If a city can become more vibrant and accessible by developing a network of bike lanes, why not consider establishing skate lanes for commuting and recreational purposes during the winter months? This was the very question posed by landscape architecture student Matthew Gibbs, whose thesis project envisioned the creation of a “Freezeway” for the city of Edmonton. The skating lanes would effectively span a 7 kilometre stretch of existing trail that is predominantly used for cycling throughout the warmer seasons of the year. Gibbs outlines the benefits and suitability of his skate lane concept as follows:
The essence of this idea was building a skating trail for the city of Edmonton – it was the number one request by citizens in the survey conducted by the winter city strategy, asking people what they would like to see to make winter life more liveable. The Freezeway project looked at the hidden opportunities that exist living in a climate that is on average below freezing for more than five months a year, necessitating the development of more free, fun activities to lure people outside in that very sedentary and isolating time of year.
With a prototype of Edmonton’s Freezeway planned to be tested in winter 2016, this got me thinking about whether or not such a project would work or otherwise be worthwhile in Kingston? Accordingly, this week’s poll asks:
A growing number of Kingstonians are making use of the ever-expanding network of bike lanes to get to where they’re going. Unfortunately, frigid temperatures coupled with snow accumulation and salt detract from making this a viable year-round transportation option. So why not make our dedicated bike lanes pull their weight during the off season? The shear number of outdoor rinks is certainly a sign that Kingstonians love skating during the winter.
Communities such as Ottawa have already demonstrated the feasibility of natural skateways, as the popular 7.8 kilometre-long stretch of the Rideau Canal is attracts locals, tourists and Beaver Tail enthusiasts alike. That said, the Rideau Canal’s skateway, or any outdoor rink for that matter, is only open as long as conditions permit, and maintenance costs can be steep. The cost to create and maintain curbside skate lanes could potentially put this project out of reach for Kingston. Furthermore, I also wonder whether the ice would negatively impact the bike lanes, or otherwise be a safety hazard to vehicles and pedestrians alike.
Should Kingston consider converting select bike lanes into skate lanes next winter? Moreover, would skate lanes make you look forward to winter? Or is this idea too far fetched for Kingston’s somewhat unpredictable winters?