Good turnout for Jennifer Keesmaat talk about walking to school

Jennifer Keesmaat speaks at Walk Toronto event

On Feb. 12, 2014, Walk Toronto hosted a talk by the Chief Planner of the City of Toronto, Jennifer Keesmaat, about walking to school.

We had a good turnout of about 100 people at the University of Toronto Schools (Spadina and Bloor). Among the attendees was Globe and Mail columnist Elizabeth Renzetti, who wrote a great description of the talk in the paper (the print title was “Cities should worship the ground we walk on,” a sentiment Walk Toronto can certainly get behind).

Also attending were representatives from walk-to-school programs at Metrolinx, Canada Walks, and Toronto Public Health, who talked about their programs with attendees before and after the talk, as well as representatives from Jane’s Walk.

Attendees were encouraged to give a donation to Walk Toronto (to cover costs) that doubled as a vote on the best age for children to start walking to school without an adult. The “10 or under” category was the resounding winner. The vote results were as follows (rounded off):

10 or under: 51%
11: 31%
12:  2%
13+: 15%

Everyone who donated got one of our new Walk Toronto buttons. Those who donated $5 or more received one of our reflective buttons — a little contribution to safe walking at night.

You can listen to a recording of Jennifer Keesmaat’s talk here (mp3).

Signing in at Walk Toronto event

Walk Toronto buttons

Event photographs by Lance Gleich


Keynote talk: Jennifer Keesmat talk on walking to school

Walk Toronto is pleased to announce Walk Toronto’s 2014 general meeting, with a keynote talk by Jennifer Keesmaat, Chief Planner for the City of Toronto, on the subject of walking to school. Ms. Keesmaat speaks passionately on this important topic (including a widely-watched TEDx talk), and under her auspices the City has begun a project to both encourage walking to school and make it safer for students.

The talk and general meeting are free and open to the general public. Here are the event details:

Jennifer Keesmaat
“Walk this way: Transforming our City”
Wednesday February 12
7:00-8:00 pm (keynote talk and questions), 8:00-9:00 pm (general meeting)
University of Toronto Schools (UTS) Auditorium, 371 Bloor St. W.
(S-E corner of Bloor and Spadina)
Accessible entrance west of main doors
If you plan to attend, please RSVP through Eventbrite:

Following the keynote, the Walk Toronto general meeting will highlight current initiatives and describe our first year’s accomplishments, followed by an opportunity to connect with other walking advocates and talk to representatives of walk to school programs. Everyone is welcome to stay and participate.

Walk to School Resources

Several parents have contacted Walk Toronto to find out how they can make it easier and safer for their children to walk to school. There are programs in Toronto and the GTA, both from governments and NGOs, dedicated to increasing the number of students walking to school.

Active and Safe Routes to School is a program initiated by Green Communities Canada. They have developed a whole series of programs and resources, and they partner with municipalities and school boards. See for example the Canadian School Travel Planning Facilitator Guide (PDF).

Toronto Public Health has staff members dedicated to working on the Active and Safe Routes to School program. They are a good first point of contact to help organize activities and navigate the City and school bureaucracy to get changes made. They have recently added a “Walking to School” information page.

Toronto District School Board’s EcoSchools program has a Sustainable Transportation module (PDF) which students and teachers can use to connect with the right people at the Board and get started.

Metrolinx, the regional transportation agency for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, is also very interested in promoting walking to school. Metrolinx conducted a large-scale School Travel Study (PDF) to identify the current state of school travel in the region and has published School Travel Planning in Action in Ontario (PDF) to feature some case studies of successful programs, with concrete examples of the measures taken in specific schools and the increase in walking to school that resulted.

It’s also helpful to get the local city councillor and school board trustee on board. They can help with working with staff, for example the area manager for City of Toronto Transportation Services, who are the ones who will implement changes. Most importantly, your local councillor will be the person who brings any proposals for changes to the streets to the local community council. When working with elected officials, it’s always more persuasive to have a group of parents supporting any initiative, rather than just working on an individual basis.

A good starting point is often to organize a walk along the route in question, including parents, children, the local councillor, possibly local police (who are in charge of the crossing guard program), and city staff.

If you know of other resources, or have experience with working on a walk to school initiative, please let us know in the comments.

Join us on the City of Toronto’s first “on the move” consultation walk

Walk Toronto is pleased to be co-host (with Jane’s Walk) of the City of Toronto’s first ever “on the move” public consultation — a chance to walk and talk with City staff to give them feedback on how to improve the walking experience in Toronto.

