Banff Avenue Pedestrian Zone
Banff Avenue and a portion of Caribou Street in downtown Banff will be closed to vehicle traffic for the summer of 2023 to create a vibrant, spacious outdoor destination for visitors and residents.
Banff Avenue closed to vehicles May 15, 2023
The road closed to vehicles on May 15 to allow crews to prepare the site, install gates and seating for the Downtown Pedestrian Zone between Buffalo Street and Wolf Street. The Pedestrian Zone reopened exclusively to pedestrians, cyclists, skateboarders and transit on Friday, May 19, to be open for the Victoria Day Long Weekend. Banff Avenue and parts of Caribou street will be a pedestrian zone until October 13.
People on bicycles and skateboards must travel almost a slowly as pedestrians, and yield to pedestrians.
Roam public transit buses will be running on Banff Avenue again this year, crawling extremely slowly and with an alert bell. The transit frequency on Banff Avenue is increased this year with enhanced network-wide service.
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.
Future of the Pedestrian Zone
In 2020, the pedestrian zone was initially created for 2 reasons:
- to give people more social distancing space during the pandemic. With 30,000 visitors each day in downtown Banff, closing the road to vehicles gave more room for residents and visitors to enjoy the town.
- to give businesses hardest hit by the pandemic an opportunity to safely serve food and offer retail sales. At first, many businesses were restricted in how many people were allowed inside. Restrictions continued until all were fully lifted in summer 2022.
In late 2021, Banff Town Council extended the pedestrian for two years, in response to its overwhelming support from visitors and popularity among many downtown businesses. This year is the final year of a 2-year commitment to offer the temporary pedestrian zone.
The Town of Banff will be seeking input in the fall of 2023 about a concept of a recurring annual summer pedestrian zone. The Town will host in-person and online opportunities for locals to have their say, before Town Council decides on future years.
Register with BanffViewpoints online engagement panel to receive notification about consultation in the fall of 2023.
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