Could new ‘Freezeway’ cut the ice with commuting Canadians?
“Get your skates on, it’s time to go to work!” could become a commonly heard phrase in the western Canadian city of Edmonton if plans for a new 11 km Freezeway go ahead. Local landscape architect, Matt Gibbs, is proposing that the city turns its icy winters to advantage by flooding a corridor along which residents can commute to work on skates.
The idea has already gained recognition in high places, with Gibb’s design winning first place in the 2013 Coldscapes international design competition. He has also just presented the idea at Edmonton’s 2015 Winter Cities conference, where delegates discuss ways to make the best of northern winters.
Residents of Edmonton seem to be falling into two camps. Some love the idea, others feel the money required could be better spent on repairing and upgrading existing infrastructure, or on social programmes.
Gibbs himself argues that The Freezeway would promote active lifestyles, sustainable forms of transportation, and social activity, and would also boost tourism. He also suggests that funding could come from crowd sourcing or corporate sponsorship. He has put forward several different options for The Freezeway, which he estimates would cost between $16-$400 per metre depending on which is chosen.
Gibbs’ original inspiration came in the form of a flip comment by city councillor, Tooker Gomberg, in the 1990s. He is reported to have said, “Why don’t we just crack the fire hydrants open, flood the streets and let people skate to work in the winter?”.
There’s many a true word said in jest, and now, thanks to Gibbs and his detailed planning and designs, organisers are hoping to run a pilot project by winter 2015. If successful, and if sufficient funding can then be found to complete The Freezeway, it would take, on average, 1.25 hours to skate its length. In summer, the same route would take 45 minutes by bicycle, or about two hours to walk.
WAN’s Editor, Michael Hammond, spoke to Gibbs to find out more about his vision for The Freezeway, where the route would run, and what physical form it would take….
At the time of writing, the temperature in Edmonton was -8 deg while in Dubai it was +27 deg.
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