Friday, August 24, 2012

Calgary’s Natural Beauty is Most Apparent by Bicycle and Foot

Originally published at Mobility Lab.

Before heading out to Banff in Alberta for a long-planned family vacation in the Canadian Rockies, I had about four hours to kill in Calgary before my wife and son's flight arrived. So, like I do in all new cities I visit, I headed downtown to take a bikeride and walk around some too.

Using social media the day before leaving home in Washington D.C., it took about five minutes before Bike Calgary's Facebook page responded to my question about where I should rent a bicycle and where I should ride. Sure enough, the recommendation was right on. The taxi from the airport drove me about 20 minutes to Rapid Rent in Eau Claire Market, where Taste of Calgary had the place buzzing with people. Christina at Rapid Rent was super helpful and steered me towards biking up and down the nearby Bow River and also saving some time to walk around downtown.


Prices for the bike rental were reasonable, as they seem to be in all cities around the world. I paid about $25 for three hours, plus a lock and helmet. Then I rode about 20 miles of trail that follow the river on both sides west and east of Eau Claire. The red Peace Bridge was one of the first sites worth stopping at for photos.

The paths are lovingly constructed and one must watch for signs where the bike paths separate from the pedestrian paths.

At one point, I took a photo in one single frame of a train station, a bus depot, bike and walking paths, and countless rafts floating down the river. It made me wonder why the nearby road was filled with cars and trucks belching along. But at least nobody can say Calgarians don't have mobility options!

After dropping my rental bike off, I took Christina's advice and spent an hour walking around downtown before catching a taxi back to the airport. The sites included Olympic Plaza, built for the 1988 Winter Olympics; the Calgary Tower, a space needle of sorts built in 1967 to celebrate Canada's centennial; 8th Avenue SW, which is a pedestrian street lined with shops, bars, and restaurants; and the +15 Skywalks overhead, known as the second most extensive network of skywalks in the world.

There is certainly plenty more to see in Calgary, but I don't think there is any better way of seeing a lot in a little time than biking and complementing it with some walking.

Although I saw plenty of wildlife throughout the afternoon, I did somehow miss the coyotes. Signs along the river trails cautioned me to look out for them. I guess that's something I'll have to wait to see until my next trip to beautiful Calgary!


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