The 2024 Winter Cycling Congress: What a Ride!

Written by:  Tracey Coutts and Katie Mahon, Ever Active Schools


Has this ever happened to you…

You invite people to your favourite place, maybe it’s a pizza parlour, a place known for its delicious pizza but, just as your guests start to pour through the door, the parlour runs out of cheese. Like, completely. Welcome to the Winter Cycling Congress (WCC), hosted in Edmonton from February 21 to 24, 2024. Oh sure, the delegates arrived – all 220 of them from places like Finland, Estonia, Alaska, Boston, Winnipeg, and Montreal – but they arrived to unseasonably warm temperatures and scarce piles of left-over snow. Now, did that stand in the way of learning, fun, and two-wheeled adventures? Absolutely not.

Getting Things Rolling on the Winter Cycling Congress

In March 2023, Edmonton was selected to host the 2024 Winter Cycling Congress and for good reason: Edmonton is a winter city enthusiastic for winter cycling, evidenced by the December 2022 commitment by its City Council to invest $100 million in active transportation infrastructure over a four year period. Ever Active Schools led the WCC Steering Committee composed of representatives from Explore Edmonton, Winter City Edmonton, the City of Edmonton, Martinson Golly Ltd., Dentons Canada LLP, Bike Edmonton, University of Alberta’s Sircle Lab, Stantec, Paths for People, and Toole Design, a team that coordinated what turned out to be an unforgettable, multi-day event, filled with informative sessions, bicycle excursions, and an international community of passionate winter cyclists. 

In Full Gear



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On February 20th, delegates started arriving at the congress venue, the downtown Westin Hotel, to take part in a pre-conference that centred around Building School Jurisdiction Capacity for Active School Travel.  Fittingly, Julie Kusiek, Board Chair of Edmonton Public Schools and Ward F Trustee, and Veronica Graff, a Knowledge Keeper who works alongside Edmonton Public Schools’ M.E. Lazerte High School staff and students, opened this day’s discussions. The University of Alberta’s Sircle Lab, Ever Active Schools, and the Winter Cycling Federation presented evidence, research, and best practices that illuminated the need to prioritize active school travel to maximize its health, learning, environmental, safety, economic, and community building benefits.

The two-day main conference came next. Elder Sandra Alexander of Enoch Cree Nation offered an opening prayer and smudge, and a young drummer, Draven McDonald, welcomed delegates with song. Timo Perälä and Petra Necasova, Board members from the Winter Cycling Federation, gave words of welcome, as did Brian Torrance, Executive Director of Ever Active Schools and WCC Steering Committee lead. Keynote speaker, Alex Stieda, the first ever Canadian to wear the yellow jersey (or maillot jaune) in the Tour de France, embraced the room full of cycling enthusiasts, reminding them that cycling builds connection and lasting relationships. Finally, Edmonton Mayor Amerjeet Sohi brought words of welcome from the City of Edmonton to launch the event into full swing. 

Indoor and outdoor congress sessions revolved around three main themes: Champion It, Maintain It, and Design It.  Of course, the fun and learning was not limited to sessions. Community engagement events, such as the Garneau School Bike Bus, Telling the Story of Your City panel discussion, Urban Systems’ Trivia Night at Fu’s Repair Shop, Coffee Outside at Louise McKinney Park with the Fancy Women Bike Ride, the War on Cars podcast (live!) with special guest, former Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson, and a Saturday guided ride through Edmonton’s beautiful River Valley led by Alex Stieda were also huge hits with delegates and the public alike.

You know that old saying, a little goes a long way?  Well, that’s the case of the indoor bike storage area thought up by congress organizers. Staffed by Molly Turnbull and a hard-working team of volunteers from Bike Edmonton, the Westin Hotel opened its Devonian room as an end-destination storage facility to ensure that delegate bikes were taken care of, and this offering was very well-received. Up to 100 delegates at a time parked bikes in this space. (*If you’re curious about the math, the Devonian room at the Westin Hotel measures 3505 square feet and a standard vehicle parking space measures 160 square feet – enough space to fit 22 vehicles.  Parking 100 vehicles in the same space would require 16,000 square feet or the equivalent of 4.6 Devonian rooms). The bike room was a true event win.

Hats (Helmets?) Off to Everyone at the Winter Cycling Congress!

The Winter Cycling Congress 2024 was a carbon-neutral event. When planning our event, we made conscious choices to keep our emissions low. We worked with Explore Edmonton and Ostrom Climate Solutions, Canada’s leading carbon management solutions provider, to measure our event’s total greenhouse gas emissions. We offset 114 tonnes – equivalent to the emissions from the event’s operations, such as heating, cooling and food served, and from all of the participants’ travel and hotel stays. We have contributed to projects that prevent the equivalent amount of emissions elsewhere. Ostrom Climate’s projects are verified and validated by third parties to ensure that the emission reductions are real, additional, and permanent. We are proud to take action against climate change.

Edmonton’s cycling community and event supporters came together to make this WCC memorable.  A huge thank you to the City of Edmonton and its staff who organized the lending of winterized bikes for delegate use, who guided rides and walks, and who presented and moderated sessions throughout the conference.  To Matt from Normaal Bike Shop who offered up 35 of his bikes to be used by delegates at no cost – you’re amazing! To Karen Parker, organizer of the Garneau School Bike Bus that kicked off the whole event in a great way, you’re a true community champion!  To YouTubers Jasmine Steffler and Patrick Murphy (Oh The Urbanity), Uytae Lee (About Here) and Tom Babin (Shifter), thanks for sharing your knowledge and community-building stories with us!  To Urban Systems who tested a stoked crowd on its knowledge of 90s music trivia and Edmonton infrastructure, that was a blast!  To Heather and Nicola who arranged the Coffee Outside event at Louise McKinney Park and to Dentons who sponsored it, what a great way to start our Friday morning!  To our congress Masters of Ceremony, Katie Mahon from Ever Active Schools, Councillor Michael Janz, and Karly Coleman, CJSR’s very own bike traffic reporter, your enthusiasm for all things winter cycling was infectious.  And to everyone else – sponsors, partners, delegates, volunteers, hotel staff – who helped to make this congress a warm, inviting, fun space to learn and share and be active, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you.

In his opening remarks, Timo Perälä from the Winter Cycling Federation urged congress delegates to be excellent to each other.  It is with confidence that we can say that indeed, over the length of a truly wonderful four days, excellence was guiding the whole ride.


a group of winter cyclists taking a selfie on a bridgepeople gathering in a park to enjoy winter cyclingan overhead shot of winter cyclists stopping to enjoy coffee.War on Cars podcast sticker on a lamppost

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