Cycling extends the catchment area for transit






Velo.Urbanism, Barcelona

Velo.Urbanism, the Blog

CycloTouring Tales:

The Vancouver BC - Seattle WA Corridor

The distance from Vancouver BC to Seattle WA is about 230 km from downtown to downtown along major roads, expressway and interstate highway.  Is it a dream that some day there may be a separated route for cyclists to make this journey?

Cycling from Toronto to Montreal can be done along the Waterfront Trail.  These cities are about 550 kilometres apart.  The trip can be cycled in 3 days to 5 days depending on one’s personal stamina.  The trail has various forms of separation along the way including bike lanes and paved shoulders along with some minor roads with very light car traffic.  The Province of Québec’s portion is on one of the La Route Verte’s routes.

A trail has been developed from London, England to Paris, France with the same type of infrastructure and a ferry crossing of the English Channel.

So, is it a dream to hope for a separated trail between Vancouver and Seattle or is it an emerging reality?  While it may be more distance cycling than driving between the two cities, already 40% of the direct distance has bike trails with additional portions of the route cycleable on roads with bike-lanes and paved shoulders.


Burke-Gilman Trail Interurban Trail Centenial Trail Frontage Road - Mount Vernon Anacortes Bike Route 1 - Rail-Trail Bridge

Burke-Gilman Trail, Seattle WA


Interurban Trail, Seattle North, WA Centennial Trail, Snohomish County, WA Frontage Rd., I-5 to Mount Vernon, WA

Anacortes Bike Route 1, Rail-Trail Bridge, WA

WA State Ferry Galloping Goose Trail - Victoria Lochside Trail BC Ferries Bike Ferry - George Massey Tunnel
Washington Derry - Anacortes WA to Sidney BC Galloping Goose Trail to Victoria BC Lochside Trail to Schwartz Bay Ferry Terminal, BC BC Ferry - Schwartz Bay to Tsawwassen Ferry Docks, BC Bike Ferry, George Massey Tunnel, Richmoond, BC

Bike Ferry - George Massey Tunnel

Shell Trail, City of Richmond BC

Bike Path on Canda Line Bridge, Vancouver

Seaside Path, Olympic Village, Vancouver


Bike Ferry, George Massey Tunnel, Richmond, BC Shell Trail, City of Richmond, BC Bike Path on Canada Line Bridge, Fraser River, Cities of Richmond and Vancouver, BC Seaside Path, Olympic Village, City of Vancouver, BC

Winery shopping trip - Vancouver Island



CycloTouring – Seattle to Vancouver


Occasional conversations with other cyclists while cycling can have a significant effect on the routing for the rest of a trip. This happened to me again last week while on the Burke-Gilman Trail as I was making my way out of Seattle enroute to Vancouver BC. My intention for the segment to Mount Vernon was to cycle on this trail to Bothell, continue north on Bothell Way with bike lanes (the Bothell-Everett Highway 527) to south of Everett, and then use highway and interstate frontage roads from there.

While stopped at an intersection along the trail in Kenmore, a local randonneuring enthusiast picked up a conversation. He asked if I was going to use the 50 kilometres, paved Centennial Trail from Snohomish north. That was enough for me to reroute my trip plan, the sound of a long, paved trail.

I had cycled the Vancouver –Seattle corridor in both directions enough that I was searching for a new route. The Highway 9 route was not tried. Many cyclists spoke against using this road, which is without paved shoulder, narrow, and enough truck traffic to make it uncomfortable; so I am told. I was going to try it on my way from Vancouver to Seattle. Another event caused me to take the Amtrak train with its reservable bike racks in the luggage car. Now, this mode had been used a few times when time considerations or lack of personal will power caused me not to cycle between these two cities.

So my plans changed. The 30 kilometres from Seattle on the Burke-Gilman Trail was completed. 17 km of cycling on the bike lanes of Highway 527 was next. That would be followed at Silver Lake by a 0.8 km connection on 112 St. SE. to the Interurban Trail. Then, it would be time to follow the Interurban Trail, a mainly off-road trail with on-road sections for 7.8 km to 52nd St SE. From there the route would go east 1.7 km to the light-traffic Lowell Snohomish River Rd. at the junction of the Lowell Recreational Trail. 11.3 km later, the junction of the Centennial Trail in Snohomish would be reached. Then it would be time to enjoy 50 km of off-road, paved trail cycling.

