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  1. #1
    Dharma Dog lhbernhardt's Avatar
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    Calgary Bike Paths

    I spent a couple of weeks in Calgary on business, and was quite impressed with the sheer volume of bike paths in the city. After each day of work, I'd hop on the fixie I'd brought with me (it has couplers, so travels for free in its regulation box on Westjet) and explore the Bow and Elbow Rivers and Nose Creek from my downtown hotel.

    But aside from being a bit too narrow, and having to dodge the various dogs people insist upon walking without leashes (is there no leash law in Calgary?), my biggest complaint about the paths is that you have no idea where you are! Well, there are some "you are here" signs along the Elbow River Pathway, but get to a major street or overpass, and there is nothing to indicate the name of that street or overpass!

    I wanted to find the location of a place at a business park around 73rd Ave. NE. So I took the Nose Creek Pathway. At what looked like a major overpass, I had to take the pathway up to street level, then ride thru a parking lot to the nearest intersection, only to find that I was only at 32nd Ave NE, or thereabouts. I had to do the same thing at the next major overpass, which did happen to be 64th.

    So is there not some bike advocacy group in Calgary that has any plans at all to press the city to put some sort of signs along the pathways to tell you what overpasses you are going under? Seems to be a no-brainer. But then, bike paths are usually designed by planners with absolutely no idea of the needs of cyclists.

    Also, how are the paths at night? I was there in late June, so sunset is at close to 10pm, so I didn't even need to bring lights. But I wondered what the paths would be like in the winter for commuting.

    I also did a ride to Canmore on the Saturday, but getting to the start of Hwy 1A (at 12-Mile, where the "freeway" part of Crowchild ends) was a bit of a challenge. The pathways take too long, so I took 10th St. out of downtown, eventually getting onto 24th Ave, then along Campus Dr. thru the University, then up to Varsity, and then a complex series of roads thru Silver Spring and Scenic Drive. I eventually came up with a nice, quiet route to get me to the NW edge of Calgary, which is actually quite a nice area to ride in. I hope I can remember the streets for the next time I'm in town!

    Luis

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by lhbernhardt View Post
    I spent a couple of weeks in Calgary on business, and was quite impressed with the sheer volume of bike paths in the city.

    . But I wondered what the paths would be like in the winter for commuting.
    Luis
    Having spent most of my life in Calgary I found this amusing. Commuting in winter? - Luis, you must be from the west coast, which represents the only few hundred square miles in all of Canada where winter bike commuting is practical or survivable.

    In Calgary, you are going to face nighttime frost conditions between October and May. This can make for some slick, unpredictable riding. What is worse is daytime freeze/thaw cycles during the shoulder months (such as April), where it gets into the teens (deg. C) during the day, but freezes hard at night. Any path with free-standing water becomes a trecherous skating rink for the morning commute. The huge daily temperature variations mean you have to pack a lot of gear. Gravel also a hazard, as roadways are covered liberally with this during the winter. Finally, frost heaving and potholes leave Calgary streets a minefield during the spring, until the crews can patch the worst of the problems.

    But the mountain biking is far more enjoyable and manageable just to the west of Calgary than on the west coast.

  3. #3
    In the wind mercator's Avatar
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    You hit on one of the worst aspects of cycling in what is otherwise a pretty great place to bike. Bikecalgary has an ad hoc infrasructure advisory commitee that is working on the signage and routing recommendations that (hopefully) the city will support with the requisite signage and paint.

    As for the winter riding, many people ride all year. You need good lights, as there are some pretty dark stretches and a few hazards (deer, ninja joggers, etc.). The city has a well organized snow clearing system that gets the major paths clean by 7Am most days. Temps are rarely a problem, although a lot of people who drive every day have difficulty groking this fact.DSC04963.jpg

  4. #4
    Dharma Dog lhbernhardt's Avatar
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    Great, thanks for the responses. I hope I didn't give the impression that I didn't like the paths, because I found them quite relaxing as they wound alongside the rivers or creeks for kilometers and kilometers! But I did notice they didn't appear to have lights, so was wondering what they'd be like in the dark. One of the great over-rated bikepath systems in Western Canada is the Gallooping Goose in Victoria. It's also nice, and it actually goes where it's useful to go, but it is unlit, and people insist on walking along it at night in their fashionable black attire. Almost hit a couple once, both completely in black. At night, on the unlit path! Go figure...

    Luis

  5. #5
    Senior Member coldfeet's Avatar
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    Yes, the pathways are confusing, it isn't helped by the way the paths wrap around the rivers. I've ended up on the wrong side so often...We do have leash law, it isn't followed by everyone, but outside of the core, they tend to be more observant. In the core, particularly on sunny warm days....Lemmings, just lemmings.

    Winter riding in Calgary can be done, depends on how far and where. Most routes into the core are fairly well swept, it takes care with clothing, ( that temperature swing mentioned ) and good tires. Last Winter I used Continental Top Contact Winters for most of it, with Ice Spikers for backup on OMG days.

  6. #6
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    I've commuted year round in Calgary for a lot of years. I don't use studs or special tires. The sig article is mainly for entertainment (but it doesn't start early) and there is another one after about the tedious winter details.

    I did carry a map when learning the bike paths in Calgary. It didn't seem like an inconvenience.
    mainlytext.com/bike.html Bicycling in winter, the entertainment version

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