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CBC | Town of Banff

Banff’s Pedestrian Paradise: The Street That Swapped Engines for Feet!

Banff leans towards transforming its iconic avenue into a lively pedestrian corridor, funded by patio seating and parking fees

Banff’s iconic main street, Banff Avenue, was transformed into a pedestrian corridor in the summer, initially to create more space for social distancing during the pandemic. But now, the ‘temporary’ seasonal closure may become a permanent fixture. 

Banff Mayor Corrie DiManno, at the Governance and Finance Committee meeting in December, introduced a motion to make this closure a regular feature.

The proposal suggests activating the pedestrian zone annually from the May long weekend until the end of the Thanksgiving weekend. 

Funding for this initiative will come from the revenue generated by patio seating permits of restaurants and visitor parking fees.

The council’s vote showed a majority in favour, with a 5-2 split. 

While councillors Ted Christensen and Hugh Pettigrew expressed reservations, the latter calling for more time to refine the implementation, the majority sided with the proposal.

Mayor DiManno championed the corridor as Banff’s “summertime heartbeat,” turning a car-dominated avenue into a vibrant public plaza.

The final debate on the issue will occur at a January budget meeting.

From Pandemic to Permanent? 

This shift began in 2020, a strategic move to create more pedestrian space during the pandemic. Since then, the closure has returned seasonally, evolving into an economic recovery measure. 

On peak days, Banff Avenue hosts up to 40,000 pedestrians, a testament to its popularity.

Although incredibly popular, this public space debate isn’t without contention. 

Darren Enns, the town’s Director of Planning and Environment, shed light on the diverse opinions. 

While visitors largely support the pedestrian avenue, local residents are more divided. 

Balancing Concerns

Some people are worried about too many cars spilling over onto nearby streets. Banff Avenue is a main road for cars. But with the road closed, the adjacent residential streets are seeing more cars than usual.

In response, the town has introduced measures like free peripheral parking, enhanced traffic monitoring, and “parking ambassadors” to manage increasing traffic flow. 

These plans are made to lessen traffic and keep a fair balance between people walking and cars driving.

The choice to turn Banff Avenue into a walking area from late spring until early fall is part of a bigger idea–a city where walking is prioritized, making the city more lively and people-friendly.

Yet, it also poses challenges in balancing the needs of residents, visitors, and motorists. 

The outcome of this initiative will shape the future of downtown Banff, highlighting the evolving nature of tourist towns in catering to popular demand while maintaining an appealing visitor experience in an environmentally conscious manner.

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