Safety in Calgary
Although Calgary is generally a very safe place, walking at night should be avoided in the East Village and Victoria Park areas of downtown (generally speaking, this is the area adjacent to the Stampede Grounds and north to the Bow River). Calgary's 2011 murder rate of 1.1 murders per 100,000 inhabitants was, for example, roughly one-tenth the murder rate of Minneapolis and one-twentieth that of Memphis. Always keep your wits about you when the bars close, regardless of the area of town.
Calgary drivers are typical drivers for a mid-sized western North American city. Culturally, Calgary is a mash-up of small town culture and big city living, and driving in Calgary is no exception. If you come from a small town in rural North America, the drivers would be considerably more aggressive than you are used to. If you are from a larger busier urban area, or are from Europe for instance, Calgary drivers can be considered quite timid and under-skilled. A driver from New York, London or even Montreal and Toronto would consider the Calgary driver to lack confidence more than anything. Calgarians are generally quite aware of pedestrians and usually give pedestrians right of way, as required by law. Calgarians are generally safe and cautious (some consider overly cautious) drivers, though. Note though that Calgarians are probably some of the best inclement weather drivers in the world. Blizzards, storms, floods, etc. are where Calgary drivers shine compared to the rest of the world's drivers and they can navigate them safely with the minimum of problems.
Calgary freeways are nowhere near as congested and confusing as L.A. freeways or the 401 in Toronto, but Deerfoot Trail (nicknamed the "Deerfoot 500" by locals) is to be avoided if you're not comfortable with 100 km/h freeway driving, and even by experts at rush hour (accidents occur on a daily basis). A second freeway, Stoney Trail, now exists on the northwest, north, and east sides of the city providing an alternate, less hectic route.
Be aware of lengthy wait times at the emergency rooms of the city's hospitals. It may take 1 to 2 hours or more to see an emergency doctor. (Note: this is a province-wide problem.) There is a web page where Alberta Health tracks the current wait times for Calgary emergency departments.
Panhandlers are a sight in Calgary's downtown core. The majority of them just need to be told 'No' but some can be persistent. A great number of agencies exist to assist the disadvantaged in Calgary and true charity cases receive assistance from them regularly; money is far better spent donating to these agencies as it ensures that those truly in need will receive it. For that reason, visitors are encouraged not to give money to strangers in the street. Panhandlers have also been found at signalized intersections, holding a cap or hand out to drivers stopped at red lights.
Take care when crossing LRT (tram) tracks, as the trains are quiet. There are no electrified rails. There are usually bells and barriers at pedestrian crossings; heed them.
Boaters on the Bow River should note the Calgary White Water Park (Harvie Passage) located just downstream of the Calgary Zoo; heed the warning signs. People have perished here, the strongest swimmers among them.
Winter driving always requires caution. The key to winter driving is to slow down, as the main hazard in winter is slippery roads due to snow, ice, or slush. Remember, your vehicle – whether it's a compact car or an SUV – relies on four surfaces, each the size of the palm of your hand, to grip the road. When you drive faster, or drive on a slippery surface, that means less traction. So the solution for slippery roads is to slow down to give your car a better grip on the road surface. (Winter tires help too: If renting a car in winter, request winter tires, because not all rental cars have winter tires equipped.) In the worst winter driving conditions, you may see drivers on 100 km/h roads drop down to 60 km/h for safety. By slowing down and significantly increasing your following distance, you can safely navigate through most winter road conditions. Winter road conditions are available online from Alberta Transportation and the Alberta Motor Association.
Although Calgary doesn't get a lot of heavy snow, temperatures below freezing can allow ice to form on many roads. The most dangerous condition is when the ice is a clear sheet which resembles the road, called "black ice". Black ice is most commonly seen on bridge decks and other elevated roadways such as on- and off-ramps, where the road surface cools more quickly and so is more prone to freezing. Black ice most dangerous times to drive in these conditions are the two or three days immediately following the first major snowfall of the year. Black ice can also form after a period of warmer weather, such as in late fall, early spring, or after a winter chinook, when melting snow can turn to ice overnight. Freezing rain is not often seen in the Calgary area, but sometimes happens in late fall or early spring, when an evening shower is followed by overnight lows that drop below freezing, covering the roads with ice.
Weather in Calgary is unpredictable from fall through spring. It is always best to dress in layers and come prepared for extremes, even within the same day.
- For emergencies, call 911
- Calgary Health Link, . 24 hours/7 days a week. (943-LINK.) Registered nurses provide telephone advice and information about health symptoms and concerns. Health Link nurses help find appropriate services and health information.
All hospitals operate 24-hour emergency departments.
- Alberta Children's Hospital, 2888 Shaganappi Trail NW, .For patients aged 17 and under. Look for the multi-coloured building near the top of the hill. Patients over age 17 should go to the Foothills Medical Centre, which is close by.
- Foothills Medical Centre (Foothills Hospital), 1403-29 St NW, . For patients aged 15 and older. Patients under 15 years of age should go to Alberta Children's Hospital, which is very close to Foothills Medical Centre.
- Peter Lougheed Centre (Peter Lougheed Hospital), 3500-26 Ave NE (Just north of Sunridge Mall), .
- Rockyview General Hospital, 7007-14 St SW, .
- South Health Campus, 4448 Front St SE, . 24-hour emergency, visiting hours 11AM-9PM. This new hospital was fully operational in July 2013. Located at southeastern edge of Calgary.
Urgent Care Centres
Urgent care centres deal with issues which are not life-threatening but require attention within the same day or evening. For serious and life-threatening health concerns always go to your nearest emergency department, or call 911. Problems which urgent care centres typically deal with include broken bones, sprains, asthma, cuts, dehydration, infections, and pain.
- South Calgary Health Centre, 31 Sunpark Plaza SE (Shawnessy district), . 8AM-10PM.
- Sheldon Chumir Health Centre, 1213 4 St SW (Next to Central Memorial Park), . 24hrs.
There are many walk-in medical clinics across the city that deal with routine medical concerns. Medi-Centre is a chain of walk-in clinics with locations across the city, but there are also many independent walk-in clinics.