Missing sidewalks in school zone called a safety issue

Public school students have to walk on road around cars, columnist says

JEFF WALKER/TOWN CRIER CONCERNED: The lack of sidewalks on Field Avenue has children walking around parked cars, which could be a significant safety issue, says columnist Jeff Walker.

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Toronto council has in place a standing order to add sidewalks to all Toronto streets that currently don’t have them. I’m not going to hold my breath on that one. I do suggest, though, that streets serving as direct access routes for public schools be prioritized. Yes, I’m talking about you, Field Avenue.

It’s hard not to notice, if you’re a parent of a child attending Bessborough Public School, that there is no sidewalk on Field Avenue for the full length of its three blocks from McRae Drive across from the tennis clubhouse at Trace Manes Park, west to Hanna Road, along the southern edge of the school’s playing field (hence the name of the street) to Bessborough Drive, and then another block to Macnaughton Road. Surely it’s a very odd situation that one of a handful of streets conveying junior kindergarteners to Grade 8s to and from school has no sidewalk to separate them from traffic. Field Avenue at McRae is a short block from where Georgia Walsh was struck and killed at a crosswalk less than two years ago.

Unless they know the area well, drivers along Field Avenue probably don’t even notice there’s no sidewalk on either side. Doubtless they assume that in any neighbourhood bothering to make even just a pretence of caring for the safety of its young people, particularly in a school zone where sidewalks are a given in any world-class city, the civilized norm must prevail. Well, it doesn’t. Not here.

Since we’re changing the name of one Leaside street to honour the memory of longtime neighbourhood volunteer David Stickney, let’s take advantage of the momentum.

Does it not seem mildly perverse to have a street named “Field” adjacent to a field where children play, all while the street itself is dangerous for children? Why not change the name to something that alerts kids and parents to the inherent danger, so as not to induce complacency?

I strongly suggest for the years or decades ahead — prior to our actualizing the revolutionary idea of a sidewalk for school kids on Field — the sign be changed to “Leaside’s Own Los Angeles Freeway” so kids fully appreciate their vulnerability.

Okay, we’ll need an extra large sign template for this, but it’ll be worth it. Even kids have heard of L.A., where car is king and the remaining diehard pedestrians who dare ply their part-time trade are irritants — if not an outright public menace. The implicit message of the sign would be perk up your ears, kids, if your parents unwisely allow you to walk this “freeway” to school, and swing around every few seconds to make sure no vehicle is fishtailing on the ice behind you or otherwise about to take you out.

Know your rights as a pedestrian: none. You’re not supposed to be there.

Other streets bringing kids to the school, such as Sharron Drive (north side) and Crandall Road (east side), have a sidewalk on only one side. But then, at least the kids have a choice: walk safely on one side, or court death on the other.

Are you Field Avenue residents worried about an outbreak of sidewalk cafés? Concerned that some trees might have to be felled? Replace them before one of those brittle octogenarians flattens your Smart Car during the next wind storm.

The jig is up. We know you Not-In-My-Front-Yard NIMFY-ists are heartily relieved to have an abundance of sidewalks for safe strolling once you exit the killing-Field. Let Bessborough school kids share in the same stress-free experience on your street.