Most students say they jaywalk to reach a laneway behind their school, rather than taking a longer, safer route up the street.
November 13, 2015
Classmates from The Linden School collected data on traffic along Pleasant Blvd., which was then presented to Councillor Josh Matlow for possible action to establish a crosswalk.
For the most part, the Grade 6 girls of the Linden School are a well-behaved bunch.
Except when they’re crossing Pleasant Blvd. on their way to class.
It’s then that most dart across the street, jaywalking — a step that makes getting to school quicker, they say, because they can use a laneway behind Linden. Quicker maybe, but it also makes the trek more dangerous.
That’s what inspired the girls in teacher Beth Alexander’s class to undertake a traffic study designed to prove that something must be done to make the boulevard near Yonge St. and St. Clair Ave. E. safer.
“There were always more jaywalkers than vehicles, except for one day when there were more vehicles than jaywalkers,” said student Karina August-Schreck, after she and her peers spent nine days in September and October standing by the road at various times, counting traffic.
To the optimistic 11-year-olds, it was all the proof they needed to start pushing for a crosswalk and calling in someone they thought could help: Councillor Josh Matlow.
Armed with a giant poster sprinkled with pie charts and “raw data,” the private-school girls briefed him on the pressing problem before handing him a six-page report on their findings, which even counted skateboarders, scooter riders and those on ripsticks.
“I was intrigued and impressed,” said Matlow. “I am often invited into schools to talk about civics and to discuss our local neighbourhoods and city hall with students, but it is pretty extraordinary to have a group of sixth-grade girls reach out to you with a well-researched and impressive presentation to show.”
But that’s not all they had for the councillor. They left him with some homework, he said, giggling. His assignment, which he readily accepted, was to go back to the city’s transportation staff to see whether traffic-calming measures are needed, and if so, which.
“I didn’t say we wouldn’t do a crosswalk. If it makes sense, we could do it,” Matlow said, of the bustling boulevard featuring the St. Clair TTC station, a Sobeys store and homes. “One wouldn’t want to create a crosswalk and a false sense of security … I want to make sure what we do is based on expert opinion and consultation with the residents.”
He’s already requested that staff look into the matter and vowed that he’ll be turning in his “homework” with another visit to the class once needs and solutions have been explored.
That was welcome news for student Anna Guenther, who said the project taught her a valuable lesson about being an advocate.
“I didn’t know that at the age of 11 you could actually help change your city. I thought you had to wait until you’re an adult,” she said. “It feels quite nice.”
And Matlow’s promise?
Intezar Olivier, 11, who jaywalks at the spot regularly — walking up the street to a proper intersection to cross only when she’s visiting Starbucks for a cake pop — said she thought it was impressive.
“It’s very hard to meet a councillor, because they have a lot of meetings — like probably nine a day,” she said, lauding Matlow for taking the time to visit and pursue her concerns further.
He wasn’t the only one who applauded the study, she said.
“My parents said, ‘Wow, Intezar, you did such a great job,’” she said, smiling. “They were happy, so I was happy too.”
But perhaps the most proud was Alexander, who used the study as a lesson in math, science and English.
“If you think about math in textbooks, those math problems are not realistic. They are not actual problems. This was an actual problem,” she said. “It is important that students know that the things that they are learning have actual value and that if you see the problem, you have the ability to change it.”
This article can be found in its original form, along with additional quotes from the students at: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/11/13/grade-6-students-push-for-crosswalk-with-traffic-study-impressing-councillor.html