Toronto

New school safety zones announced as kids head back to class

As kids walk, bike and drive into school on the first day back, the city is implementing a plan to help make their trip to class a safer one.

23 schools will be retrofitted with new safety elements by the end of this year

The city is implementing new safety elements for designated schools. (CBC)

As kids walk, bike and drive to school on the first day back, the city is implementing a plan to help make their trip to class a safer one.

In an announcement today, Mayor John Tory introduced the implementation of new school safety zones at eight Toronto schools, with another 15 being added by the end of the year.

New safety elements for the designated schools include "watch your speed" driver feedback signs, flashing beacons on school zone signs, and school zone stencils on pavement, which will extend up to 250 metres away from the designated schools to encourage students to walk or bike to class.

Toronto Mayor John Tory announced a new school safety zone plan outside Grenoble Public School on Tuesday. (John Sandeman/CBC)

"This is a day of excitement and apprehension for kids," Tory said on Tuesday morning outside of Grenoble Public School near Don Mills Road and Eglinton Avenue East.

"With 900,000 students in the GTA going back to school we need all hands on deck to address this school safety priority."

'Until they're all done'

The new zones are part of a five year initiative called the Vision Zero Road Safety Plan, which aims to reduce traffic-related deaths in the city.

When deciding which schools were chosen for the safety retrofit, Tory said research went into how many accidents occurred near the school and how many children at the school walked to class.

Every year 20 new schools will be added "until they're all done," said Tory.

'Local action is key'

The school safety program will be receiving $100,000 in funding from the Partnership for Healthy Cities, a program which includes 51 cities from around the world working to prevent non-communicable diseases and injuries.

Sara Whitehead is a public health physician and road safety expert representing the Partnership for Healthy Cities. (John Sandeman/CBC)

"Toronto and the rest of the partnership cities will be demonstrating through their projects that local action is key," said Sara Whitehead, a public health physician and road safety expert representing the Partnership for Healthy Cities.

Photo radar legislation 'may take some time'

Last year legislation was proposed by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne that would allow municipalities in the province to deploy photo radar in school zones.

Tory has also asked the province to allow this technology, which would require fewer police officers for speed enforcement and help trim the Toronto Police Service's $1 billion budget.

The city has approved the use of the technology, however the legislation is now "in the hands of the provincial government" Tory said, warning that may take some time.

now