Bear Street Shared Street

Shared Street Concept Opens in new windowThe Bear Street Shared Street (Woonerff) project will help pedestrians, cars and cyclists become equal users of the commercial road. 

In addition to the beautification of the street, traffic-calming features will make vehicles drive at very slow speeds, pedestrians will have the right-of-way, and cyclists will travel comfortably through the space.

Following four summers of trials with temporary features, the Town developed a proposed street redesign.  In January 2019, council provided direction on parking requirements.  Administration developed conceptual design options and compiled public feedback in February and March 2019.  Council selected a preferred design after review of public input and maintained the timeline of construction in 2020, to occur at the same time as renewal of underground drainage, sewer and water main systems.

Image of Bear Street Redesign in Summer (PNG)

The Town a Request For Proposals (RFP) to select a construction firm to undertake the work on a finalized design in 2020. Originally issued in October, this tender was re-issued to give more time for the tender process to get best value. The tender to receive bids closes on December 13, 2019. The construction is estimated to last up to 11 months. The schedule of construction and the phases of work on sections of the road will be determined when the contractor is selected.

Selection of the contractor will be in late 2019 or early 2020.

Next Steps:

On Tuesday, December 17, 2019, as part of the annual service review for setting the 2020 projects and annual budget, Town administration will present to Town Council the cost for reconstruction in the selected contractor's proposal as well as:

  • a proposal to extend the construction into the Bear Street surface parking lot in 2020, and
  • a proposal for a communications and marketing plan for implementation before and during the construction in 2020.

Members of the public are welcome to present their viewpoints on these items at the beginning of the December 17 meeting, shortly after 9 a.m. or provide a written submission by December 2 at 4 p.m. 

(This meeting was originally scheduled for December 4, as part of other projects for Engineering and Planning. An additional day dedicated to the Bear Street project was added to the annual Service Review meetings to provide a sufficient opportunity for stakeholders who wish to provide input on the project and to allow further time for the ongoing tender process. All reports for Service Review, including the Bear Street project will be published on the Service Review page by November 29.)

Public Feedback

Stakeholder Input on Marketing 
Bear Street businesses and residents were invited to provide input on a draft communications and marketing plan to promote the street during redevelopment.  The Town is proposing a communications based on the 2007 Banff Refreshing marketing used to maintain business and visitation. The proposed communications tactics include pre-construction strategies, and marketing during construction.  A series of six meetings were held with tenants of Bear Street to compile input on the communications and marketing tactics. 

Administration will recommend to council a revised communications and marketing plan, which includes input received over 6 meetings with Bear Street tenants and property owners. This report is presented to council on December 17. Public input is welcome near the start of the meeting, which starts at 9 a.m. 

Public Input on Design
The Town held 13 hours of public input sessions in February and March 2019 to compile feedback on design options.
See the Open House Information Boards (PDF).
On March 25, 2019, council was presented a What We Heard (PDF) report. Administration also provided options for the design in response to the feedback in a Council Report (PDF).

Stay Engaged:

Bear Street business owners, property owners, and residents are encouraged to register for future communications and engagement, and project updates at: 

Design Standards:

This project will follow design elements set out by the Banff Refreshing standard, which have been in place for 15 years. Incorporating these principles will provide a harmonious streetscape within Banff's relatively compact downtown core. Banff Refreshing principles include:

  • Shifting vehicular space to pedestrian and amenity space;
  • Enhancing street drainage;
  • Removing curbs and maintaining street and sidewalk areas on the same grade;
  • Adding zones for patio seating designated to restaurants that apply for additional seating;
  • Paving patterns and street features to slow vehicle traffic;
  • Additional bicycle parking;
  • Safer crossing environments for pedestrians;
  • Introduction of trees and vegetation to the streetscape;
  • Adding street lighting; and
  • Introduction of Banff Refreshing-style street furnishings (public benches; waste bins).


WoonerfTurning the 200 Block of Bear Street into a shared street was one of the recommendations in the Transportation Master Plan. The Town has been testing the design and impact of the "Woonerff" to assist with long-term decision making.

Woonerf is a Dutch word used to describe a shared street, or "living street."

The concept is used throughout Europe and is gaining popularity in North America. Banff is a very walkable community, so it was a natural step for us. It was also an unusual word that helped it stand out and draw attention to this new project.

The Dutch word is actually spelled Woonerf (with one 'f') but we used 'ff' to mirror the way we spell Banff!

Why Bear Street?

Bear Street is not considered a main arterial road in the downtown core and receives a fraction of the vehicle and pedestrian traffic of nearby Banff Avenue or Lynx Street.

Living streets, or shared roads, are designed to foster more sustainable, active modes of transportation, and enhance the vibrancy of downtown spaces.

Studies have shown that making streets more friendly to cyclists and pedestrians has a positive economic impact for businesses on the street.

In addition, a more pedestrian-friendly road in our downtown provides an additional attraction for visitors to popular Banff Avenue in peak season.

Four years of trials

Summer 2018 was the fourth and final year of the Bear Street Woonerff trial. A trial was also held on adjacent Wolf and Caribou streets.


Construction in 2020

After public consultation, final design work and planning of reconstruction of all underground services such as water, storm and sewer services, the construction of permanent features will start in spring 2020.

Two Yellow Benches in the Shade
Bikes Locked Up Beside the Street
Wooden Tables and Seats in a Public Area
Bear Street Looking North - Downtown Enhancement Concept Plan (1992) (JPG)