Freezeway Skate Route Through Edmonton for Commuters

Published Mar-02-15

A curb side skating lane to help people get around Edmonton during the winter wins an international design competition.

The Center for Outdoor Living Design, Canada

The Story:

Freezeway Skate Route Through Edmonton for Commuters Competitions can be key drivers of innovation, as individuals and teams work for concentrated periods of time to solve a problem. From timepieces and space rockets to architecture and cyber security, many fields have advanced because of the creative power unleashed in design, crowdsourcing and open innovation competitions.

Cold Climate Solutions

In 2013, the Center for Outdoor Living Design (COLD) launched COLDSCAPES a multi-disciplinary design competition to enable cold climate cities to embrace the weather and turn it into an asset. Designers, architects and artists were invited to submit ideas that had to respond to a number of critical design questions, such as making cold cities more responsive to the needs of vulnerable people and creating novel urban winter experiences.

The contest was enthusiastically received and there were more than 80 registered participants. Submissions came from 15 US cities and 13 countries, spanning both cold and warm weather climates.

Ice Corridor and Bike Lane

The winner was a design called Freezeway, which is an 11 kilometer route for residents to commute through Edmonton, Alberta. The city is no stranger to the cold, with average temperatures below freezing for about five months of the year.

The idea for the route sprang from a flippant comment by city councillor Tooker Gomberg, in the 1990s. He wondered if the city cold just crack all the fire hydrants open to freeze the streets and let people skate to work. Landscape architecture student Matthew Gibbs who grew up in Edmonton thought about that comment a lot as he developed his concept. He also drew inspiration from other cities such as Ottawa with its Rideau Canal Skateway and The Forks on the Red River in Winnipeg.

Researching Edmonton, Gibbs found that two old existing rail corridors could be bridged to create one long route. In the warmer weather, the path can be used as a bike lane and promenade, and then once the winter comes, transformed into a curb side skating lane. Other features include permanent rubberized crossings or temporary ones that could be rolled out every year.

Parts of the route would run alongside roads and railway tracks, while other parts would snake through plazas and parks. Shops and cafés could also be dotted along the route. In presenting his idea, Gibbs says it fulfills a number of needs, such as promoting an active lifestyle and social activities while providing a sustainable form of transportation.

“The Freezeway is a unique, urban design intervention that transforms the way people live and move in a winter city,” said Gibbs in the initial design video
Pilot Project

As of early 2015, implementation costs of the Freezeway are still being worked on, but there are several possible versions with different costs, including a naturally frozen path and a refrigerated one. There is a lot of support for the year-round corridor in the city and a pilot project is being planned that could take place as early as the end of 2015.

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