(Update: As described the March 2018 article titled LMST Open Space and School Construction, a favorable decision was made in late 2017 regarding providing a pedestrian-oriented site design and construction moved ahead in the Spring of 2018.)
On April 27, a a change.org petition signed by 153 people (~140 of which were from neighborhood surrounding LMST) was delivered to Ms. Sandra McKenzie, Deputy Minister, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. Many neighbors provided reasons for signing, most all of them explicitly asking the provincial government to approve a sign design that is consistent with the walkable nature of the community.
The letter which accompanied the petition follows below.
School Site Should be Compatible with Existing Neighborhood
To: Ms. Sandra McKenzie, Deputy Minister, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development
Dear Ms. McKenzie-
Over 150 individuals signed a petition which accurately laid out facts regarding two separate sets of car-oriented site designs for Le Marchant-St. Thomas. Approximately 130 of the 150+ people who signed are from the community in which the new school will be built. Comments associated with this petition appear further below. You can also find these same comments at change.org.
As of late April 2017, it appears that HRSB and the provincial government may in fact, pursue introducing new car-oriented drop-off loop in front of what has historically been a "walking school".
It has been suggested that opposition to a drop-off loop, and front facing parking log (i.e., suburban construction) comes only from a few individuals. The comments below, combined with the full list of signatures directly contradicts such a claim. At the same time, neither HRSB nor the Province has provided evidence that large numbers of parents supporting the loop exist. Such a claim is not factually correct.
Encouraging more parents to drive to school further endangers the shrinking majority of children who still walk to school (~60%). Increasing traffic counts during the start and end of each school day will be an unfortunate realty unless HRSB and the schools themselves pursue meaningful pedestrian safety measures and follow the lead of Toronto and jurisdictions elsewhere.
It is disturbing that decision makers appear to disregard fact-base evidence and peer reviewed research that directly contradicts their claims that a drop-off loop is appropriate to introduce to a walking school. The absence of any acknowledgement of Toronto’s push to reduce child-pedestrian motor vehicle collisions through active transportation and school travel planning raises many legitimate questions and concerns.
At the same time HRSB is taking steps to draw more traffic to the new school, pediatric health specialists have become increasingly concerned about problems children experience breathing in automobile exhaust. Increased traffic at LMST will lead to exacerbations of existing lung problems like asthma and allergies. More broadly , medical professionals have also linked automobile exhaust with cardiovascular disease and elevated mortality in affected neighborhoods. These conditions should be mitigated by HRSB not made worse.
The open question is whether decision makers will disregard fact-base evidence and peer reviewed research that directly contradicts their claims that a drop-off loop is appropriate to introduce to a walking school.
1. The province and HRSB claim only a handful of people oppose new car-oriented infrastructure in the form of a drop-off loop in an urban neighborhood. This claim should be supported by evidence. Here-to-date, there is no evidence to support such a claim. There is, however, solid evidence to suggest that a large number of people in the community oppose such infrastructure. (i.e. attached petition and signatures.)
2. HRSB and the province need to directly address the health concerns pertaining to the direct link between exhaust from vehicle emissions comprised of carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), hydrocarbons (HC), particulate matter (PM), hydroflourocarbons (HFC), and methane (CH4). Children breathe in this mixture when cars idle outside of schools.
3. HRSB and the province need to directly address research findings appearing in the Journal of Traffic Injury Prevention that contradict claims made by HRSB and the province that a drop-off loop increases child safety in urban school environments. Where is HRSB’s evidence or research to contradict the peer-reviewed research that has been provided to HRSB in March 2017?
Public policy wrt LMST should be based on fact based evidence in the context of providing children with a healthy environment in which to live. Encouraging yet more parents to grab their coffee mug, bundle their child up in a heated car seat and deliver them "safely" to the front door of LMST is an enticing option for some - yet these decisions come with significant costs.
We invite you to review petition comments to get a clear sense of the desire for a safe, pedestrian-oriented environment for our children.