1. Transport
February 3, 2015

A Canadian city could install a "skate lane"

By City Monitor Staff

In most cities, cycle lanes are the transport plan du jour; a few brave rebels are even looking to cycling highways. But one Canadian architect has gone completely rogue, with a plan to take a cycle lane, freeze it, and encourage people to skate down it.

The idea started with a young man named Matt Gibbs, who dreamt it up while studying landscape architecture at the University of British Columbia. His proposal is to turn 6.8 miles worth of unused rail lines north of downtown Edmonton into a pair of transport lanes, which would be used for bikes in summer, and frozen to form skating corridors in winter. From an interview in Wired:

The Freezeway would look like a big bike lane (and be used by cyclists during the warmer months) covered in ice. To contain the water long enough to have it freeze, you’d have low curbs or strategically placed banks of snow.

There are many ways the idea could play out, Gibbs says. You could keep it simple by just turning on the water, letting it freeze, and calling it done. Or you could add lighting, or even a cooling system or artificial ice to allow skating in warmer months.

The idea isn’t as crazy as it might sound: frozen rivers have often been used as winter transport links, and, as Wired notes, New York’s High Line provides a high-profile precedent for upgrading unused rail infrastructure.

Reactions among city planners have so far been mixed so far – one said it was the stupidest thing he’d heard in 30 years – but Gibbs is still keen to make the idea a reality. He says he was inspired by the idea that there’s untapped potentials in ice-coated “winter cities”:  

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I wanted to look at the hidden opportunities that exist living in a climate that’s below freezing for more than five months a year… [I’m] trying to find ways to make people fall in love with winter as opposed to as if was some unbearable curse.

An admirable aim.

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