Putting a ring on Calgary
Kevin Schlauch and his wife Jenny sold their car a few years ago and now ride their bikes everywhere they need to go in Calgary. This past summer, when they heard about the new Greenway trail system, a 138-km pathway that encircles the city, they knew they wanted to check it out. “It’s really important to have something like this,” Kevin says. “It brings the community together and it encourages people to see parts of the city they may not otherwise visit.”
Plans for the Rotary/mattamy Greenway began in 2009. The City of Calgary and Parks Foundation Calgary wanted to connect the four quadrants of the city so that people could explore car-free by cycling, walking, in-line skating or skateboarding. “It was this big idea to bring the city together and provide an opportunity to connect all these communities, many of which were just being built at the time,” says Sheila Taylor, executive director of Parks Foundation Calgary.
While parts of the pathway take advantage of existing paved trails through areas such as Fish Creek Park, other parts are new. And a small section – 6.7 km that will join northwest and northeast Calgary – is scheduled to be completed in December, notes Taylor.
In summer 2017, Parks Foundation Calgary held a contest to encourage Calgarians to explore the Greenway, and medals were given out at a party in September to anyone who had completed the entire 138-km loop. More than 2,000 medals were given out, Taylor says, far more than her team ever anticipated.
Some people completed the entire distance in a day. Others took weeks or even months, documenting their progress on social media. Some travelled it with their children or their dogs, while others did the loop solo.
The Schlauchs completed it i n two days, riding Brompton folding commuter bikes, their wheels of choice. Kevin took so many photos during their treks that he drained his camera battery both times. “And we hit up a lot of coffee shops along the way,” he says. “We stopped and ate at any place that had pie.”
They enjoyed their rides so much, they’ve convinced several friends to check out the Greenway, too, and they’ll likely ride it again next summer, Kevin says, when the entire loop is finished. “We live central, so we don’t make it out to the ’burbs very often. There were parts of town we’d never biked in before,” he says. “It was neat to see there was a pathway going through them.”
The opportunity to travel through new neighbourhoods by bicycle has been a big draw for many who are tackling the route for the first time. “The Greenway has really captured people’s hearts and minds,” Taylor says. “And it’s inspired people to get out and see parts of the city that they normally wouldn’t.”