The Trans-Canada Highway through Calgary includes some magnificent views in the west as it climbs up and down some rolling foothills, a bunch of traffic lights in the Montgomery area below Canada Olympic Park, a maze of traffic lights (and lots of road-widening construction activity in 2009) along 16th Avenue North from the area known as Motel Village by Crowchild Trail east to Deerfoot Trail (which goes north to Edmonton, and south to the US border and the southern Crowsnest Pass route through the mountains). East of Deerfoot, the Trans-Canada speeds up considerably, with much more limited access until Chestermere, after which its open prairie. The communities along the eastern portion of 16th Avenue grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, while the crowded parts existed long before the 1960s and the frugal city fathers of that era did not think it worthwhile to build a freeway through the community, just for travellers.
Fast-forward to the 2000s: The city has a Ring Road around the northern suburbs, accessed in the west at Stoney Trail (just west of Canada Olympic Park), and in the east at 84th Avenue East. This route opened in late 2009 and is designated as Highway 201, runs 43 km (and skips 22 km along the 16th Avenue Route) zipping travellers north of the Airport and around Calgary’s exploding suburbs. While it looks like a big detour, this route has 3 traffic lights (at opening) and is faster during rush hours, and definitely a smoother trip than scooting through Calgary (though visitors should pop into Calgary at least ONE way on a there-and-back cross-Canada adventure). In off-peak hours the higher speeds are offset by the doubling of road distance, so does not provide a significant time saving.
The “West” portion (actually the SW portion) of the Ring Road is expected to be complete by 2022, and there is much construction at the junction of Stoney Trail (the ring road to the north and east) and 16th Avenue (the Trans-Canada highway) including a new south extension of the ring road, with overpasses and ramps, a doubling of the bridge lanes over the Bow River, and new accesses to nearby subdivisions to the west. Speed limits are lower between Canada Olympic Park (to the east of construction), Tuscany overpass (to the north of the construction) and the hill with the cellphone towers (to the west of the construction) 24 HOURS A DAY, and with enforcement and lower limits when crews are working.
Heading westbound, exit for the highway at Lake Chestermere, and head west into Calgary along 17th Ave SE “International Avenue” with lots of shops and ethnic restaurants, when you cross the Bow River, continue along 9th Avenue through the historic Inglewood district (with its many shops, restaurants, and brewpubs), past Deane House and Fort Calgary into downtown. From downtown (cross the River at the Peace Bridge, shown above), take the bike path along the north bank of the Bow River into the Bowness shopping district, until you see the street toward Canada Olympic Park’s ski jumps. Its the only real hill on this stretch.
Heading eastwards, turn north off the highway at the Canada Olympic Park lights, head downhill, and follow the marked bike routes along the Bow River into downtown. From Fort Calgary head east along 9th Avenue until you see signs to 17th Ave SE (now called “International Avenue”). The hill after crossing the Bow River is your only hill on this stretch. You can ride along the Irrigation District canal, but you miss the joy of shopping for supplies in this ethnically vibrant area before hitting open prairie.