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Cycling Vancouver: Riding the 'UBC Highway,' aka SW Marine Drive

It's not a partitioned or dedicated bike path per se, but it is a route used regularly by both recreational cyclists and commuters.

Depending on the exact start and finish points, what many Vancouver cyclists call the “UBC Highway” is about a four-kilometre stretch of road between West 16th (UBC Botanical Garden) and West 41st avenues. It is not a partitioned nor dedicated bike path per se, but it is a route used regularly by both recreational cyclists and commuters.

Travelling east from West 16th to West 41st, SW Marine drive is an ever so slight decline. On a road bike, it is very possible to reach 40 km/h – and even faster with the right legs and tailwind. Travelling west, the incline is minor enough that all cyclists should have little issue completing the section of road, though some effort might be required (an incline that is very minimal and also visually appears flat is often called a “false flat” by cyclists).

The area cyclists ride on is actually the shoulder of SW Marine Drive. Both the north and south sides of SW Marine Drive on this stretch have generous shoulders - wide enough to allow cyclists to pass other cyclists comfortably. Most of this section of road also has posted “no stopping” signs for cars, so, generally speaking, there is very little reason for cyclists to need to move into the car lanes. 

This route allows cyclists to connect to UBC (Wreck Beach, UBC, Spanish Backs/Jericho); to Vancouver West off of SW Marine Drive (Endowment lands, Camosun, 41st Avenue, 49th Avenue, 57th Avenue); and even to the Arbutus Greenway and further to Richmond.

Some notes:

1.  There are some points where interaction with traffic might occur (eastbound – by SW Marine Drive Viewpoint; westbound – by Westbrook Mall and W16th Avenue). Please be careful; drivers are often looking for other cars and not cyclists.

2.  The shoulder is generally clean during the summer. However, if the weather isn't dry the shoulder can be very debris-ridden. As always, keep an eye out ahead of you.

3. Many recreational cyclists travel this section at speed. If you are riding this section quickly, please be respectful of slower cyclists and verbally announce your presence.  

4. Because the speed limit on the specific segment of road is 80 km/h, cars in the lane closest to the shoulder can pass by almost frighteningly fast. If you are uncomfortable being close to fast-moving traffic, you can ride further to the right of the shoulder. Also note that buses in and out of UBC frequent this stretch, and their larger footprint can sometimes even create a wake-type effect, pulling or pushing you from your original line of travel.

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.

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