In a somewhat surprising move last week, the City of Toronto appointed Jennifer Keesmaat as the new Chief Planner. Keesmaat is known for her approach to livable, walkable, not so vehicle oriented cities, so this was a departure for the Ford administration. Here is the Torontoist on the appointment and also a video on Keesmaat’s beliefs about the importance of walking as a part of city life. She believes that children walking to school is the starting point of reconnecting with our neighbourhoods and encouraging independent, able kids.
I watched the video all of the way through as kids and walking has been a bit of discussion point in my house lately. My husband and I have a four year old, who clearly walks to school as we live literally three houses from the schoolyard. However, there has been much discussion lately about what’s safe in terms of children and walking in this city. Some of her older friends (7,8, 9 year olds) are now allowed to walk several blocks to their friends houses. Our daughter now walks four houses down our very slow and lazy backstreet to play with her best friend. It gives her such a sense of joy, and freedom and accomplishment that she regularly yells “I’m free!” before running four houses down. Meanwhile, I anxiously watch from the front porch until she is safely in her friends house.
I, like Jennifer Keesmaat, walked with my friends about a quarter of a kilometre, before my 45 minute bus ride to my country school. No parents walked with us and the bus came after they had all left for work. I distinctly remember a day when I fell in a muddy ditch and soaked my pants entirely while waiting for the bus. The other four kids that I was with dug through their bags, found me a pair of gym shorts to wear, and tied them tight onto me with a hair ribbon when they proved to be too large. Problem solved, kid logic. Would this happen in Toronto now?