionate about Vancouver’s social issues and local art. You’ll typically find him standing on a corner, contemplating where to eat next. Tell him what you think is awesome: adam@vancouverisawesome.com