Left, The 20-minute walk to school for Meraj Jamal and his two children just doesn’t fit into their busy schedule. Right, morning traffic congestion on the streets around Centennial Road.

By Denise Bacon

The tragic accident outside Morrish Public School last year when a 6-year-old boy was struck and killed by a vehicle has brought a spotlight to student safety, especially as these youngsters come and go from school. The City of Toronto has launched the Active and Safe Routes to School program, a comprehensive community-based pilot that focuses on making neighbourhoods safer for kids to walk or ride their bikes to school. The goal is to reduce the number of cars around schools.

The safety pilot includes five schools in Toronto and one of them is Morrish Public School here in east Scarborough. People in the vicinity of the pilot schools will see new road markings and stencilling on sidewalks along school routes. Students will be enticed to walk or bike to school so they can follow the games and puzzles along the way. Getting to school on foot or by bike will be much more fun.

The four elementary schools in the Centennial neighbourhood are not yet involved with the program. Large numbers of our children get driven to school every day, creating traffic congestion near each of the schools mornings and afternoons. Joe Usan, the crossing guard at Charlottetown Junior Public School, said that there are more cars dropping kids off here than he has seen at several other schools where he has worked. He acknowledged that even with the high number of cars, the kids are quite safe. He enjoys getting to know parents as they walk their kids from their cars to the school door.

Meraj Jamal had a busy morning driving his two children to Charlottetown and then driving his wife to work. The 20-minute walk to school for his young kids just didn’t fit into their busy schedule at this stage of their lives.

Nimisha Sharma took an enjoyable walk to Charlottetown with her son, Aryan, from the Port Union neighbourhood. On this particular day, Aryan rode his Spider bike to his JK class while his mother tried to keep up! Nimisha wants to “inculcate good qualities in Aryan.” She wants him to develop interest and curiosity in life and Aryan is entertained by leaves turning colour, trees, birds and squirrels on his trip to school every day.

More than a dozen parents driving to drop off their children to St. Brendan Catholic School stopped only briefly to complain about the lack of parking as they walked quickly with kids in tow. Even though St. Brendan’s has a Kiss and Ride drop-off driveway, the streets around the school were lined with parents’ cars.

Busy and sometimes complex lives mean many parents still drive their children to school, which results in high automobile traffic in our school neighbourhoods. It’s critical for parents and schools to keep reminding children to be especially careful as they walk or ride near their schools.