Destination: Victoria (or Vancouver if you go in reverse)
Mode of Transportation: Bicycle
Route Taken: Vancouver to Victoria
There is challenging terrain to traverse, amazingly wild beaches to explore, eccentric artisans to meet, and cute little villages to visit on Vancouver Island and the Southern Gulf Islands, all accessible from the BC Ferries Tsawwassen Terminal.
But how do you get there by bike?
I quite frequently commute between Vancouver and Victoria and must admit that when I first started (about 5 years ago) the Massey Tunnel seemed to be the most insurmountable obstacle to overcome. Not only did I have to find the pick-up point for the shuttle but also had to become a scheduling mastermind to coordinate which tunnel shuttle I had to be on to catch the ferry I wanted. Did I mention bicyclists are banned from riding through the tunnel? Thankfully there is a shuttle and slowly, year by year, the hours seem to be improving as more people use it.
The alternative is to ride over the Alex Fraser Bridge, an additional 25 km added to the trip, or take the bus. Keep in mind there are only 2 bike racks on a bus and you might have to ride to the Ladner Exchange to catch one that isn’t already full.
The “Route Taken,” above, links to my usual route map so I won’t comment too heavily on the actual route. I will focus more on the “secret handshakes” that I found were not quite so clear no matter how many websites I visited.
I have not yet found an easy way to traverse across Richmond in the North/South direction towards the Massey Tunnel bike shuttle. Perhaps Shell Road gravel trail is the safest route as far as interacting with traffic, but I always seem to be running late so I opt for the paved roads. Often times, other shuttle riders pass me en route and recognize a fellow shuttle rider. Unspoken etiquette is whoever gets there first lets the shuttle driver know there is another person coming. He usually waits. The secret handshake here is that the pick-up/drop-off spot is on the east side of the highway 99 (not the Richmond Visitors Bureau as the website implies) so follow Rice Mill road over the 99 and turn left through the do not enter signs. There will be a bench and sign on the left side of the road. You can load your own bike onto the shuttle or wait for the driver to help you. This section of the ride from Vancouver to the Massey Tunnel Shuttle is approximately 20km depending on where you are coming from.
Take a time out to relax through the tunnel. The shuttle drop-off/pick-up point on the other side is the Shell Gas Station (again, not the Town and Country Inn as the website implies). The first few times I took the shuttle I didn’t know about the easy back road route to the ferries and risked my life negotiating the traffic interchange onto highway 17a. Thankfully on one of my tours another shuttle rider showed me the safer way which I’ve mapped in the “Route Taken.” Other shuttle riders are a great resource for finding new, safer routes.
Another possibly not so clear section is crossing under highway 99. Follow 64th Street until it almost crashes into the 99. The road turns left here but there is a path heading to the right that goes under the highway and then joins back with 64th Street. The rest of the route is fairly clear on the map. Just remember when you get to the ferry terminal on a bike, you can go to any one of the kiosks. Pick one with no line-up. It doesn’t matter where it says it’s selling tickets for. You can buy a ticket for Victoria from a kiosk that says Nanaimo.
Once you reach Swartz Bay Terminal it’s another 35km to Victoria. The choices are cruising down the highway drafting with the vehicle traffic or taking the Lochside trail. I usually take the highway, it’s got a very wide smooth shoulder and I can make it to Victoria before the city bus does. Gives me some sense of satisfaction. The Lochside Trail takes a bit longer as it is a combination of paved pathways, rural roads, dirt and gravel trails and trestle bridges. But there are no hills and the scenery is a lot more fun AND it is completely doable on a bike with skinny tires. The “Route Taken” map shows the Lochside Trail option. It is well signed so no more comments from me until reaching Victoria.
The Lochside Trail connects with the famous Galloping Goose trail just under Carey Road in Victoria. At this point the more direct route into the city is to ride back up a steep, but short path to the Carey Road crosswalk and then along Ravine way to the Pat Bay Highway which has a bicycle lane all the way into Victoria. The return trip at this point will be a little different as the North and South lanes are separated. On the return trip there is a parking lot for a Saanich Municipal building just after Ravine Way on the right. Turn right, into the parking lot and ride straight back until you see the Lochside Trail on your right.
So give yourself a pat on the back! You made it from Vancouver to Victoria (or Victoria to Vancouver) by bicycle. A total of approximately 70km ridden!
This is a great way to get back and forth between Vancouver and Victoria. It’s good exercise, not too challenging terrain with some natural built-in rest stops. Just to give an idea on how much time this tour might take, I usually leave from work near King Edward Ave and Cambie Street around 4pm and ride hard (about 27kph on the flats in Richmond) to the 5pm shuttle. It’s a good idea to leave in plenty of time because if you miss the shuttle it sets the whole schedule off by an hour. With no messing around on the south side of the tunnel I immediately get on my bike and ride hard again to catch the 6pm ferry but in reality there is often a headwind and I don’t feel too bad about easing up on the pedals and rolling on to the 7pm ferry. The ferry takes another 1:35 of rest and refuel time. Riding into Victoria from the ferry along the highway usually takes about 1:20 but I would guess it takes about 2hrs on the Lochside Trail. I sometimes make a day of my return trip on Sunday and take my time to sight-see along the Lochside Trail so I don’t have a good estimate of how long it really takes. Best case scenario the trip takes about 5hrs!