Banff Avenue Pedestrian Zone
The 100 and 200 blocks of Banff Avenue and a portion of Caribou Street will be closed to vehicle traffic this summer to provide more space for pedestrians to practice physical distancing, and to provide local businesses with more space for customers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Banff Avenue closes to vehicles April 30, 2021
Banff Town Council has moved up the date they are mobilizing the Downtown Pedestrian Zone to April 30, up from June 12. Banff Avenue will be closed to all vehicles on Friday, April 30. Restaurants and retailers that have received permission from the Town of Banff can install their presence on the street as early as April 30, in accordance with the guidelines they are provided. The Town will begin implementing pedestrian zone logistics and amenities staggered of the following days and weeks. Some aspects, such as full planters and ramp platforms will take additional time to prepare.
For guideline documents, eligibility and applications:
- 2021 Downtown Banff Pedestrian Zone Guidelines – Retail Operators (PDF)
- 2021 Downtown Banff Pedestrian Zone Guidelines – Food and Beverage Operators (PDF)
These closures will allow residents and visitors to adhere to Alberta Health Services regulations to remain 2 metres/6 feet away from others while exploring downtown Banff.
Cycling will be permitted within the pedestrian zone subject to signage indicating cyclists yield to pedestrians and maintain a ‘dead slow’ speed and transit will be allowed in the zone.
More room to visit businesses
This location is traditionally the busiest pedestrian area in the Town of Banff. In a normal year, up to 30,000 pedestrians per day can stroll down Banff Avenue in peak season. The closure, in addition to providing space for physical distancing for pedestrians, will provide more space for customers accessing businesses on Banff Avenue.
Restaurants and stores have limits on interior occupancy. Businesses may offer sidewalk seating and retail displays along the pedestrian zone, while ensuring people can maintain 2-metre distance from others. Several businesses on nearby Bear Street will also be able to set up displays on Banff Avenue while construction takes place on that road (http://brandnewbear.ca). Banff’s economy is significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and this is one measure to help businesses safely operate.
Changes in 2021
In 2021, Banff is expected to experience visitation volumes higher than in 2020. While it is unclear what the requirements for social distancing will be in the summer of 2021, it is believed that a pedestrian zone will be an attraction for visitors regardless of COVID. If these assumptions prove correct, it is fair to assume that pedestrian volumes in the downtown will be as high in 2021 as they were in 2020, if not higher. In response, we’re increasing the amount of space available for pedestrian movement by keeping both interior traffic lanes clear of commercial activity.
Caribou Street for 2021
On Caribou Street, there will be a flipped configuration from 2020 which places restaurants adjacent to buildings and along sidewalks, leaving a walking lane in the middle. Given the conflicts observed between passing pedestrians and restaurant queues on this street in 2020, it is believed that this will create a more effective pedestrian environment in the centre of the street and still allow Caribou restaurants a similar amount of space for outdoor seating.
No Tents in 2021
Event-style tents as used in 2020 for restaurants will not be permitted as part of a future pedestrian zone. Restaurants must make use of other devices for barriers and make use of sun umbrellas for weather protection.
Traffic in Downtown Banff
Banff Avenue is an important transportation corridor for vehicles. The closure of 2 blocks in the downtown core will create some traffic congestion, likely on busy summer days due to the detours.
Vehicle traffic will be diverted to adjacent streets, such as Lynx Street, Beaver Street, and to a lesser extent, Muskrat and Otter streets – on the east side of Banff Avenue, and Lynx and Buffalo streets – to the west and south of Banff Avenue. Access to the south side through detours and Buffalo Street will be maintained.
To deal with congestion, the Town of Banff is implementing a number of tactics, including:
- Promotion of free parking
With the introduction of Visitor-Pay Parking in May 2021, the Town will promote the free 9-hour parking on the periphery of downtown, such as in the Train Station Parking Lot, to reduce traffic coming into the downtown core. Visitor-pay parking in the downtown area will increase turn-over of short-term spaces.
- Free weekend Train Station Parking Lot shuttle service
In 2019, a contract shuttle service was offered for visitors using the Train Station parking lot. In 2020, that service was postponed due to financial and operational constraints. Restoring that free service on weekends will offer an incentive to use the parking lot for those who may have mobility challenges or are reluctant for other reasons to walk downtown.
- Cycling supports
2020 saw a surge in cycling in Banff National Park, particularly for visitors experiencing the closure of the Bow Valley Parkway and the ever-popular Legacy Trail. Providing services to these users could improve their experience as well as encourage them to enter the downtown core. The Town will offer commercial businesses opportunities to rent bicycles in the Train Station Parking Lot, and is establishing service benches and repair stations. In addition, a bicycle lockup or "bike valet" will be established on Banff Avenue.
- Parking / Wayfinding ambassadors at the Train Station Parking Lot
Ambassadors will be stationed on weekends at the Train Station Public Parking lot to provide an additional incentive for people parked in those lots to orient themselves and obtain information.
- Increased intercept lot diversion tactics
Despite efforts to maximize the use of the Train Station intercept parking lot, occupancy at the public parking lot was observed to be below 50% for most of the summer. To enhance use of the parking lot, additional tactics include:
- Directional signage program
- Flagging at key locations
- Roundabout reconfiguration at Lynx / Railway
Banff is only 4 square kilometres in area. Parking is very limited and navigating will be affected by detours. Visitors to the Banff townsite should plan their route to one of the main parking lots, all within 10 minutes walking distance of the downtown core.
- If staying overnight in a hotel or camping, enter Banff at the Banff Avenue/Lake Minnewanka entrance. This is the quickest way to most hotels and the campgrounds, which offer free transit into downtown.
- If visiting Banff for the day, enter the townsite from the Mount Norquay Road entrance for quick access to the 9-hour free parking at the Train Station Parking Lot. This is an 8-minute walk to downtown, or use the free shuttle on weekends
- Use banffparking.ca to find parking lots with available spaces, costs, and the best route to the location
- The closure area has two accessible stalls which will be relocated to Wolf Street and Buffalo Street to maintain access
- Landscape planters will be installed and configured as guides to pedestrian movement, while also creating an inviting environment
- For Banff Businesses - Banff Ave Pedestrian Zone Guidelines (PDF)
- Sidewalk Seating Permits - Outdoor Merchandise Display Permits
Public Opinions about Banff’s Downtown Pedestrian Zone (PDF) - October 13, 2020