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LETTER: Seniors don't support seasonal closure of Banff Avenue

Editor: Mayor and Council, The Banff Senior Citizens Society executive has been asked by its members to bring the following concerns to Council about the closure of Banff Avenue the past few summers.


The Banff Senior Citizens Society executive has been asked by its members to bring the following concerns to Banff's mayor and council about the closure of Banff Avenue the past few summers. Banff spent millions of dollars re-designing Banff Avenue, including widening the sidewalks to accommodate additional foot traffic. Expanding the walkways further by closing the driving lanes is unnecessary. In fact, several seniors have observed that most pedestrians stick to the sidewalks rather than venturing out onto the street where bicycles and buses are trying to negotiate the obstacle course of planters and restaurant seating. The seniors understand that there is a commercial cap on businesses in Banff. If this is indeed the case, why are businesses allowed to expand their commercial footprint onto Banff Avenue? We don’t think it’s fair that a few restaurants and clothing stores profit from the seasonal closure of Banff Avenue while other businesses, as well as residents and visitors, are inconvenienced every day by the closure. The closing of Banff Avenue substantially increases congestion in the vehicle bridge area on both sides of the river, leading to public safety concerns on both sides of the river. Just spend a few minutes at the intersection of Banff Avenue and Buffalo Street to see the traffic woes throughout the day. Residential streets and intersections are not designed for commercial or recreational vehicles. The closure of the two blocks of Banff Avenue diverts tourist and commercial traffic onto what should be quiet residential streets including Beaver, Muskrat, Otter, and Buffalo. Every summer there are several occasions when residential neighbourhoods on the north side of the river are gridlocked. This creates anxiety for senior residents about the accessibility of their homes to emergency services. It also creates concerns about air quality when streams of traffic with their associated exhaust, pass by or idle all day adjacent to their homes. Some senior residents on the south side of the river are anxious during the dry summer months, wondering if they will be evacuated in a timely manner in the event of some sort of emergency. This anxiety was heightened this past summer with the fires in the Okanagan and Shuswap areas of B.C. One senior, who picks up her grandkids from daycare weekdays, must allow at least 45 minutes to get across the river to get to the daycare on time in the summer months. That’s unacceptable in a town with a footprint of only four-square kilometres. In her letter to the editor of the Rocky Mountain Outlook this past August, Lois Hunt from Cascade House eloquently wrote that the closure of Banff Avenue has led to traffic being diverted to Wolf and Beaver Streets - right in front of her home. The steady stream of traffic makes it impossible for her and other residents to keep their windows open in the summer. The exhaust from the volume of traffic passing by their home is noxious for residents of Cascade House as well as for their neighbours. The senior residents of Cascade House must also negotiate the volumes of traffic as they attempt to cross the street outside their home. ‘Darting’ across the street is not an option for many seniors. More than one resident has exclaimed: “Are you trying to kill us?” In conclusion, we feel that our members’ concerns about public safety, air quality, visitor experience, and unnecessary traffic congestion caused by the seasonal closure of Banff Avenue should be listened to. In the interest of our members, the Banff Senior Citizens Society is unable to support future dedicated summer closures of Banff Avenue. Mary Buckingham President Banff Senior Citizens Society

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