News / Edmonton

Despite the rust, cyclists like new salt treatment

Anti-icer pilot called a ‘game-changer’ for winter biking

Shaun Allen is one of several cyclists who’s had his chains gunked up by the new snow-clearing solution.

Kevin Tuong / for Metro

Shaun Allen is one of several cyclists who’s had his chains gunked up by the new snow-clearing solution.

Bike chains are rusting faster than before thanks to the new salt solution treatment the city introduced to tackle snow on roads and bike lanes, but many cyclists don’t mind the trade off.

Last year the city introduced the anti-icing pilot, where they applied anti-icer, a sodium chloride solution combined with magnesium hydroxide (also known as Milk of Magnesia, an antacid) which acts as a corrosion inhibitor.

The city says it helps roads stay clear longer and makes snow removal easier.

“This year the rust has been quite dramatic with the calcium chloride,” said Coreen Shewfelt, who works at Edmonton Bike Commuters.

But she said the improved road conditions have been a “game changer” for winter biking.

“If you are riding the bike lanes where they have been using the calcium chloride, you hardly have to take any extra precautions for winter cycling,” she said.

She said normally she would reduce speed significantly while riding her bike and be more careful after snowfall but this year she did not need to do that, which she is thankful for.  

“Bikes can be fixed, broken bones are a lot harder,” she said.

Mark Oldman, another Edmontonian who bikes to his work downtown said he had noticed the increase in rust as well.

Edmonton cyclist Mark Oldman said the trade off for more rust for safer, cleaner roads is worthwhile.

Kevin Tuong/For Metro

Edmonton cyclist Mark Oldman said the trade off for more rust for safer, cleaner roads is worthwhile.

“Normally, I replace the chain once a winter but I’ll probably have to buy another chain around now so (I’m) going through two chains this winter,” he said.

“You know if that’s the cost of a downtown bike grid, is one extra chain a year, that’s awesome.”

Although not everyone shares that sentiment.

Shaun Allen, who has been a bike messenger in Edmonton for five years, says he is not impressed with the city’s decision to use calcium chloride.

“I’ve seen a lot of winters and this is the worst winter I have seen for snow mitigation the city has ever done,” he said.

He said bike maintenance will be a lot more expensive due to the accelerated rust formation.

“So we are going through way more lubricants on a lot more parts. In general, it costs a lot more money and for the people who can’t do the work themselves, the labour associated with it is ridiculous,” he said.

Although there has been a lot of discussion on different social media sites about the effect of salt solution treatment on their bikes, the city says they have not received any complaints.

“At this time, we are not aware of specific complaints to 311 or claims for rust damage,” said Catherine Kuehne, communications advisor for traffic operations in an email.

Edmonton Bike Commuters executive director Chris Chan said the majority of the people he had spoken to were happy with the tradeoff.

“I think the vast majority of people we have spoken to have been pleased with the results of the (salt on) roadways,” he said.

“There is a few people who really dislike it … but the vast majority of people that we have spoken to are saying that it’s making their lives easier to bike in winter.”

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