An ice way to get to work

City’s rivers are more than recreational paths for some city dwellers


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Lindsay Somers is a runner.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/01/2022 (414 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Lindsay Somers is a runner.

While many are quick to crank up their radiators and batten down the hatches in the face of Winnipeg winters, Somers faces the season head on through a running club she teaches that jogs a path along the river trail by The Forks.

“It’s always a highlight to run on the frozen river,” she said. “Twice a week, I’m helping people run outside in winter, and we use the river trail because it’s everyone’s favourite spot.”

The river trail isn’t just a bi-weekly destination for Somers, who lives right by the Hugo Docks. She runs on her own, she’s a regular cross-country skier, but she’ll also use the rink to get to meetings in a pinch.

“Actually, last week, I had a meeting at the bank downtown, and I skated the river because it was the fastest way to get there,” Somers, the executive director of Osborne Village BIZ, said. “I skated the river trail and then hopped up one of the access points, and then walked up Hargrave to True North Square, which was pretty awesome.”

She’s part of a growing community of Winnipeggers who, in the face of an especially cold winter, have utilized the winter river trail not just as a weekend activity but as a method of active transportation.

“It’s a thing people have to reframe, because it’s just so easy to get in your car and drive everywhere,” she said. “And it’s a lifestyle choice (where) people that live in more urban centres like Osborne Village are more used to using their bodies to get them where they need to go. It’s such an ideal choice and option to have.”

There are benefits to active transportation beyond just fun and fitness. Fewer cars on the road reduces congestion and is good for the environment, and, as Somers suggests, engaging in other ways of getting from one place to another can be a way to connect people in these socially-distanced times.

“This is a special gift, that we can be together safely, moving our bodies, having space in nature, fresh air, being around other people, these are really important tenets of our health and we don’t have a lot of support and other ways to go and to have these good habits and use good practices … it’s really important that we have public space to move our bodies and to connect,” she said.

When Erin Riediger, an architect, first began working from home, she started using the river trail more to get fresh air during the day.

“Normally, honestly, even though I live so close to it, I would just sort of use it once a year, maybe go for a skate on the whole thing, and it was more treated like an activity,” she said.

“And then I started biking to work in the winter last year. I haven’t been doing it this year just because of the conditions, but I kind of discovered that with the walking trail, you don’t need to skate to use it … then I started to discover how easy and accessible the river trail is.”

Now, she walks to and from work along the trail, and to get to the Granite Curling Club, which she visits regularly.

“It takes me a little bit longer to walk home on the river trail, but it is a much more pleasant experience than trying to walk through the city and dealing with traffic and cars, and it’s something so unique. It’s nice to enjoy.”

There’s a lot to love about commuting by river, Riediger said – it’s a beautiful view, she passes by other people skating, skiing and fellow walkers, and it’s a way to take advantage of Winnipeg weather for those who are able to do it.

“I think that we just have to think about the river trail a little bit differently. I used to think about it as a recreational experience, but it actually is a really great active transportation path that we have in the city that we can use in the winters,” she said. “Just the way that it’s set up, winding through the central neighborhoods, it can be more than just for fun.”

Malak Abas

Malak Abas

Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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