Calgary

Banff votes to make over Bear Street as shared road

Banff's Bear Street is going to be transformed into a shared street for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.

Redesign meant to give cars, bikes and pedestrians equal standing

Banff is moving ahead with a plan to redesign Bear Street so that pedestrians, cars and cyclists become equal users of the commercial road. (Town of Banff)

Banff's Bear Street is going to be transformed into a shared street for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.

Town council voted in favour of moving ahead with the project on Monday.

The redesign includes:

  • Removing the curbs so that vehicles and pedestrians are at the same grade.
  • Adding bicycle parking.
  • Safer pedestrian crossings.
  • Putting in paving patterns to slow vehicle traffic.
  • Adding more trees, vegetation, lighting and benches.

The project is based on the Dutch  design principle of Woonerf, or shared street.

"Cars drive at a very slow speed, pedestrians have the right-of-way and cyclists travel through at a leisurely pace," the town's website says.

Darren Enns, the director of planning and development for Banff, says the town is working hard to mitigate disruption during construction.

"The construction season, unfortunately, overlaps with the tourism season here in Banff and so there's going to be disruption during the peak season for a lot of these businesses and that's going to be something that we're looking to mitigate through our communications and marketing plan."

Business concerns

Not all businesses are in favour of moving ahead with the project right away.

Speaking on behalf of 15 businesses on the block, Sophie Spark asked town council to delay the project for one year, since there have already been three disruptive construction projects in the area this year.

"We really wanted to give the small businesses of Bear Street a bit more of a chance to catch up, have one … summer season of uninterrupted operation," she said.

The makeover will see the curbs removed so that pedestrians and vehicles are at the same grade. (Tahirih Foroozan/CBC)

On the other hand, Spark said it's true that many businesses, especially restaurants, will benefit from increased foot traffic when the project is done.

Kaitlin Paris, who manages the Home Hardware, says more foot traffic and fewer parking spaces won't help her business, however.

"A lot of people bike when they can but sometimes when you have to pick up soil or concrete — something like that, something big — people need their vehicles."

Construction is scheduled to begin in spring 2020.

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