The walk takes place on Sunday, June 23 from 12:00-2:00 pm, starting at the North-West corner of Islington and Bloor. It will be led by Tim Laspa, Director of Transportation Planning at the City of Toronto. He will lead the discussion at major stops, where participants will have a chance to ask questions and share their thoughts about transportation planning. Several members of the Walk Toronto steering committee will be there to engage in informal talks with small groups of walkers as we move along the route and notice pedestrian issues.

The event is part of the City of Toronto’s “Feeling Congested?” consultations on developing a new transportation strategy. There will be simultaneous bike and transit “on the move” consultations.

The walk starts at the northwest corner of Islington Avenue and Bloor Street West, near the TTC entrance, and then moves through (or around) a pedestrian portal, through the community arts-influenced Mabelle Park, and then to Dundas Street West. It proceeds along Dundas St. W past newly built Michael Power Park, works its way through the Six Points Intersection (aka the Spaghetti Intersection) and ends at Kipling Subway Station.

Please join us for this opportunity to tell City staff directly how walking can get better in Toronto. Space is limited, so be sure to register for the walk if you plan to participate.

The details:

Title: Feeling Congested? A walk’n’talk about transportation in Toronto
Date:  Sunday, June 23, 2013
Time: 12:00 – 2:00 pm
Meeting place:  NW Corner of Islington and Bloor
Led by: Tim Laspa, Director of Transportation Planning, City of Toronto and Walk Toronto (TBC)

Toronto Walking Resources

The City of Toronto has a wide range of policies related to walking, but it’s not always easy to know about them or to find them. This post provides a convenient list of links to these various policies, so that anyone who is interested can get an overview what the City is doing, or at least says it should be doing, to improve the pedestrian experience in Toronto.

List revised in Feb. 2014 to update links to new City of Toronto website.

Various non-municipal organizations also provide useful information about walking policy and programs:

If I’ve missed anything, please add them in the comments.

Notes from a Jane’s Walk

I admit that I’m a Jane’s Walk newbie. Nevertheless, my intentions this year were noble: to go, cane in hand, to the accessibly walk from 11 to 1 starting at Yonge and Eglinton. Naturally, the universe had other plans: I left my cane in a friend’s car after a night of music and libations.

Thankfully, my friend returned my cane and Jane’s Walks aren’t limited to the daylight hours. So, I made my way to Woodbine and Kingston Road for a “Spooky Spirit Ghost Tour of St. John’s Cemetery,” hosted by local historian Gene Domagala and Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon (ward 32), and attended by about twenty-five people, including NDP MP Matt Kellway.Jane's Walk 2013 01

The tour itself was informative and fun, made more so by the corny episodes of the local theatre group Bard in the Park. Domagala clearly reveled in local lore. He told us about the rather large headstone donated to the Son’s of England Benevolent Society, which provided burial plots for working-class families. Indeed, this sort of humble detail distinguishes this resting place from many other cemeteries in the city as there are few luminaries buried here (among them, R.C. Harris, the former director of public works). There is also a sadly ever-expanding site set aside for servicemen and women.

Bard in the Park

Bard in the Park

Although many there were long-time locals with family buried in the cemetery, some of us were relative newcomers to the neighbourhood, while still others came from “away” to learn about the area.
And this is one of Jane’s Walks goals: to get folks out of their cars on to the sidewalks to meet their neighbours and experience the city in ways they may not have done in the past. These small bites of knowledge whet our appetites to understand where we live, how it became what it is, and what improvements we can make.

Bay Street: a win for pedestrians

Cross-posted from Spacing Toronto

There’s some good news to share about Walk Toronto’s first campaign!

In March, I wrote in Spacing about the planned reconstruction of Bay Street between Bloor St. and Davenport Rd., which amongst other things, would widen Bay Street’s busy sidewalks, a project championed by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam. Two city-owned lay-bys, where the roadway cuts into the sidewalk, were planned to removed on the west side of Bay – a TTC bus bay at Cumberland, in front of the entrance to Bay subway station, and at the southwest corner of Bay and Yorkville Avenue.

Pusateri’s, a local high-end grocery store, took exception to these plans, even though local consultations had already concluded and construction scheduled to start this month. The store claims that the lay-by is vital to their business; it currently treats it as its exclusive domain for its valet and detailing service.

