Canada's Most Walkable City 2010: Calgary

Find out why up! magazine ranked Calgary as the eighth Most Walkable City in Canada in 2010.

Really? Sprawl-gary as one of Canada's most walkable cities? Isn't this the place with a footprint bigger than New York City's and less than a tenth of its population?

"A big surprise to non-Calgarians and a much-used treasure to locals, the city is blessed with the most extensive and well-maintained recreational path networks in the country," says judge Chris Turner of the 700 car-free, multi-use kilometres that snake along the bucolic banks of the Bow and Elbow rivers.

Follow the pavement, gravel and woodchips to their farthest reaches to discover vital (if far-flung) links to natural jewels like Fish Creek Provincial Park, unmatched nationally for wildlife viewing within city limits. And it's not just interchanges funded by tax dollars anymore.

A pedestrian bridge designed by Santiago Calatrava will link the inner city to the north bank of the Bow later this year, becoming an instant icon for the city's commitment to pedestrians getting around car-free.

The new direction won't be easy—the city has the most cars per capita in the country and few people (just over 5.5 per cent) walk to work. Still, the "Calgary Stop," whereby a pedestrian merely leans towards the street and stops traffic, is a thing of beauty.

Neighbourhood Walk: Hillhurst

Hillhurst-Sunnyside, located north of the Bow River and northwest of downtown, is a downtown gem of walkability and its retail mix gets better by the month. The new Vendome Cafe, tucked onto a side street in Sunnyside, brings European cafe culture to the north bank of the Bow. Also located here is Kensington, a trendy part of town that boasts a movie house, great restaurants and bars.

This story was originally published in the May 2010 issue of up! magazine as part of the Canada's Most Walkable Cities 2010 feature, profiling 10 of Canada’s most pedestrian-friendly urban centres. Take a look at more of Canada's Most Walkable Cities.


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Tom Gierasimczuk

Based in Toronto, Tom Gierasimczuk's work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Globe and Mail, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer and OutPost magazine.


As a resident of Calgary, I think that there have to be more walkable cities in this country that should have made it onto the list long before Calgary did. In my experience, it is virtually impossible to get around in this city unless you have a car (I do not). Walking around our community means about an hour long round trip to do light grocery shopping (it is an expensive store that you probably do not want to do all your shopping at). You might see a dollar store and a fast food joint as well on that walk as well. To get anywhere else you need a car unless you are very patient and can handle the wait times for transit and/or can handle upwards of an hour and a half long walk in each direction to get to either a WalMart or a mall. Don't get me wrong, I have done both as I enjoy walking but the fact that there is a very large trail system here does not mean it is a walkable city.


I lived in the Beltline for 20 years and hardly ever used my car, and I had no problems whatsoever doing shopping or anything else. Every inner city neighbourhood has a grocery store (either Safeway, Co-op or Sobes) and every mall is serviced by bus lines.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Calgary's walkability, JDub. Most of the up! staff also lives in Calgary and I'm in the same situation as you - I don't own a car. I agree, getting to various points in the city can be infinitely more complicated and difficult when you have to rely on transit and your own two feet.

But what sealed Calgary's place in the list of Canada's most walkable cities is the fact that there are so many walking and biking trails spanning various parts of the city. I must admit, I don't often (or really, ever) use them for getting from Point A to Point B, but I love walking along the Bow on weekends or after work.


Come on.. I've lived in Edmonton for 35 years before moving to Calgary in 2003 and there's way more places to walk and enjoy in Edmonton than Calgary. I think Calgarians won't visit Edmonton for their own pride reasons to find out and appreciate the Capital City. There's Whyte Avenue, the river valley which is amazing in the summer and fall, Jasper Avenue loaded with shops and restaurants, not to mention all the parks where there's over a dozen festivals each year consuming many of those parks and so on. Calgary does have great areas such as Kensington and 17th Avenue. But Edmonton exceeds Calgary in culture and tradition.


