8 North American Cities With Weatherproof Walkways

Toronto skywalk with people walking through
Pedestrians make their way through Toronto's PATH network.

Toronto-Images.Com / Shutterstock

Sometimes weather conditions can be so harsh that walking outside becomes not only impractical but nearly impossible. In many places where the extreme is expected, pedestrians can depend upon weatherproof walkways to provide them with comfortable passage to and from wherever they need to go. Chicagoans, for instance, have relied upon the Pedway since the early 1950s to survive the frigid commutes of the Midwestern winters, and, likewise, Houstonians have avoided the Texas summer heat in their extensive downtown tunnels.

Here are eight North American cities with weatherproof walkways for when the temperatures become too much to handle.

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Minneapolis-Saint Paul Skyways

A skywalk rises above the streets of Minneapolis.

Joe Ferrer / Shutterstock

The harsh northern winters of the Twin Cities are made a little bit more manageable with their dual, climate-controlled skyway systems. Each network is composed of enclosed pedestrian bridges that connect office buildings, museums, banks, and other high-traffic locations. Stretching more than nine miles through downtown, the Minneapolis Skyway System is the largest contiguous system of enclosed, second-level bridges in the world. Although it's mainly used by people working downtown, the Minneapolis Skyway is open to diners, sports fans, and other members of the general public on weekends. The five-mile-long Saint Paul Skyway is open daily and, like its Minneapolis counterpart, requires a map for navigation.

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Chicago Pedway

Pedestrians walk through the Chicago Pedway

John Greenfield / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

Chicago is another Midwestern city invested in making those brisk winter commutes a little more tolerable. The Chicago Pedway snakes five miles through the city’s downtown core, connecting over 50 buildings via tunnels and enclosed bridges. The interconnected system began in 1951 as a way for folks to walk comfortably between subway lines, and it has expanded over the decades to include many more popular locations throughout the Loop area. Perhaps an unintended benefit of the Chicago Pedway is traffic safety. Due to high-volume use of the pedway system, the city claims fewer pedestrian-related automobile accidents.

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Houston Tunnel System

A look down a corridor of one of Houston's Downton Tunnels

Ed Schipul / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

First developed in the 1930s, Houston’s tunnel network has expanded over the decades and now connects 90-plus city blocks; best of all, it’s protected from the summer heat. Most of the tunnels in the seven-mile system are 20 feet below the surface, and some are even connected to above-ground skywalks that connect between buildings. Pedestrians can conveniently access the tunnel network by using escalators, elevators, or stairways at street level, and for those unfamiliar with the network, the city has provided an interactive map to help them find their way.

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Plus 15

Calagary's Plus 15 during the day time

John Vetterli / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Plus 15, also known as +15, is a system of pedestrian bridges that connects buildings throughout downtown Calgary, which offers pedestrians much-needed respite from the frigid winter winds. The network’s unusual name comes from the height of the climate-controlled walkways, in feet, above street level. Some of the skywalks have more than one level and are referred to according to their height (+30 and +45, for example). Opened in 1970, the Plus 15 stretches for about 11 miles over a 50-block area within the city’s core.

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A concourse in Toronto's PATH network

Diego Torres Silvestre / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

The first iteration of Toronto’s underground pedestrian system dates all the way back to 1900, when a local department store built a tunnel for shoppers to use during the freezing Canadian winters. That earliest tunnel is still in use as part of the 19-mile, climate-controlled Downtown Toronto PATH network. Today, PATH joins 1,200 shops and businesses—from restaurants and hotels to subways and aquariums—that generate a whopping $1.7 billion in sales each year. Considered a shopping complex by some, the Guinness Book of World Records named PATH the "largest underground shopping center in the world,” comprising a total of around 4 million square feet.

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Edmonton Pedway

An Edmonton Pedway section at night.

Kurt Bauschardt / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

The city of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada is home to a series of tunnels and second-story walkways that connect prominent downtown businesses, known simply as Edmonton Pedway. The majority of the eight-mile-long complex was built in the 1970s and 1980s when Edmonton experienced a massive surge in downtown real estate development. Today, Edmonton Pedway connects over 40 buildings throughout downtown, as well as hubs for the city’s light rail transit system.

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Underground City

A modern tunnel connects segments of Underground City in Montreal

Yannick Mootoosamy / 500px / Getty Images

Montrealers looking to escape the region’s icy winters and still explore the city on foot will use the popular RÉSO network, or, Underground City, as it is commonly called. The subterranean metropolis contains a vast network of tunnels that weave together shops, restaurants, and a rapid transit system so that shoppers and commuters can avoid facing the harsh elements. The 20-mile Underground City has a staggering 120 exterior access points.

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The interior view looking straight down a skywalk in Des Moines, Iowa

Todd Van Hoosear / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Overlooking the streets of downtown Des Moines, Iowa is a collection of walkways, known as Skywalks, that join together office buildings, hotels, and banks—providing commuters and shoppers reprieve from the summer’s sweltering heat and the stinging bite of winter. The impressive series of walkways add up to four miles and connect 55 buildings in total. Portions of the networks are reachable via street-level staircases and escalators, giving pedestrians easy access to the Skywalk from varying locations throughout downtown.