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EDITORIAL: Banff pedestrian zone a double edged sword

Often big decisions in life can be broken down simply into why something is good and why that same thing is bad, otherwise known as pros and cons.
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Cletus Kaliciak, right, and Aidan Spate from Switzerland scream and ride bri whip in the pedestrian zone at Banff Avenue on May 19. RMO FILE PHOTO

Often big decisions in life can be broken down simply into why something is good and why that same thing is bad, otherwise known as pros and cons.

A productive pros and cons list can go a long way in helping out in everyday situations like whether or not to show enthusiasm to your boss’ never-stale First World War references – sure, Greg, tell me more about the economic crisis in 1918 – or how unfortunate it would be to hit send on that 1 a.m. text message to my ex.

Then there’s the Banff pedestrian zone, which will have long-term effects on the great mountain town community for both visitors and residents alike.

A hot button topic, the seasonal pedestrian zone was voted to annually return in the downtown core moving forward. All the details of that are in this week’s story “Banff ped zone moving ahead on annual basis”. However, the decision is not official until Banff’s budget is passed in January.

Earlier this week, a long debate occurred inside council chambers on the pros and cons of why this “polarizing” topic should or shouldn’t move forward. 

Con: The awful traffic situation. Blocking off one of the most prominent sections in town and diverting its traffic throughout other parts, such as in residential areas, has been, well, congested (get ready to read that a lot), noisy, annoying, and unsafe. From personal experience, driving to the Banff Recreation Grounds to cover sports over the Bow River Bridge in the heat of summer and during peak tourist season is best described as testing one's sanity. 

Pro: The ped zone is more accessible. Some believe that the implementation of the ped zone created a more inclusive and accessible downtown space, especially to those living with physical, intellectual, cognitive or developmental challenges. 

Con: Evacuation and other safety issues. At a time when Canada just experienced its worst wildfire season ever, people in the Bow Valley are rightfully concerned about the hottest and driest months. Should the worst case scenario occur, people rushing to evacuate will undoubtedly cause a bottleneck of congestion and bumper-to-bumper madness – especially at the vehicle bridge. However, the Town of Banff is expected to approach Parks Canada about driving management solutions to areas like Sulphur Mountain.

Pro: Social experience. The free walking space of a ped zone is a direction many cities and towns around the world are moving toward. According to Banff Lake Louise Tourism, there is strong support from visitors who enjoy the experience.

Con: Some businesses get the shaft. One out of three businesses don’t support the ped zone because patio seating that lines the street gives an unfair advantage to some.

Pro: It makes people think about transportation options. Traffic is going to be a nightmare, you say? Well, alternate options of transportation, such as biking and taking the bus, are becoming more popular in Banff due to people thinking green, or wanting to avoid a headache. The local public transit system Roam experienced a record number of ridership this year, a whopping 1.5 million riders at the end of September.

Pro/Con: Resident experience.

Each member of the community undoubtedly has a vision of how Banff should be in their mind. Though, the one constant in life is that change is inevitable and things won't stop changing in Canada's most popular national park mountain town.


Rocky Mountain Outlook

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The Rocky Mountain Outlook is Bow Valley's No. 1 source for local news and events.
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