Freezing Temperatures in Edmonton May Lead to a Freezeway

Edmonton Freezeway

Rather than cursing the cold weather, the city of Edmonton is turning lemon into lemonade – or rather turning sub-zero temperatures into an 11-kilometre long “freezeway” which would allow residents to strap on a pair of skates and glide to work.

The Freezeway, which was proposed two years ago by UBC landscape architecture graduate Matt Gibbs, would be an 11-kilometre greenway with a “winter skating lane” that would allow Edmontonians and visitors to skate around the city. And in the summer (wait… does Edmonton have a summer?) the path could be used by pedestrians and cyclists.

Gibbs took the idea from an offhand comment made by a city councillor back in the 90s.

“Why don’t we just crack the fire hydrants open, flood the streets and let people skate to work in the winter?” Former city councillor Tooker Gomberg said in the 1990s.

Maybe because the last thing people want to do on a Monday morning is skate in below-freezing temperature with a briefcase in their hand and then have to walk the rest of the way to work carrying their skates? Or maybe because investing the money is a working LRT system might be more useful than a seven-mile ice rink?

Nevertheless, Gibbs took the idea and built a design – winning him first place in the 2013 COLDSCAPES international design competition, which focuses on maximizing the potential of cold climate cities.

The idea garnered plenty of attention and Edmonton city organizers, eager to follow in the footsteps of Ottawa’s Rideau Canal, are now planning a pilot project for as early as next winter.

Councillor Scott McKeen said the Freezeway would be a welcome addition.

“Edmonton has not exploited to any great extent one of its greatest natural resources – winter,” said Mr McKeen. “Like other North American cities in colder climates, we’ve tried to engineer our way out of it. … Even most of our hockey facilities are now indoors and heated.”

But not everyone agrees.

Councillor Mike Nickel called the Freezeway “the stupidest idea I’ve heard”.

Meh, worst case the Edmonton Oilers can use it to practice. Actually, better keep the Oilers off it – they might get in the way of people who can skate.

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