Canadian Commuters Could Skate to Work on Seven-Mile 'Freezeway'

Skating
An artist's impression of what the Freezeway might look like. Vimeo

Canadian commuters in the city of Edmonton may soon be able ice-skate to work as new plans for a seven-mile (11km) 'Freezeway' comes under consideration by city planners.

The Freezeway would see the extensive route flooded during winter and city planners are now scheduling a pilot project for next winter.

The idea of creating a route for commuters to ice-skate to work started taking shape when architecture student Matthew Gibbs won the 2013 Coldscapes Competition with his idea. He designed an artificial ice route, which would transform two former railway lines that lead into the city's downtown, allowing residents to eschew their cars for skates.

2013 COLDSCAPES Competition Winner: The Freezeway - Matt Gibbs - Edmonton, Canada from KSU CUDC on Vimeo.

"I found if we bridged these together, we could create a unified 11km route that people could skate on - potentially to work, to school or to the hockey game," Gibbs told the BBC.

He also presented his Freezeway idea at the 2015 Winter Cities conference in Edmonton where the aim is to provide solutions to the problems posed by the extremely cold weather.

"The Freezeway is a unique, urban design intervention that transforms the way people live and move in a winter city," he says in the initial design video. "Its objectives are to promote winter programming, active lifestyles, sustainable forms of transportation, social activity and an iconic identity for a city looking to differentiate itself."

Other features of the Freezeway path is that it would have rubber crossings, installed annually or permanently fitted, and it would become a cycling 'greenway' in the summer when the ice has melted.

"We thought we'd have to push the snowball up hill," Edmonton city planner Susan Holdsworth told the BBC of efforts to get Gibbs' proposal moving. "Instead it's like we're riding downhill, gaining momentum, going faster all the time."

However, critics have condemned the idea as 'stupid', with one councillor saying that "people just would not think that this is prudent" considering the other problems that need fixing in the city.

According to estimates made by Gibbs, the Freezeway would set the city back $16-$400 (£10-£259) per metre, which he believes could be covered by alternative revenue streams such as private sponsorship.

There are other ice-skating routes in Canada, with Ottawa's Rideau Canal Skateway open for 46 consecutive days so far this year already, according to Canada's largest broadcaster, CBC News, and the 9km-long Forks on the Red River in Winnipeg.

Edmonton, in the state of Alberta, spends five months of the year in minus temperatures, with an average temperature of -12C (9.5F) in winter.