From the trail head south of Lake McMurray, it would be time to join Highway 9 to the intersection at Highway 534. Then west the cycle took me to the western frontage road at Interstate 5, close to Conway. 25 km from the trail head, the north end of Mount Vernon and the night’s destination was reached. A bit longer is the way than the highway route or I5 route with the enjoyment of off-road cyclotouring.

For the remaining portion of this trip, the route was west towards Anacortes and the ferry to Sidney BC. At the bridge over Swinomish Channel, Anacortes 1 Bike Route was encountered. Along quite country roads, the route lead to the Tommy Thompson Trail, an abandoned, paved rail-trail. Cruising along the shoreline, the trail leads into Anacortes and through the town on quiet local streets to join highway 20 again about 4 km from the ferry docks. From Sidney, BC, the Lochside Trail leads to Schwartz Bay ferry docks with connection to Tsawwassen and to Vancouver.



Now that the trip is over, it is time for some reflections.

The Centennial Trail

Cyclists on Centenial TrailThinking back on cycling this trail, the question remains as to “Why was this trail is a special experience?”. From the perspective of scenery, this trail cannot match the natural attraction and interest of the hills, trees, rocks, lakes, and raptors of the Coeur d’Alene trail. This trail just follows a river through wooded lands and passes through some towns.

So, what does this trail offer?

It provides 50 kilometres of peace from noise pollution of cars with the occasional streets to cross at grade or by underpasses. The trail provides peace from traffic distractions. The trail is un-normally wide so that other cycling and walking traffic is not a tension-building factor. The trail does not pose any great demand of energy, as it is a rail trail, which limits grades to 5% and less, usually much less. The trail does provide variety by crossing rivers and passing through some communities. The trail does pass through Arlington as a bike path on the shoulder of streets, thus providing separation of cars and cyclists. The street sections that do not have bike paths are currently under construction. The trail does have convenience stops regularly.

It is really about having 50 kilometres of peace and relaxation from the presence of motorists and their noisy and polluting cars. It is about lower stress while touring. Yet, you are not alone while being with nature. There is cycling traffic about you.

The Trip and the Route

There is a railway track from Vancouver to Seattle that provides separation of trains from motor vehicles. Now, could it be some day that there would be a bike trail between the two cities that would provide separation of cyclists and motor vehicles? This trip did provide a new route for me that went some way towards that dream, while still giving the experience of passing San Juan and Gulf Islands by ferries.

What was more remarkable on this trip was the fact that 54% of the cycle from Seattle to Vancouver along with a side trip to Victoria was on bike trails. In addition, a small portion of the remaining 140 km was on bike lanes, maybe 30 or 40 km. What a change from past trips when most of the journey was on paved shoulders or on shared roads.

Trip distance – Seattle to Vancouver via Victoria 304 km Trails

Distance on Trails 164 km (54%)

Burke-Gilman Trail 30 km

Interurban Trail 7 km

Centennial Trail 50 km

Anacortes – Tommy Thompson Trail 6 km

Lochside Trail 51 km

Galloping Goose Trail 20 km


The Trails

The Centennial Trail

Bridge crossing, Centenial Trail Ols Snohomish Station - Centenial TrailNorth of Snohomish, Machias, Lake Stevens, Bonneville, Lake Cassidy, Getchell, Arlington, and Pilchuck were passed through. There were plenty of trail heads with pit stop facilities conveniently located, even for senior cyclists.

Spandex cyclists with their fast bicycles were going through their paces. Social cyclists were two or three abreast on their utility bicycles. Children were enjoying the experience with their parents.

This trail was designed for cyclists, pedestrians, and equestrians with a grassed trail adjacent to the paved trail. Bridges were well marked for the three modes of transportation. When horses crossed the paved trail, horseshoes set in concrete marked the crossing.

What was really amazing was the wide width of the paved trail, wide enough for social cycling of two or three cyclists, not the usual width for trails away from large cities.

