Friday, 3 February 2012

Assiniboine Avenue Ice Path

Well, as a winter road cyclist, this has been one interesting winter - a lot more mud than pure snow and ice. Still, I and many others have suffered from snowed in bike lanes, paths, and even the far-right of conventional roads.

Iced-up Assiniboine Avenue Bike Path.

Image Source: Photo by "the Analyst".

Given the rumblings over the supposed lack of usage of the Assiniboine Avenue Bike Path1, I'd just like to note that this factor is certainly depressing the count.  The issue is the subject of my very first (and amateurish) youtube video.

How does snowed or iced in bike paths influence use? Let's turn to analyses of a of other cities:

Researchers from McGill’s Department of Civil Engineering and Applied Mechanics investigated winter ridership patterns in Montreal, Vancouver and Portland. They wanted to understand what factors influenced cycling levels in the colder months, and whether cities could do anything to improve cycling levels through winter.

The researchers found the number of Montrealers using bicycles for transportation throughout the winter months has markedly increased in the past few years, with hundreds of cyclists now using the most popular bike paths daily in winter.


Although winter ridership (levels) seems to be growing in cities like Montreal, they are still much lower than some European cities with similar weather. It seems like more conducive surface conditions through maintenance operations (snow clearance) would help increase Montreal’s cycling (rates) during winter,” the study concludes.

Naturally, a greater proportion of summer cyclists continue to ride through winter in the warmer cities, and precipitation and temperature affected cycling levels in all cities. But the researchers found that surface conditions were the key factor in ridership levels during winter in Montreal, even more important than temperature dips or precipitation.

“Montreal winter cyclists seem to react less to colder temperature (than those in Portland or Vancouver) ... Surface conditions is the main factor here,” said Luis Miranda-Moreno, an assistant professor who co-authored the winter cycling study with research assistant Christopher Kho.

To monitor patterns, the researchers installed automatic ridership counters along popular cycling routes on Berri St., de Maisonneuve Blvd. and St. Urbain St., and have been counting bicycle trips year round since 2008.

The counters indicated that depending on the route, 12 to 24 per cent of summer cyclists continued riding through the winter months of 2010 in Montreal. That’s up from 5 to 14 per cent in 2008.


“Cycling activity in the winter in Montreal is not negligible,” said Miranda-Moreno, who suggests the city has an obligation to provide safe conditions for cyclists year-round. “Many, many local streets have vehicle traffic that is lower than 500 or 1,000 cars a day and yet the city pays millions to clear these roads.”

...Montreal’s winter cyclists seem less affected by temperature changes during the winter season than those in Vancouver and Portland. A smaller percentage of Montreal cyclists were discouraged from winter cycling because of drops in temperature, or intense precipitation.


The big factor for Montrealers willing to cycle in winter seems to be not cold or precipitation, but road surface conditions.

“The surface condition is the main factor, and if we maintain good surface conditions throughout the winter we could improve these numbers dramatically,” said Miranda-Moreno.

He notes that European cities with similar winter weather to Montreal see cycling levels fall to only about 50 per cent of summer levels in winter.

“Cities can have four-season cycling. We don’t have to stop in winter. It doesn’t mean everybody wants to cycle in winter, but Sweden and Norway have very high retention of cycling rates in winter and we have similar weather.”

(Lalonde, Michelle. "Clear Montreal bike paths of snow and ice, study says". Montreal Gazette. Dec. 28, 2011.) 

More of the iced up Assiniboine Avenue Bike Path.

Image Source: "The Analyst"

Clear it and they will come.

1 I really don't have all the details of the way various counts were conducted, but Hnatiuk's assertions still don't seem well articulated or substantiated. He hasn't referenced the primary sources of his claims of an underused path or articulated the figures or even linked to the reports in his recent exchanges with the commenter bwalzer on the matter.


  1. Good post. I commute daily from the West End and have used the Assiniboine Bike Path several times (that route adds a bit of distance for me but on nice days I don't mind a longer ride). I've found the clearing really substandard compared to pretty much any other route, makes for a much less efficient and more hazardous ride. Similarly I've seen inconsistent clearing on the on-road bike lanes.

    As a year-round cyclist who is going to commute by one route or another, I find myself more often than not just taking a major route with more traffic since it's better cleared and therefore safer despite the traffic. But I can see for more easily spooked cyclists or especially those just getting into cycling (or making their first attempts at year-round cycling) the lack of cleared, dedicated bike paths could end up discouraging them from riding.

  2. I've tried the Assiniboine Avenue Bike Path from time to time, but the sheer quantity of snow in the winter really stalls my bike and makes it wobbly. I certainly agree that the lack of cleared bike paths and lanes in the winter scares of more winter-adverse, fair-weather cyclists.

  3. Perhaps the paths don't get plowed because they are there for non-motor driven vehicles only. This would be a good opportunity for someone to invent a pedal powered snow plow.

  4. I've seen snowplows made for sidewalks, surely there must be available ones made for bike paths. Look at Chicago.

  5. I mean, we have snow removal on the sidewalks.

    1. I have the same problem on Nassau btwn McMillan & Gertrude. Bike only road that has never ever seen a plow. Impossible to bike on now.

    2. Yeah, the problem is systemic to the entire city. The City almost never clear the bike paths.

    3. Just leave out the "almost".

  6. this city is way too shitty.
    when it comes to helping the environmentally conscience.
    this city is way too petty,
    when thinking of the needs of the many.

    the many who don't drive suv's
    the many who needs are the least.
    the least in terms of wants but fixed on basic needs.
    respect, love and peace.

    but in its place comes short minded policies
    that seem to satisfy the many
    yet cast all the rest
    to a place on the fringes of society

    to this i say,
    you must be on your way,
    your way to a different place
    a place in your mind, a place of compassion and innovation
    and rebuild this once proud city
    and meet the needs of the people
    no matter where or what,
    innovation and creativity will deliver us
    to a new paradigm and a new era
    one that recognized the value of diversity
    and a true creation of a great new city