City won’t put a sidewalk on a route to school

A local resident recently brought my attention to an impending decision by the City of Toronto to not add a sidewalk to Chine Drive, a local road in Scarborough that is the primary route to a school. The road is being rebuilt due to the bad state of the paving, and the City went through an 8-year consultation process to see if other improvements could be done at the same time, but in the end it chose to do nothing more than repave.

The resident tells me that, while some parents in the area would like to walk their kids to school but are afraid to do so without a sidewalk, the residents on the Drive itself were adamant about keeping sidewalks out. Despite current concerns about the decline in the number of children walking to school, and about childhood obesity, the City has no systematic policy about improving infrastructure to make it easier and safer for kids to get to school on foot.

It’s a typical suburban situation — a street was originally built in a semi-rural fashion, and while it may now be in the midst of a city, residents want to keep it the way it was originally built. It’s understandable from the residents’ point of view, but cities change and grow, and it seems odd that the City would still be offering residents a “rural alternative” (which was one of the options considered) when they live nowhere near the city limits (and even a considerable distance from the semi-rural Rouge Park).

If the City wants to respect the residents’ desire to not have a sidewalk, then it should offer, as an alternative, some form of “shared street” model as they often have in Europe, where the street does not have separate sidewalks but is clearly marked as one where vehicles share the road with pedestrians and cyclists. This can be done by establishing a low speed limit and other measures such as narrowing the entrances to the street. The City could also, for example, explicitly allow ball hockey to be played on a street, if there is demand for it.

A shared street plays into residents’ desire to limit traffic on a street, while still moving from a rural conception of the street to a city one. It encourages using the street for walking without changing the appearance that residents moved there to enjoy. If the municipal government won’t build sidewalks on a school route, then it needs to come up with an alternative solution that still encourages safe walking to school.


  1. I don’t see what the charm of not having sidewalks would be at all. Maybe the residents only drive in and out and never walk over to their neighbours’. Some of the houses on Chine Drive are corner lots where the street intersects with others that do have sidewalks, so why is a sidewalk acceptable to those homeowners on one side of their property only. Perhaps pedestrian access could be arranged through the grounds of nearby Cardinal Newman school but the absence of safe pedestrian infrastructure is deplorable.

  2. Absolutely agree! A picture of the street with the article would be nice.

  3. It is unfortunate that opportunities to make our communities more livable are often passed up in order to follow a business-as-usual approach. I wonder if a Complete Streets approach, achieved by the adoption of a policy at the municipal level, could have made a difference in this case. At least it would have given some residents a platform to support their desire for change.

  4. There are some photos in the presentation on the City web page, but they weren’t good enough to put here, unfortunately. You could also check out the Google map link.

  5. I bet it is nothing more than the residents don’t want to shovel the snow on the sidewalk.

  6. Click on Chine Drive in the body of the article. It links to Google Maps. Zoom in from there. Great piece Dylan. It looks like the community wants to preserve the rustic streetscape. Good urban design is the solution. A one-size-fits all, highway-tested urban, sidewalk would not make walking or living on the street enjoyable. A complete streets approach may produce a slower more beautiful and safer street…. maybe even a bike lane too!

  7. I completely agree that there is no logical reason why there shouldn’t be sidewalks there. Kids have to travel down a winding road that gets busy in the morning and afternoon when parents are picking up their kids. Because the road is not straight it’s difficult to see around corners to see cars coming. I can only imagine that it gets a lot worse in winter with snow banks. Residents feel that the school has existed for this long without sidewalks and everything is fine. Are they waiting for a child to be hit by a car before they change their minds?

    Also, a lot of people feel that if it works now why change it? Well to that I say, at one time we also drove around in cars without seat belts, should we go back to that way of life?

    Change happens! If you’re not part of the solution, you’re the problem.

  8. Great article.  I don’t think I understand Councillor Vaughn’s comment:

    “A one-size-fits all, highway-tested urban, sidewalk would not make walking or living on the street enjoyable”

    I can’t think of a single situation where walking on the edge of street (around parked cars, leaf and snowbanks) was preferable to a sidewalk.  How does a sidewalk make a walk un-enjoyable…especially if it’s one that follows the contours of the road and leads to a ravine?

  9. Somewhat ironic that we are against the removal of a bike lane on Jarvis because while the locals want it, those travelling through don’t, while we criticize not putting in a sidewalk because the locals don’t want it, while those travelling through do.

    Now that I’m done being a smartass, I’m surprised the city didn’t say tough luck and put it in anyways, since it is the only route (from what I can tell) to the public school. Do these people like having all the schoolbound car traffic rolling down their quiet street? Wouldn’t they rather there be an alternative so that kids can walk?

  10. Re: Ryan W’s comment

    Residents who want the sidewalk have a platform – it’s not about policy. It’s politics. Councillor Crawford voted against having a signalized crossing at an elementary school on Dufferin, after there were headlines about a child being hit by a car at that very spot.

    If you want change, start getting political. Track and publish which Council members support or do not support safe routes to school or safe routes to transit.

    Policy is nothing if decision-makers do not do the right thing.

    If you want Complete Streets – you’ll need more Councillors to stand up for it, and you’ll need to fight the ones that have no regard for the lives and safety of people who travel by foot, bike or transit.

  11. It’s just a minor road. Having no sidewalks on minor roads isn’t a big deal, only on main roads is it a problem. I walk on minor roads without sidewalks all the time.

