Banff Avenue Pedestrian Zone
Banff Town Council decided on December 18, 2023, to continue the summer pedestrian zone. There is a formal vote with Budget finalization in January, and it is expected to confirm the decision.
The temporary pedestrian zone will continue in the summer of 2024, similar to 2023, from the May Long Weekend to Thanksgiving.
In Late 2024, the Town will look at options for interim infrastructure changes to improve the recurring summer pedestrian zone into the future, such as adding ramps at curbs and modifying the median to improve accessibility for people who use wheelchairs.
The Pedestrian Zone on Banff Avenue started as pandemic response, to provide room for people to safely distance and safely access shops and restaurants facing occupancy restrictions. The zone continued as part of Banff’s economic recovery and to provide a better visitor experience for people who visit in summer.
Banff Avenue has transformed many times over the decades to meet changing needs – from the introduction of boardwalks when horses were the mode of travel, to adding parking when Parks Canada allowed vehicles into the park, to widening sidewalks in 2007 when we had thousands of pedestrians each day downtown. Now we have run out of space on the sidewalks in summer, when more than 30,000 people per day can visit the two blocks in downtown Banff.
Banff Town Council made the decision to continue the pedestrian zone each year after hearing from more than 1,600 people who provided input online and in workshops and focus meetings. Learn more at banffviewpoints.ca/banffave
New in 2023:
- e-bike charging at the free bike valet - a staffed bicycle lock-up near the Visitor Centre
- increased Roam transit frequency
- increase in sidewalk seating permit fees for Banff Ave businesses, to market rates
- No smoking is permitted in the Pedestrian Zone. Smoking is permitted in adjacent alley ways and parking lots.
The best seat in Banff
This location is traditionally the busiest pedestrian area in the Town of Banff. Up to 30,000 pedestrians each day can stroll down Banff Avenue in summer season. The pedestrian zone allows for visitors to experience the majestic vistas of Banff in a manner never available before. Restaurants and stores offer sidewalk seating and retail displays along the pedestrian zone, and temporary public amenities are provided including a free bike valet, public seating and occasional activation.
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 is 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 Ave. 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. Walking from the Train Station Parking Lot to downtown Banff takes 8 minutes. Visitor-pay parking in the downtown core ($5/hour) aims to increase turn-over of short-term spaces.
- Cyclist support
2020 and 2021 saw a surge in cycling in Banff National Park, particularly for visitors cycling 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. Businesses rent bicycles in the Train Station Parking Lot, and the Town has bike repair stations around town and a free bicycle lockup or "bike valet" on Banff Avenue, complete with an e-bike charging station.
- 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 to orient themselves and find the best way downtown or to the nearby Bow River trail.
- Traffic monitoring and control
The Town monitors all key intersections and arterial roads through the summer. Our staff can override traffic light sequences to allow more vehicles through one direction to reduce traffic backs up. The Town also employs other methods to reduce traffic delays:
- Traffic flaggers located at key intersections every weekend help move vehicles through congestion points
- Town crews install alert signs at key locations on the north side (downtown) when Parks Canada notifies our staff that the parking lots at the gondola and hot pools on Sulphur Mountain are full. We display signs alerting motorists to avoid crossing to the south side because drivers who continue will be forced to turn around after driving up to the top of the Mountain Avenue and will join a line of traffic waiting to return to the north side.
Travel time comparison on Banff Avenue
The Pedestrian Zone does add travel time to motorists driving south on Banff Avenue and on the detour to Beaver Street before returning to Banff Ave and the bridge to the south side. However, the congestion on the south side is caused by too many vehicles travelling to the gondola and hot pools, and experiencing full parking lots. In 2022, there were longer traffic delays experienced on Mountain Ave for drivers heading back downtown AFTER the pedestrian zone was reopened to vehicle traffic. The solution is for more visitors to use the free shuttle to the gondola and Roam transit to reach south side attractions, and to leave personal vehicles parked at hotels, campgrounds and the Train Station Parking Lot.
West Entrance to Downtown travel times – July long weekend through Sept long weekend
- 2022 Average Max 7.5 minutes
- 2022 Max 24 minutes
- 2019 Average Max 10 minutes
- 2019 Max 20 minutes
East Entrance to Downtown travel times – July long weekend through Sept long weekend
- 2022 Average Max 15.5 minutes
- 2022 Max 39 minutes
- 2019 Average Max 19.5 minutes
- 2019 Max 44 minutes
Rimrock to Downtown travel times – July long weekend through Sept long weekend
- 2022 Average Max 12 minutes
- 2022 Max 20.5 minutes
- 2019 Average Max 13 minutes
- 2019 Max 42 minutes
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
- Two accessible stalls are added to Wolf Street and Buffalo Street to maintain nearby access to the Pedestrian Zone
- The parking lot beside the Visitor Centre and by the Banff Ave Square have accessible stalls for close access to the Pedestrian Zone
- A convenient drop-off site for drivers who want to get close to the centre of the Pedestrian Zone to drop off passengers then park elsewhere is at the Caribou Street gate. Drivers heading south on Banff avenue should take the east detour at Wolf Street to Beaver Street, drive a block south, then west on Caribou Street to the gate
- 2023 Downtown Banff Pedestrian Zone Guidelines – Food and Beverage Operators (PDF)
- 2023 Downtown Banff Pedestrian Zone Guidelines – Retail Operators (PDF)
- Sidewalk Seating Policy (PDF)
- Sidewalk Seating Application Form
- Outdoor Merchandise Display Policy (PDF)
- Outdoor Merchandise Display Application Form