Lace ’em up, this is going to be one wild ride.
Let us introduce you to the Edmonton “Freezeway”. Still just a proposal, the idea involves converting a former railway right-of-way into a frozen, 11-kilometre route that people could skate on. That way, stepping outside in the middle of winter wouldn’t have to be such a miserable experience, it could almost be—dare we say—fun.
“Does being Canadian mean we fly to Mexico every winter?” said landscape architect Matt Gibb, the brains behind the idea. “I think we can create better ways to enhance the livability and create more physically and socially active communities by creating more climate adaptive solutions in our cities.”
In short, the idea is to embrace winter instead of fighting it.
The proposed route would stretch into Edmonton’s downtown core from two sides, meaning it can be used to skate to school, work, a hockey game or just about anything, really. And in a city that sits below the freezing mark for five months out of the year, this could be a much needed way to make the most of the cold season.
But what if you’re not a skater, you ask? No problem. The Freezeway would be accompanied by a pedestrian walkway, so skating = optional. Plus, under Gibb’s plan, the entire route would be dotted with shops, skate rentals and more, to really strengthen it as a world class tourist attraction.
Then, in the summer, the whole thing converts into a bike path.
The idea won Gibbs first place in the 2013 COLDSCAPES international design competition, as well as attention from city planners. He presented the idea again at Edmonton’s 2015 Winter Cities conference, and some councillors seem to be on board with it.
“Everyone’s grown up skating,” Councillor Bev Esslinger told the BBC. “Skating, cross-country skiing – those are things we want to be able to enjoy.”
There’s still just one burning question that could thaw the entire idea: cost. Gibbs has proposed several different iterations of the plan (from an electrically-powered version to a simple, natural path) but says it should run anywhere from $16-400 per metre.
Organizers, meanwhile, are planning a pilot project for as early as next winter.
Happy skating, Edmonton.