News / Toronto

New guide launched to make it safer for Toronto kids to walk to school

The guide is a resource for parents who want to make neighbourhoods more pedestrian friendly.

Kids on their way to school are a welcome sign of the start of fall in the city, but more are being driven in recent years.

Torstar News Service file

Kids on their way to school are a welcome sign of the start of fall in the city, but more are being driven in recent years.

Nazerah Shaikh’s son is only two years old but she’s already fretting about his first day of school.

When he starts kindergarten a few years from now, Shaikh wants her son to walk to school – just like she did as a child growing up in Florida.

But like many parents in Toronto she doesn’t feel it’s safe.

“The cars, they’re going through really fast in the neighbourhood, especially when it’s time for school or after school, they’re whizzing by,” she said.

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With parents like Shaikh in mind, a coalition of organizations led by Green Communities Canada, have developed a toolkit to make walking to school safer in the city.

Nancy Smith Lea, the director of Toronto Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT), said the ressource can help parents navigate red tape at City Hall and improve safety in their neighbourhoods.

“We both really need to get more people walking and cycling but we really need to make it safer at the same time,” Smith Lea said.

Unfortunately, the opposite is happening in Toronto. Since June, 1,083 pedestrians and cyclists have been hit by cars, according to police – an eight per cent increase over this time last year.

As well, the number of children aged 11 to 13 walking to school has decreased 14 per cent since 1986.

“Kids being able to walk and bike to school can really help them to establish active habits throughout their lives and we’ve been seeing a real reduction in the number of kids who walk to school,” said Smith Lea.

The guide is already available on TCAT’s website and will be distributed through the Toronto District School Board, as well as presented at the Board of Health’s Sept. 30 meeting.

Shaikh, who was consulted on the report, has already met with her city councillor to discuss making her North York neighbourhood safer for kids, through measures like bike lanes and better lighting.

As a parent and also the Ward 13 representative for the TDSB’s parent involvement advisory committee, she found the toolkit helpful.

“We have to kind of advocate for our kids, and as parents we didn’t really know how to do that.”

Learn more about how Toronto's streets can be made safer for vulnerable road users in Metro's #TODeadlyStreets series.

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