Parks Canada is considering whether to continue closing a section of Banff's Bow Valley Parkway to motor vehicles, after two trial runs proved popular among cyclists and other road users.
Both this summer and last, an eastern section of Highway 1A has been closed to public vehicles.
During the pandemic restrictions, the closure stretched from the Highway 1 junction just outside the Banff townsite to where it meets Highway 93 South. That was shortened when restrictions were lifted on July 1, stretching from Highway 1 to just before Johnston Canyon.
Now, Parks Canada is asking for public feedback on making that slightly shorter closure a regular occurrence, but limited to the spring and fall.
Two options are being looked at:
Closing the section of highway for seven days a week in May, June, September and October for a total of 122 days.
Closing it only two days a week (weekends only) in May, June, September and October for a total of 36 days.
Daniella Rubeling, the visitor experience manager for Banff with Parks Canada, says they've had a lot of positive feedback from cyclists about the closures, but also said motorists were interested in being able to do a scenic drive along the route.
"So we're looking to balance the access of motorists and cyclists and other users," she said. "And so that's why those two options are what we're engaging on right now."
She said there's plenty of anecdotal evidence to support the idea that plenty of cyclists of varying abilities have enjoyed the closures and that there will be more solid data by the end of summer.
"I think based on what we've heard so far, and what we're hearing as people are giving us feedback, that this change is welcome," said Rubeling.
"And it fits in with a lot of the mandates in the area, you know, that Parks Canada has in terms of different ways of exploring the park and seeing that area."
Tom Couture, who owns Banff Cycle and rents bikes to visitors, says the closure has allowed a whole new segment of the population to safely ride the route. And while he wants Parks Canada to evaluate the feedback and make the right decision, he wants to see it continue.
"Well, to be as candid as can be, if they did not close the 1A to traffic, I would not be in business today," he said.
Couture says he obviously has a financial interest in the ultimate decision but thinks the closure will be beneficial to the park. He also worries that once travel restrictions are over, that decisions will revert back to favouring out-of-country visitors.
"Albertans, from everywhere in Alberta, have come and they've rented bikes from me and they've had a great experience and, and they've really enjoyed the park and they've saved me," he said.
"So I hope we don't forget them."
Feedback can be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by regular mail to:
Box 900 Banff, AB
The public review period is open until Sept. 9.
Any change would come into effect in 2022.