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Bear Street redesign considers removing on-street parking

BANFF – Draft designs for a $6.4 million permanent redevelopment of the 200 block of Bear Street propose to eliminate parking in a bid to create a pedestrian-rich experience.
A rendering of a one of two design concepts for the $6.4 million woonerf redesign for Bear Street in Banff.

BANFF – Draft designs for a $6.4 million permanent redevelopment of the 200 block of Bear Street propose to eliminate parking in a bid to create a pedestrian-rich experience.

The Town of Banff is now seeking public input on two design options for a permanent woonerf, which aims to give pedestrians and cyclists higher priority than vehicles.

At a meeting Monday (Jan. 28), Kaitlin Paris of Banff Home Hardware told council some of the businesses on Bear Street are concerned about the proposed removal of parking.

“Although it’s beautiful, it is still important for a lot of businesses for their customers to be able to park,” said Paris, noting seniors in particular need parking.

“They still need to be able to drive down to the doctor’s office, or the physio clinic, or pick up something at the hardware store.”

Businessman Stavros Karlos, who co-owns property on Bear Street, said the streetscape is aged and needs upgrading, noting he believes this is a great opportunity to further pedestrianize the street.

“I am in support of removing parking stalls, but I hope that council can find a middle ground in order to support the local businesses and ensure the streetscape is pedestrianized,” said the former town councillor.

“I’m not afraid of losing parking stalls throughout that area, but if parking stalls in the surface lot can be made in such a way to reduce time limits, or factor in local necessities, then I think that would be an advantage.”

There are 52 stalls in the surface parking lot located on Bear Street.

A trial of a shared street concept, also known as a woonerf, began in 2015. Sixteen on-street parking stalls were removed to make way for landscaping, public seating and sidewalk cafés.

Regulatory signage was set up to give pedestrians top priority on the street, with vehicles required to yield to both pedestrians and cyclists.

Last year, council’s marching orders to administration were to move ahead with a permanent design without on-street parking, although two handicapped stalls would be included. Loading zones for businesses would be in the alleys.

Council has a vision to get more people out of their vehicles in Banff, which is jam-packed with traffic in summer months. Approximately 500 parking spaces will be provided at the Banff train station, perhaps as early as this year.

Town officials say the four-year woonerf trial showed that Banff Avenue has become a tourist attraction.

“The goal is to create a plaza-like experience throughout Bear Street,” said Darren Enns, Town of Banff’s manager of development services.

In the two draft design concepts, the vehicle lanes will be three metres wide, with one option providing a meandering streetscape and the other more linear driving lanes.

Both options feature a chicane, which is more or less an artificial narrowing or curve in the middle of the road, to slow down vehicle speeds.

The first design option provides a pixelated paving pattern for the street, designed to serve as a visual cue to encourage pedestrians to zigzag across the streets. The second option is marked by more formal, diagonal patterns.

Councillor Corrie DiManno said she loves both design concepts.

“I know I have been very outspoken about not having any on-street parking, except for handicap parking,” she said.

“When we do receive the feedback I will have an open mind as required, but I am also asking the public has an open mind too. This project is for the betterment of the street.”