Instead of battling traffic and packed transit, Edmontonians may one day be able to strap on a pair of skates and glide to work, if one urban architect gets his way.
Matt Gibbs came up with the idea of an “Edmonton Freezeway” two years ago while a graduate student at the University of British Columbia.
Under his proposal, the Freezeway would make use of existing LRT and green corridors around Edmonton’s downtown to create an 11-kilometre long multi-use trail.
According to Gibbs, the path could be used by pedestrians and cyclists in the summer.
“In the winter, [it] could be iced over so that people could skate to work, to school or to the hockey game,” Gibbs said.
Should the city decide to support the idea, Gibbs said the work to connect existing trails, add the necessary drainage and build rubberized crosswalks over major intersections could be done on a piecemeal basis over a number of years.
The entire route could be maintained by a Zamboni, he said.
This isn’t the first time a skating track has been pitched for Edmonton. Former city councillor Tooker Gomberg proposed a similar idea in the early '90s.
And to skeptics, Gibbs is quick to point out that a precedent has already been set in Ottawa, where people use the Rideau Canal for both recreation and as a way to get to work.
“So we obviously have a comparable cold climate and so we can do this,” he said.
So far, Gibbs said he’s approached a few city councillors about the plan, but hasn’t heard much back from City Hall.
“I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from the public, that a lot of people are really excited about how this idea really could put us on the global map — but I think what it's going to take is small segments.”
In 2013, Gibbs’ Freezeway plan won the COLDSCAPES international design competition, which focuses on maximizing the potential of cold climate cities.