This stretch of (somewhat) bike-friendly road extends from West 4th Avenue on the east end to Northwest Marine Drive by East Mall on the west end. It is gorgeous, with beautiful ocean views for the entirety.
Half the stretch has a dedicated non-partitioned bike path (east), while the other half (west) will necessitate riding on the side of a fairly wide road. This stretch of road is well paved, minus a couple of large construction divots (that are easily avoidable given proper diligence).
Both the east and west “entrance” to this stretch is a hill. On the east, the hill extends from West 2nd to 4th Avenue, by Jericho. The hill is under half a kilometre in length at most, at roughly four per cent grade. All bikes and fitness levels should be able to make it, though it might be arduous.
On the west, there is Spanish Banks Hill. This is much longer at just over two kilometres. The average grade is just over three per cent but it can pitch over five per cent at points, especially on its eastern portion. With Spanish Banks Hill, you can ride on the side of the road, or on the other side of the concrete barrier on the paved trail. The road has far better pavement; the paved path is extremely bumpy which can make riding up it very difficult.
Spanish Banks can be quite the endeavour if you are not on a bike with gears, or if your fitness isn’t at its best. If that is the case, just take it easy and know that you’ll get to the top eventually. Worst case – you can always move to the paved path and walk your bike up to the top.
This is a great stretch of road to enjoy in the summer. The flat roads and views of the ocean, beach and north shore remind you why Vancouver is so beautiful.
That being said, a couple of notes. Please be extremely vigilant. That particular stretch of road is very busy (obviously) during the summer as everyone tries to get to the beach. Cars are often not paying attention as they hunt for parking, or they will turn abruptly without signalling or just hang out in the bike lane, waiting for cars to leave parking spots. Also – even though the posted speed limit is 30 km/h, drivers will often go much faster. Cars may show you they are unhappy you are going the posted speed limit by honking at you or driving aggressively close.
You can avoid this stress by taking the gravel path that parallels NW Marine Drive. The gravel is very hard-packed and all bikes (even on the skinniest of road tires) can easily navigate it. The caveat is that the path is shared with pedestrians. On busy days, this also presents a host of dangers: pedestrians on the bike side of the path, children being children, dogs off or on very extended leashes, and so much more. My personal advice is to be respectful and ride slowly. The gravel path is shared, and pedestrians have the right to enjoy it on foot without being scared by a bike whizzing by. If you want to go fast, stick to the road.
Brian Lim likes to ride bikes (sometimes with his camera). He's a complete and consummate amateur - both in cycling and in photography, and says he doesn't take himself seriously - and neither should you. Lim wants to share his love of cycling, so please reach out if you want to talk! You'll find him on Instagram at @wheelsandwhisky.