Love that Edmonton pride, Deryck! I'll tell you this - it was really, really tough putting together the 2010 ranking. Edmonton and many other cities came close. In fact, Edmonton was ranked 10th best in Canada for walkability in 2009.

Stay tuned for our 2011 list to see how your city stacks up next year!


Having just returned from a three-day trip to Calgary (last weekend), I'd have to say that your rating of Calgary as a walkabout city is utterly ridiculous. I found Calgary to be completely hostile to pedestrians, with (cowboy) motorists aggressively demonstrating their distain for anyone walking near or across a road. Also, in spite of the horrendous weather Calgary gets (including snow at the end of May), there are no overhangs or shelters in which to take refuge during particularly unpleasant precipitation. Furthermore, sidewalks are in horrendous states of repair, curb cuts are laughably misplaced and many C-Train stations are woefully accessible. Pity the wheelchair user trying to get around this town! It is not enough to deem yourself "walkable" because you've carved out great lengths of trails along the Bow and Elbow rivers. In my mind, if a person feels under siege trying to get from their residence to a grocery store or to work, a city isn't walkable!


Thanks for this great insight, everyone. This was the point of this ranking: create it based on what urban experts agreed were worthwhile indicators, and get passionate residents to evaluate these rankings. I agree that Calgary planners of the past have left a landscape of interchanges and unchecked sprawl, but the city ranked where it did for its nation-leading 700 km of paths and impressive parkland numbers—many of which can actually *take* pedestrians from one place to the next. The problem with our ranking is that we look at the entire city for our metrics. Calgary is one city... sprawl and all. People therefore associate it with the 'burbs. Vancouver, by contrast, is ranked on its smaller urban boundary and doesn't include nearby urban areas like Burnaby, that are just as sprawling as anything in Calgary. But as the writer of this piece, I will consider your fine points for next year's ranking, so please keep them coming. —Tom Gierasimczuk, editor, up! magazine


I found the downtown area (including Stephen Ave mall, the red mile, Kensington, and several other sections to actually be quite walkable.

Of course, Calgary is a HUGE city by area and much of it is totally unwalkable, but it does a lot of areas that are fairly walkable.

I also disagree about Edmonton being more walkable. I think it's similar to Calgary in that the vast majority is not walkable, but it has some nice walkable sections.


Agreed, James. Strolling around places like Stephen Ave and Kensington is one my favourite weekend activities! :)


I walk miles in Calgary every week, and I personally think it should have ranked higher than #8 on the list. I've lived here for almost 40 years and have walked almost all of the 700 km of pathways and trails, not to mention years of walking in Hillhurst Sunnyside, Altadore, Mount Royal, Sunalta, Scarborough, Killarney, Lakeview, and many other neighbourhoods around town.

There are many many great walking experiences out there for anybody who takes the time to discover them. In just the past two months, my walking treks have given me an opportunity to observe beavers, a river otter, a golden eagle, great blue herons, ring-necked pheasants, osprey, orioles, Wilson's warblers and many other birds - many of them right in the heart of the city.


Thanks, Heather, for sharing your thoughts. Maybe the 2011 Walkable Cities list will feature Calgary higher than #8! :)


I live in Moncton, NB, but most of my family live in Calgary. Both my daughters and 8 of my 9 sisters live in and around Calgary. I love the city. I've been very blessed to be fortunate to make an annual trip to the city. And, I enjoy my travelling a lot with my favorite airline, Westjet.

I love Calgary. I've walked in many different areas of the city. My favorite place to walk however, is the downtown area along the Bow River. It's a beautiful walk. I did it one year with my daughter in the Children's Wish walk. I've walked 17th Ave. many times, the University area, and the Kensington Road area where I love to visit a really nice deli called Pippino's. The food is great and in the summer you can sit outside and enjoy the scenery and people. I also love to walk in the residential areas in the SW where my daughters live.

I think Calgary should have been ranked No 1!!! I love this city!!!!!!!


i like this.

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