Make our Streets Safer for Children in School Communities

How Safe are Tory’s School Safety Zones?

Toronto – Today, Gil Penalosa released his plan to implement real Vision Zero principles in school safety zones in order to protect our children, including a pilot project proposal to ban cars in front of schools both before and after class. This initiative will also support children walking to school, which improves their physical and mental health and will improve local air quality.

“Parents across Toronto deserve to feel that streets are safe for their children to walk to and from school,” said Penalosa. “A sign by itself is just ticking a box. School safety zones must include physical impediments such as bump outs, planters, and speed bumps to protect our kids.” 

Under John Tory, the City of Toronto has claimed that it has implemented approximately 400 school safety zones. However, further investigation reveals that some of these “completed” projects are nothing more than signage without any reduction in speed limit, let alone any physical impediments to protect children from drivers. But under John Tory this city has failed to meet its Vision Zero principles, in fact last year there were 20 more lives lost than the year before, and this year we have lost 39 people to traffic deaths that could have been prevented. Reducing traffic deaths and serious injury is the goal that matters most.

Gil Penalosa’s School Safety Plan includes:

  • An audit of all schools to evaluate safety zones within Gil's first 180 days in office.

  • Creating ‘School Streets’: in collaboration with local Principals and School Parent Councils, Toronto will follow the lead of London, Paris, and many other cities by implementing a large-scale pilot project to remove cars in front of elementary schools; this would occur an hour before and after class.
    • In London, ‘School Streets’ initiatives are supported by 81% of student guardians, and have resulted in a 23% reduction in nitrogen dioxide during morning drop-off.

  • Eliminating drop-off zones: in schools where School Streets pilots are not implemented, Gil will work with local Principals and School Parent Councils to pilot the elimination of drop-off zones, understanding that these zones are prone to driving at unsafe speeds during rush hour.

  • The implementation of 200 school safety zones per year with physical traffic calming measures, including bump-outs, planters, speed bumps, and bollards, ensuring that all TDSB and TCDSB schools are completed within four years.

  • A lowering of the speed limit to 30 km/h within 250 m of all schools located on major roads.

  • Ensuring multiple crossing guards in elementary school neighbourhoods where it is warranted.

  • Ensuring that every elementary school has a speed camera within four years; currently, just one in 10 elementary schools has a speed camera.

The percentage of 11- to 13-year old students walking to school within the GTHA nearly halved between 1986 and 2016, while the number of students being driven in cars has nearly tripled. Gil’s School Safety Plan will help protect children while encouraging parents and their children to get active and walk to class, or utilize diverse modes of transportation, such as cycling or the TTC. 

“My School Safety Plan is as much a public health program as it is a mobility one,” said Penalosa. “This program will have major benefits to our children’s mental and physical health, as well as to the environment and urban mobility.”

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