Helmcken Street


Map of Helmcken St. bicycle

This shared on-street bike route [Comox/Helmcken] would become part of the east-west Greenway/Bikeway across the peninsula joining Stanley Park with the Yaletown and False Creek North neighbourhoods. Helmcken Street is particularly narrow for cyclists and motorists to share the road space. Some parking spaces would likely be removed as part of the redesign of the street into a Greenway.

[DTP p. 99]

An Ipsos-Reid survey indicated support for this proposal. 62% of businesses and residents supported redesigning Helmcken St. to give room to pedestrians and bikes [DTP Ipsos-Reid survey, Feb. 2002, p. 4].

17. Redesign Helmcken Street as a pedestrian and cyclist friendly greenway

Redesign Helmcken as a highly pedestrianized "woonerf street" along the lines of streets seen on Granville Island. This would include multiple curb bulges, open spaces, traffic calming, landscaping and other pedestrian features. Additional landscaping could be provided if some of the street parking is removed.

Street profile for Helmcken St.

[DTP p. 145]

Road Network

Where data is available, Helmcken has very light traffic, with under 5 000 vehicles per day [DTP p. 44]. Helmcken is designated as a local street [DTP p. 49].

IntersectionDate recordedTimeDirection Left-turning
Through vehicles Right-turning
Burrard2002.07.18 amwestbound6805315
Hornby2003.07.10 ameastbound7893011
Howe2002.06.05 ameastbound071574
Granville2003.07.09 ameastbound1261159
Seymour2002.06.10 ameastbound593302
Richards2002.08.09 ameastbound043177
Homer2000.05.30 ameastbound702907


No impact.


Helmcken is designated as a greenway, and is the centrepiece of the new pedestrian network [DTP p. 79].

Together these streets [Helmcken and Comox] serve to link into the regional Parkway Greenway. This route will connect Burnaby's Central Park to Vancouver's Stanley Park. This greenway will proceed along quiet, well-treed residential streets in the West End, past the historic Mole Hill block adjacent to Nelson Park, and finally through Yaletown connecting to the Seaside Greenway and the False Creek ferry system. The development of a custom greenway design that introduces landscaping treatments (trees, shrubs, and flowerbeds), public art, street furniture, improved visibility of pedestrians through pedestrian bulges, pedestrian oriented lighting and improved signage is recommended. Local vehicle access will be maintained along the Greenway and special attention will be given to securing sufficient parking for local businesses. Some improvements may include:

[DTP pp. 86-87]

Goods Movement

No impact.


No impact.

Spot Improvements

16. Improve pedestrian and cyclist access through Helmcken Park between Mainland and Pacific

Between Mainland and Pacific the Helmcken Greenway passes through a surface parking lot, crosses a lane and passes through Helmcken Park. Along the property lines that separate the lane from the park and parking lot are a series of bollards and chains that define the lane but make if awkward for pedestrians and cyclists to negotiate. Repositioning the bollards and chains in cooperation with the owner of the parking lot could improve conditions for all users.

[DTP p. 145]

In this location, signage in the laneway is most important, since drivers in the lane do not expect cyclist traffic. A bike lane on the west side of the parking lot would be ideal. Some curb redesign at Pacific and Davie may also be necessary to give cyclists access to this route.

18. Create a cyclist connection between Helmcken and Comox across Burrard

This offset intersection poses additional complexities for routing cyclists across Burrard along the proposed bikeway/greenway. A combination of bike lanes and off-street bike facility on Burrard Street in front of the St. Paul's hospital could provide a way to facilitate this movement.

Diagram of the intersection of
Burrard, Comox and Helmcken

[DTP p. 146]

The bike route here seems quite awkward, at an initial glance. I would guess that the motivation for this design is to avoid installing separate signals at Helmcken and Comox. There are two main difficulties with this design:

The only reasonable alternative design would be to reuse the southbound Burrard lane for eastbound Comox/Helmcken traffic, and to build a short northbound Burrard lane for westbound Helmcken/Comox traffic. This would also require installing an appropriate combined signalling system for Helmcken and Comox, which is difficult to conceive.

Alternate option
for Burrard, Comox and Helmcken

Another reasonable alternative design is shown in the figure to the right [adapted from Alta Planning, San Francisco Bicycle Program Supplemental Design Guidelines, p. 20]. In this design, the signal region at Helmcken is enlarged to include Comox, making a single large intersection. This design is much clearer than the alternative, but the distance between Comox and Helmcken may be too large to make this practical.


The Comox / Helmcken greenway is a very promising and attractive route. The Comox section is essentially a neighbourhood route, similar to other routes found outside the downtown. However, as a Greenway, we should be able to expect better design elements and more pedestrian- and cyclist-oriented crossings at major streets.

Stop signs need some redesign east of Richards. A signal at Homer would be useful, and cyclist traffic on Helmcken should have priority over drivers on minor streets like Hamilton or Mainland.