Along small rivers, through towns, and through treed lands, the trail wove its way north. South of Arlington, the trail was very busy on a cloudy, overcast Sunday with chance of rain at any time. North for the last 11.6 km, the trail was much quieter. From the current north terminus, there is still 2.3 km of trail to be built.


At the trail head stands the old railway station in its clean, well-maintained grandeur with the train signal on a pole by the front entrance. Now, the station-building use is as a private home.

The trail runs through town with houses on one side and the Pilchuck River ribboning on the other. Then rural lands are entered as the Pilchuck trail head is passed.




Machias Rest Stop, Centenial Trail Machias Rest Stop, Centenial Trail Just a few kilometres down the trail, another rest stop appears along with a train station at Machias.

At this stop, a comprehensive children play area has been developed along with facilities to rent bicycles and skates. A snack can be had.



Bicyles in Pitt Stops, the right sizeSpeaking of rest facilities, the wheelchair accommodating portable toilette is just a perfect size for accommodating a touring bicycle outfitted with wide panniers. No worries to be had if anyone is tempted to go after the bicycle or any of the touring gear when you can take the bicycle in with you.





Bridge, Centenial TrailQuilceda Creek, Centenial Trail Centenial TrailWater Tank, Centenial TrailThen a ballpark is passed in Bonneville by Lake Stevens. Further along Lake Cassidy and the wetland park are passed on the left side. Now, there is a chance to stop and get the fishing pole out. Maybe a fish can be snared for the evening dinner.

Later on the Quilceda Creek is crossed and the Quilceda / Allen watershed is entered. An interpretive centre appears.







Sisco, Centenial TrailThrough the countryside, the cycle continues until Sisco on the outskirts the City of Arlington. Now, the trail continues as a bike path along streets, except for two shorter sections where streets are used. Then back onto a bike path on the side of a road until a park is entered on the north side of the town.

From there the trail continues.Centenial Trail





Shortly out of town at Twin Rivers, a horse trail departs to the northeast along the North Fork of Stillaguamush River. This trail runs to Darrington, about 32 kilometres away.


North Trailhead, Centenial Trail Centenial Trail North Trailhead, Centenial Trail








Meanwhile, the cycle continuous north-west through forested lands to its current trail head just a few kilometres from the Skagit County line at an old dairy barn. A steep, short hill ascends to a road connecting to Highway 9. For the time being, the Centennial Trail has come to an end. A cyclist encountered at this trail head indicated that the last section was just opened up a few months ago. The next section, upon completion, will take cyclists to Lake McMurray, about 2.3 kilometres farther north. That terminus was cycled past on Highway 9 a short distance from a local store with a gas pump and a place for refill for cyclists. A juice and an ice cream cone was just the right stuff for the final piece to Mount Vernon.

The Interurban Trail

The Interurban Trail, King County WANot much will be said in this posting on this trail. The trail starts in Everett and ends in Seattle. It mainly runs through municipalities from Snohomish County through King and Pearce Counties along the old Puget Sound Electric Railway corridor and connects to the Green River Trail. This trail was cycled on a past trip. It does have some significant hills for climbing experience. Parts of the trail are paved while others are gravelled. For this trip, the portion of the trail cycled passed through build-up areas providing little scenery.






Snohomish County

King County

The Burke-Gilman Trail

Underpass, Burke-Gilman Trail  WALake Washington, Burke-Gilman TrailThe Burke-Gilman Trail follows an abandoned rail-trail with some sections on-road in Seattle. Scenery varies from Yuppyville to university grounds to lakeside homes to wooded lands along creeks. The trail is paved and provides a quiet and non-challenging exit from Seattle with ever changing scenery. The trail is used by commuters, cycling exercisers and their shinny bicycles, and families with youngster just able to pedal or use push bicycles. The popularity of the trial shows the need for changed thinking in trail design. No longer is 3 metres width sufficient. More of the Centennial Trail width thinking is needed.




Seattle and King County




Unless stated otherwise, photographs are the property of the article author(s)
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©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2013
©H-JEH Becker, Velo., 2013