Bear Street Shared Street

Shared Street Concept Opens in new windowReconstruction of Bear Street started in April 2020 and will recommence in March 2021, until completion in mid-July 2021. 

The project will replace all underground sewer and water mains, reconnect all utilities to properties on the street, add soil cells for better irrigation of more trees and landscaping, add more and better street lighting, provide public seating areas and areas where restaurants can apply to have patio seating.

There will be no curbs and no centre line, improving accessibility and slowing vehicle traffic, and the paving 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.

Construction ended in late December 2020 for the winter season. Bear Street was converted into a Winter Pedestrian Zone to attract visitors and residents to the commercial and service hub. For the first time, a skating rink was installed on Bear Street, Christmas Trees were distributed in planters, bear sculptures by artist Jason Carter were added to the intersection at Wolf Street, and Banff & Lake Louise Tourism installed a replica of the "Banff" entrance sign in the centre of Bear Street.

With construction restarted in March 2021, project updates will be available at

2021 Bear Street Construction Map-Dates

Sign Up for Updates

Banff residents, businesses and visitors are encouraged to register for updates on the project: visit Subscribe for Updates and select register for "Notify Me" for Bear Street Reconstruction Updates.

Construction Description

Hours: The hours of construction are permitted from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. (Monday to Friday). Periodic work on Saturdays may occur to help accelerate the project where possible. At this stage, no construction is planned for on Sundays.

Pedestrian Access: Pedestrian access will be maintained to businesses through the project, with periodic closures when work occurs under and around front door access. COVID distancing protocols for pedestrians may require one-way pathways, temporary closures or detours if two-metre distancing cannot be maintained.

Roadway: Vehicle access on the Bear Street roadway will not be possible through the construction period. Bear Street intersections will close at different stages in the project. In 2021, the Caribou and Wolf intersections will serve as laydown area for materials, equipment and road fill.

Parking: Street parking will not be permitted as construction occurs. The Bear Street surface parking lot will be closed for the duration of the project. In 2021, the surface parking lot will be a storage area for the pavers that will cover the surface of the road. Construction in March 2021 will start at the centre of the street in the surface parking lot. Access to the underground parkades on Bear Street will be closed.

Parking on Caribou and Wolf streets will move to 15-minute time limits. In addition to nearby parking in the Bear Street Parkade and Bow Avenue, the Cascade Shops is offering reserved and on-demand paid parking in the mall’s parkade.

Construction during COVID-19 crisis

  • The priority during the project is the safety of construction workers, residents and people who work on the street. The project has implemented enhanced health, proximity and hygiene protocols for construction crews, monitored throughout the project.
  • Site supervisors will regularly review COVID-19 requirements with work crews and contractors, including special equipment and protocols used when workers are unable to maintain 2-metre distance from other workers.
  • Sidewalk controls and barriers will maintain physical distancing between workers and the public, and fenced pathways will be positioned for social distancing between members of the public. At certain times, this may require one-way pathways, detours and closures, if the ability to maintain 2-metre distancing cannot be provided.
  • Everyone is reminded to keep 2 metres/6 feet away from others when traveling through Bear Street and the construction zone, and masks are mandatory outside in the Bear Street zone.

Project Overview

  • The Bear Street Shared Street project (called a Woonerff for 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.
  • 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.

Image of Bear Street Redesign in Summer (PNG)

Bear Street Reconstruction Approved to Proceed

The Bear Street Reconstruction Project was formally approved on January 27, 2020, when Banff Town Council approved the annual operating and capital budgets. However, even though the Construction Contractor was selected from the 2019 Request for Proposals (RFP), the spread of the coronavirus and consequent COVID-19 global pandemic resulted in the Town of Banff paused the project. The Town of Banff declared a State of Local Emergency and Banff Town Council reopened the budgets in order to cut costs to reduce property taxes for our community facing a protracted recession and unemployment.

Although many Town of Banff infrastructure projects and operating services were cancelled for 2020, Council directed the Bear Street Reconstruction project to proceed.

Why did the project proceed in 2020:

  • Work during the COVID crisis will have less disruption to Bear Street tenants and residents, than if undertaken in a normal year or during Banff’s recovery period.
  • The project will employ 90% Bow Valley residents for construction crews, during the protracted recession and widespread local unemployment.
  • Reconstruction of a major street now will minimize impact on Banff’s destination reputation while international borders are closed and visitors are asked to stay home.
  • The completion of the project will help position the Banff economy for recovery after pandemic.
  • Timing is capitalizing on low interest rates used to finance the project.
  • Bear Street stakeholders recommended the project should proceed during the pandemic.

 Read the summary of the March 20, 2020 Emergency Bear Street Stakeholder Meeting on COVID-19 (PDF)

Bear Street Project Review

Banff Town Council asked for a review of the Bear Street project before the construction resumes in spring 2021. A goal was to review issues the project experienced in 2020, in order to explore ways to improve the spring reconstruction process and future projects.

Administration's report was presented to Banff Town Council on March 8, 2021. The report highlights the challenges and successes of the project to date, through the phases of design process, procurement and construction. The report also provides a schedule of the 2021 construction activity to completion.

Project Team

  • Darren Enns, Director of Planning and Development
  • Adrian Field, Director of Engineering
  • Pierre-Hughes “PH” Gagnon, Bear Street Project Manager
  • Rick Williams, Business Liaison Officer
  • Marie-Eve Jackson, Community Liaison Officer
  • Janice Carson, Senior Communications Specialist
  • Jason Darrah, Communications Director


Design Standards 

  • This project will follow design elements set out by the Banff Refreshing standards, which have been in place for 15 years. Incorporating these principles will provide a harmonious streetscape within Banff’s relatively compact downtown core.
  • Design 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 removable patio seating designated to restaurants that apply for additional seating
    • Additional public seating areas
    • 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
    • Additional street lighting
    • Banff Refreshing-style street furnishings (public benches, waste bins).

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.


  • 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. 
  • The Town of Banff 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.
  • Summer 2019 was the fifth and final year of the Bear Street Woonerf trial. A trial of temporary seating platforms was also held on adjacent Wolf and Caribou streets.

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:

Testing the concept of a "Woonerff"

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.


Bear Street Concept Perspective 2
Bear Street Concept Perspective 1
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)