Bear Street Shared Street

Shared Street Concept Opens in new windowRead the summary of the March 20, 2020 Emergency Bear Street Stakeholder Meeting on COVID-19 (PDF)

Bear Street Shared Street

Reconstruction of Bear Street will commence in the spring of 2020 and continue through to the late fall. 

The project will replace all underground sewer and water mains, add soil cells for better maintenance of more trees and landscaping, more and better street lighting, additional public seating areas and areas where restaurants can apply to have patio seating.

There will be no curbs and no centre line, and the tile or slabs will create an environment encouraging pedestrians to cross anywhere.

There will be seasonal elements that will allow more parking to be added in winter months. The temporary seating platforms on Wolf and Caribou streets will not be installed between Bear Street and the alleys in 2020.

Sign Up for Updates:

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

The Project
The Bear Street Shared Street project (called a Woonerff during five summer trials) 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. Research of conversions to pedestrian-friendly streets in other communities show increased pedestrian safety, visitor enjoyment, and an economic boost to businesses.

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)

Project approved
During the annual Service Review of all departments, on December 17, 2019, Town Council asked for the Bear Street Reconstruction project to be brought to budget deliberations for final review.  

On January 27, 2020, Town Council approved the annual budget, including:

  • an increase in the reconstruction budget to a total of $7.8 million, and
  • a  communications and marketing budget of up to $550,000 to maintain customers and clients visiting Bear Street businesses and services during the construction in 2020.

Following a detailed Request For Proposals (RFP), the Town has selected a construction firm to undertake the work in 2020. 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. Examples of designs in the RFP document:

Next Steps:

  1. Businesses, employees, property owners and residents of Bear Street who are registered for updates (sign up above) will be invited to apply to be on a Stakeholder Communications Committee in a role similar to "block captains" to share information about the project and provide input on the marketing theme.
  2. All Bear Street Tenants will be invited to a project overview session in March.
  3. Construction and road closures will commence in the spring, as soon as ground frost has subsided enough for digging to expose underground sewer and water systems.
  4. An open information session for anyone interested in the project will be held in April.

Public Feedback

Public input on project for budget consideration
Members of the public were invited to present their viewpoints to the December 17 meeting of Town Council reviewing the project before budget decisions.

Public input on marketing & communications 
Bear Street businesses and residents were invited to provide input on a draft communications and marketing plan to promote the street during redevelopment.  Administration revised the communications and marketing plan based on input received over 6 meetings with Bear Street tenants and property owners. This recommendations were presented to council on December 17: Revised Communications and Marketing Tactics for Bear Street Reconstruction, with Stakeholder Input (PDF).

Public input on Reconstruction 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).

Public input on shared street (woonerff) trials
Residents and businesses were surveyed on the trials of adding summer seating on Bear Street, Caribou Street and Wolf Street over four summers. The input helped revise final designs of the project. The temporary seating platforms on Wolf and Caribou streets will not be installed between Bear Street and the alleys in 2020. 

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 2019 was the fifth and final year of the Bear Street Woonerff trial. A trial was also held on adjacent Wolf and Caribou streets.


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)