Heated bike lanes on the way?


(Winter cycling is common in the Netherlands.)

If you thought the current confrontation over cycling lanes in the city’s north end is a heated affair now, just you wait.

City officials are considering a proposal not only to approve the Laurier Boulevard bike lanes as initially proposed, but to dig up the street to install heating pipes underneath the lanes for winter.

Sound crazy? Not to the Dutch it doesn’t.

As reported here by Deutsche Welle engineers in the Netherlands have developed cycling paths with underground pipes in which snow and ice melt away, making for easier cycling in the winter.

As the piece notes, heat generated in the summer is collected and stored in these pipes in order to heat the cycle lane in the winter.

The heat can come from many different sources, including exhaust from factories or wastewater pipes.

And it’s coming to Brockville, potentially, thanks to a once-in-a-lifetime offer from BakfietsInternationale, a Zutphen-based company that touts itself as a leader in cycling innovation.

Apparently, the firm is looking for a small city to use as its first North American test site, and it learned about Brockville’s planned cycling network from the Dutch embassy in Ottawa, which, one supposes, reads The Recorder and Times.

Bakfiets is offering to cover 90 per cent of the installation costs for the entire project, as long as it gets to use Brockville as a promotional site. The heating pipes would extend along the entire proposed cycling network, including the Laurier stretch.

A city official who requested anonymity, given the sensitive nature of the discussions, said an in-camera meeting took place yesterday between city councillors, Bakfiets executives and Dutch embassy officials.

The company likes the chances of this plan working in Brockville,” said the source.

Their only concern, really, was getting enough heat for the bike lanes during the winter. City council guaranteed our Dutch friends that we can secure a steady supply of hot air from the provincial government.”

A key concern at the meeting, of course, was the risk of further blowback from north-end residents already upset with the bike lane plan.

If they’re angry about flexible bollards taking over their parking spaces, they won’t take too kindly to getting the street in front of their houses ripped up,” he added.

The Brockville cycling advisory committee is enthused about the plan.

I’ve done plenty of winter biking in Holland and I can tell you the heated lanes are a wonderful experience,” said the committee’s newly-named spokesman, Harley Schwinn.

It would be a great way to bring Brockville into the 21st century, with active living year-round.”

But, needless to say, opponents of the Laurier lanes are furious about the development.

I find it hard to believe that even this secretive council has the gall to discuss this matter behind closed doors, when they know they’re already imposing something on us,” said Bea C. Klett, spokeswoman for the newly-unified Coalition Against Laurier Lanes.

This is unacceptable.”

They may find an ally in city council’s most outspoken skeptic, Jeff Earle, who has a decidedly less rosy view of heated cycling lanes in winter.

Ten per cent of this project’s costs is still too much, as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

Besides, what kind of heated cycling are you going to get? My guess is the whole path will be lined with people sitting on the pavement to keep their butts warm.”

Officials at Bakfiets Internationale referred my calls to spokesman Lirpa Loof, who declined to comment.

Today is my busiest day, so please be patient,” said Loof.