To state the obvious, Edmonton is a winter city. We often hear the argument that Edmonton shouldn’t invest in walking or biking infrastructure because it gets cold and snowy here sometimes. The most striking Canadian counterpoint to this argument is Montreal.
I was in Montreal recently and I was struck by the fact that they make their public spaces great for the best days of the year. They have beautiful public seating everywhere. They have pedestrian streets and partially enclosed outdoor markets. Montreal is a city that knows it snows or rains or gets cold sometimes, but that organizing your life around those times is a terrible strategy.
The thing is, building our outdoors spaces as though every day of the year was going to be sunny and carefree makes them better all the time. It creates a city that is celebrated by residents whenever the weather is even marginal. That’s what I witnessed in Montreal. The last day I was there it was cool and rainy, but there were thousands of people enjoying the markets and strolling the streets.
This week, Montreal announced that it is going to make a substantial investment in bike infrastructure (Montreal to invest $150M in ambitious new 5-year bike plan). Already, more than 10% of trips in their city centre are on bikes (2.5% for the city as a whole), and their target is 15% for all of Montreal. Our friends at EBC posted these observations about Montreal vs Edmonton weather:
Montreal receives twice the amount of snowfall as Edmonton.
In January, the coldest month of the year, the average daily high in Montreal is -5.4°C. In Edmonton, it’s -6.0°C.
(Although, since 2012, the average high in January in Edmonton has been much warmer, at -3.2°C.)
Even before this latest investment, Montreal has consistently ranked as the most bike-friendly city in North America, and one of the only North American cities to rank in world rankings.
If you’ve ever been stuck on your bike for multiple light cycles in Montreal’s sometimes-congested bike lanes, you’ll know that these kinds of investments pay off by encouraging more people to ride, regardless of the weather.
Many of our public infrastructure decisions in Edmonton have been made as if it’s -30 and snowy here all year round. Let’s make a 180 degree turn. Let’s build patios, beautiful public spaces, great bike lanes, wonderful promenades for strolling. Let’s build for the wonderful days of summer. Then let’s enjoy the great city we’ve built, all year round. We’ll be healthier and happier for it.
A few more pics from that wonderful city in Quebec:
written by Conrad