Innovations for Winter Cities
Creating a more livable city from November to March, far above the 49th parallel— that is the goal of ‘Winter City’ urban planning. In 1982, The Livable Winter Cities Association was formed to help cities in Northern latitudes build infrastructure and places that can be utilized by residents year round, even in the cold and snow. This work is now being carried out by The Winter Cities Institute, and 2017 was a big year for winter city planning. Here are some of the big trends in the last year for creating livability despite cold weather and early sunsets:
Build and Maintain For All Seasons
Where the seasons change significantly, permanent infrastructure should be designed with use in all seasons in mind. For example, thinking about the winter use of cycle tracks and bike lanes can create a cycling culture that lasts year round, as we are seeing in Edmonton, AB. Designing bike lanes that can be cleared by a plow within the first 24 hours of snowfall was key to keeping them ice-free and available to cyclists year-round. Edmonton is becoming a leader at all-season design strategies and this is showcased in their ambitious WinterCity Strategy.
Planners in Fort St. John in Northern BC have recently updated the Winter City Design Guidelines for the city. One of the key things they kept in mind? Play! According to Chad Carlstrom with Urban Systems, “As kids, we spent hours playing in the snow all day, but there exists a point in our lives when that childhood love of winter goes away.” Creating opportunities to have childhood winter experiences at all ages can go a long way in building a community spirit and winter place, especially when these places also allow opportunities for warmth! A warming shelter next to a walking path or a fire pit next to a skating rink can draw residents out to brave the cold.
Gender Balance is Key
Stockholm made headlines recently for it’s “gender equal plowing strategy“. The city analyzed it’s budget and found that more public spending was benefiting men than women in the country. In the case of it’s snow removal strategy, Stockholm found that men drive much more often than women and the streets were given snow removal priority. In order to balance the public spending, they reconsidered the movement of all citizens through the streets. According to vice mayor Daniel Helldén in an interview with the CBC,
“We want to have a gender equal city. And we know that women are more seldom driving cars than men. Men are sitting in the cars and the women walk, cycle and go by public transportation in much higher amounts. So we’re trying to change it so women get more of the public spending. We know with numbers that there are more men sitting in cars here, at least in Stockholm, than out walking and taking public transportation.
When we get to two or four centimetres of snow, we start to clear the pedestrian lanes and cycle lanes. Then when we get to about six and eight centimetres, they start with the streets. So it’s supposed to work in that way that … it will be easier to walk than take your car, as the first priority.”
Leave the Lights on!
Another strategy from Fort St. John’s new winter guidelines it to turn on more lights outside of businesses in the downtown core. This can make downtown more inviting and helps to engage the business community in community building! Carlstrom says, “This is where the private sector can contribute. … Shovelling your sidewalk, leaving an exterior light on, these are smaller projects that are lower in resources in money and time, but higher in impact in the broader community”