Sweden’s heated sidewalks should be adopted here, too
Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/healt...#ixzz1G1a00iwT
I spent last Saturday night in an unusual way.
Instead of going to a film, I barbecued hot dogs and marshmallows over outdoor fires, with a thousand other people at Place Jacques Cartier Square in Old Montreal.
Then I joined another big crowd wandering the river in the Old Port. Finally at midnight I dropped in at the Contemporary Art Museum where another huge mob was hanging around in the cold, yakking.
It was "Nuit blanche," our once-a-winter chance to have a hot time in the cold town at night. Montreal was a big party just like summer, except we were all wearing parkas instead of t-shirts and boots instead of sandals.
I found myself asking the obvious question - why isn't our city like this all winter? Montrealers clearly want to do things outdoors in winter when they're given the chance - so why not every Saturday night, and Friday too? Why not have an "Hiver blanche" instead of a "Nuit blanche"?
For much of winter we cloister inside at night at home, or in bars, movies and malls, leaving the streets nearly deserted - but does winter have to be this way?
I recently visited Scandinavia, my last stop for a film I'm making on how other winter nations compare to us. I've already described how Russians embrace winter by holding outdoor dances and barbecues, and going ice swimming and eating ice cream.
But visiting Norway and Sweden was another eye-opener. For starters I saw something miraculous I'd never even imagined - heated sidewalks that cover large parts of downtown in several cities. The streets are covered with snow like ours but the sidewalks are 100-per-cent snow-free - block after block of bare concrete without a snowflake to be seen.
The result is amazing. The downtowns were crowded with people you rarely see out in Montreal winter - the elderly with their canes, the handicapped on walkers and in wheelchairs, and mothers pushing baby carriages.
Swedes and Norwegians of all ages were ecstatic about their snow-free sidewalks. "They're fabulous," said one middle-aged woman in Oslo. "I go for lots of winter walks because I don't have to worry about falling, or jumping over puddles of slush.
"Look - I'm even wearing high heels."
Scandinavians haven't spent a fortune on this, either. Every time they tear up a sidewalk for repair, they put in heated coils that melt ice and snow -- and gradually over 15 years their downtown sidewalks have been winter-proofed.
Norwegians heat theirs with electricity after studies found it costs less than shovelling them.
They also save a fortune in health costs, because people don't slip on ice and wind up in hospital.
If anyone deserves heated sidewalks, it's us Montrealers. We have more snow than any major city on earth and a government-owned Hydro business to provide cheap heat. But I'm not expecting Montreal to get them any time this century.
Our blue-collar workers would go on strike to defend the right to snowy sidewalks they can shovel at double overtime.
Another idea I loved in Norway was that most downtown cafés keep their outdoor terraces open all winter. They just cover them with plastic awnings that have heaters built in. All the outdoor chairs are covered cozily in thick furs and blankets.
I sat out one night having a drink at minus-22 and there were lots of people around for company.
The idea started as a way to let smokers stay outside in winter without freezing, but non-smokers quickly joined them and the trend spread. As one bartender told me: "If it grows any more we may have to kick the smokers out of the terraces and back inside."
Again, why don't we do this? We have a few heat lamps on Crescent St. and elsewhere for smokers but I've never seen one terrace open in winter. "Nuit blanche" is a good start at getting people outside - but we need more excuses to brave the cold.
In Montreal, call something a festival and everyone shows up, so why not invent more winter festivals? How about a "Hot Jazzfest" in January, or an outdoor February Film Festival where we could watch "Some Like It Hot" or "Gidget Goes Hawaiian," or something cooler like "Dr. Zhivago"?
Our summer fireworks festival is a huge success - maybe we should extend it into winter too, or make it a Fire Works Festival, where we all huddle by massive bonfires. I suspect any excuse will bring Montrealers out into the winter night. How about a hot tub festival, or a hot toddy festival, or a wifi hot spot festival?
After travelling to other winter countries I've had enough of our famed underground city - it's time we came above ground for winter too. We are Montrealers - not moles.
Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/healt...#ixzz1G1ZknAKg