Pusateri’s went as far as hiring prominent lobbyists Sussex Strategy Group and transportation engineers at LEA Consulting in a bid to maintain the lay-by in front of their store, rather than move the valet service to a nearby laneway as suggested by proponents such as Councillor Wong-Tam. The item was to be brought to council for the April session of City Council, but was delayed to allow LEA and Transportation Services to develop possible alternative solutions to the lay-by removal or the status quo.

Walk Toronto joined Councillor Wong-Tam, the Bloor-Yorkville Business Improvement Area, and local residents’ associations to remove the lay-by and complete the Bay Street project in its entirety.

In the back-and-forth discussion since March, LEA, on behalf of Pusateri’s, recommended the retention of the lay-by. However, it would be built with the new granite sidewalk surface and removable bollards to separate the three-car layby from the narrow pedestrian area – an alternative in which, in the consultant’s words, “the full boulevard/sidewalk can be used by pedestrians when vehicles are not present and when Pusateri’s is closed.” For their part, Transportation Services staff recommended a shorter, two-car lay-by – a “compromise” – that would have mitigated the effect of the pinch-point between Pusateri’s seasonal patio and the lay-by curb. This was added to the agenda of last week’s Council meeting as an urgent item as the city in the process of tendering the construction contract.

Last week’s four-day council meeting was most notable for its frustrating and irresponsible ‘debate’ on funding transit expansion, but by late Friday afternoon, and with nearly half the councillors gone home, the Bay Street item was finally up for debate. In the end, the staff report was received, and councillors voted 19-8 in favour of Councillor Wong-Tam’s amended motion that will eliminate the lay-by in favour of the original plans.

A small, but significant, win for pedestrians. A big thank you to Councillor Wong-Tam for standing firm and supporting this important pedestrian issue.

Be a part of the Walk and Roll Caravan on May 11

Walk Toronto  had a great turnout at our founding meeting, and we hope to see most of you again at our second  major event on Saturday, May 11. If you weren’t able to attend the meeting in February, all the more reason to put on your walking shoes now that spring has arrived.

The WALK AND ROLL CARAVAN is a group walk that starts at St. James Park at noon. We’ve also scheduled a “warm-up” event before, and an enormous rally afterwards. We’ll be marching for safer and more walkable streets along an interesting route that ends at Queen’s Park. Because there are lots more details, we’ve packed them all into a special website:

Our itinerary has been carefully planned to include streetscape elements that we either applaud or condemn. Visit the Caravan website, and be sure to print out a handlist, which you can refer to during the march. You’ll see the downtown with new eyes!









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Walk and Roll Caravan (Mother’s Day Weekend)

Members of Walk Toronto and everyone interested in pedestrianism are invited to participate in the Walk and Roll Caravan, which begins at noon,  Saturday, May 11, 2013. This is Walk Toronto’s second major event (the first being our founding meeting.) Our contingent of walkers will march from St. James Park northwards, ending up at Queen’s Park where we will converge with cyclists coming from other directions. The event concludes in front of the Ontario Legislature with Cycle and Sole , a rally promoting active transportation and safe streets for all users.

We have planned a 3.5 km. long route that takes us by a huge variety of buildings and street features that are of pedestrian interest. We want you not only to have fun, but to see local examples of things that everyone is talking about. What’s a Complete Street? What’s a Privately Owned Public Space? Join us and you’ll be able to walk through the real thing in downtown Toronto!

Because the Walk and Roll Caravan event is being held on Mother’s Day weekend, we encourage walkers to bring their moms – as well as lots of flowers!  Also, be sure to wear comfortable shoes, bring water and maybe a snack too.
Visit the Walk and Roll Caravan website , and check out the printable route map on Google Maps.
Also, print out our two-page itinerary, which covers sights that our walk will be passing by. (Be sure to take a copy with you on the march, so that you can refer to it as you walk.) For more in-depth coverage see the full commentary.
St. James Park is located in the east part of the downtown at King and Jarvis Streets. Please note that on Saturday May 11, there will be no service on the Yonge subway line between the Bloor-Yonge Station and Union station. Although you can use the shuttle bus service, we recommend that marchers relying on public transit to get to St. James Park take the University subway line to the St. Andrew station, and then transfer to the eastbound King streetcar. You should get off at the Jarvis St. stop, which is half a block south of the Walk and Roll Caravan assembly area.
On the way home, it is easiest to use the Queen’s Park subway station, located at College St., just south of the Legislature’s south lawn where the Cycle and Sole rally will be held.