  12. If they don’t want a sidewalk, they should have to state this in writing, and all of these people put up their property against a civil suit when the next child is injured or killed because of their grotesque disconnection from humanity.

  13. You might be sarcastic, but I cannot agree with: “the City… should offer.. some form of “shared street” model… does not have separate sidewalks but is clearly marked as one where vehicles share the road with pedestrians and cyclists.”

    You ever cycled on a Toronto street with sharrows? (I love that my computer takes ‘sharrows’ as a spelling error.) Please.

  14. Hello. I am a Star reporter who would like to talk to people who are for putting a sidewalk in and also those who are against.
    Valerie Hauch, 416-869-4246

  15. re: Jan’s comment

    I agree that these issues are political (thanks for more local context in this case). However, in practice, this means both policy and politics need to be aligned. If there’s not a strong policy in support of these considerations then councilors, or whoever, have a much weaker platform to make change and/or decisions.

    I totally agree, however, that by no means does good policy equal good action.

  16. This has been an ongoing subject since we moved to Chine Drive in 2004. Most of the residents are NOT in favour of having the sidewalks put in because of a few points: a) The road would be straighter, not as curvy as it is right now, which would make it subject to more speeding on the street. And b) the installation of sidewalks would be cutting into some of our front lawns which if you know Chine Drive, being an old street for Scarborough, has alot of beautiful old trees that help to give it its charm. With having the recent storm back in June 2011 where many of us lost alot of precious trees, the idea of losing even more upsets us. We do need the road repaved and in all my years living here, not once have we had an accident due to no sidewalks.

  17. To quote the above comment by Heather:

    “: a) The road would be straighter, not as curvy as it is right now, which would make it subject to more speeding on the street. And
    b) the installation of sidewalks would be cutting into some of our front lawns which if you know Chine Drive, being an old street for Scarborough, has alot of beautiful old trees”

    On point A: There’s an easy solution: bulb-outs can be built around fire hydrants or at intervals; If adding the sidewalk narrows the street that will also help

    On point B: you can always build sidewalks around trees or extend the width of the sidewalk into the road and take away space from the cars. Charm of a neighbourhood does not trump the safety of school kids, especially in the winter.

    The selfishness of the homeowners is staggering in this case. We all need sidewalks: school kids, elderly, able-bodied folks, etc.

  18. At Ryan W:

    There is a strong policy in place: the City’s own Walking Strategy has a program that is meant to add sidewalks to streets without sidewalks.

  19. The missing sidewalks program is focused on major streets, not local ones. They’ll add sidewalks to local streets if there is demand from the residents, but otherwise the priority is major streets, which is admittedly where they are needed most.

  20. Heather,

    maybe, just maybe the reason for no accident involving pedestrians is that people are scared and always drive on that stretch of road, even though distance-wise walking is totally feasible and desirable? I am not from the area, but from the google streetview, it seems that sidewalk can be build without sacrificing big trees.

    If you are that much into the rustic look of the street, why ask for the road to be re-paved? Isn’t that even more rustic (and serves as natural speed bumper too)?

  21. I have been living on Chine Dr for 40+ years. We don’t need sidewalks or silly Sandra’s Speed bumps at $3000. a pop. WE NEED SPIKE STRIPS Or SPEED TRAPS to slow the School Bus’s & people that drive there kids to school why because its the way of life now and we live with that,very understandable, Yes the street does need repaving and new sewer and water pipes. When the people that don’t live on or anywhere near CHINE DR. PAY MINE & WONDERFUL NEIGHBORS TAXES,Have a say in the matter. Maybe we will see you walk your dog without any complaint just warm welcoming smiles and a you walk by knowing its always nice to see you enjoying our street as we do. WE ALSO WORRY ABOUT CHILD SAFETY AND YOURS TOO WHILE WALKING YOUR DOG

    Option # 2  Tear down the school problem solved

    Thank You

  22. @ OLD GUY

    It’s obvious you’re tying to turn this thread into a flame war and don’t honestly care about the lives of the children going to the school.

    Guess what…..I’m a resident of the area, few streets over, and my daughter is getting ready to go YOUR school. From your comments it’s pretty clear that you don’t have her interests in mind when you say that the street doesn’t need sidewalks. Your argument is that people walking their dog through Chine are less important because they don’t live there and somehow don’t pay your taxes. Not only is that an asinine, completely A** backwards comment but you’re completely missing the point that we’re talking about kids walking themselves to school. Kids who may not have the wherewithal to always look both ways when crossing the street or watch out for that speeding school bus or car. Kids whose parents are forced to drive them….not because “that’s just the way of things and the world we live in”. And what gives you the right to dictate who can and cannot walk down YOUR street? Whether a person lives on Chine or even in Markham, they have every right to Chine drive. As you’ve said, you’ve lived there for 40+ years….you are not the demographic that we’re targeting, you’re the demographic we’re waiting to die out.

  23. Ken: I don’t know how you read so much into what i said and turned it around. When you and I were much younger we had to walk to school take a bus or get a ride if you were lucky, Due to the fact that there are so many kooks who what to harm kids now days it makes me sick how things are now days, My Main concern is the speeders on this street some days  you would think it was the Indy going by, NOPE just a school bus, or big truck or someone late for work racing down and faster going north after droping little Johnny off. Oh i did not dictate who can come down the street where you got that from way out in left field, You gave me shit for getting things back wards, and you miss understood what i had to say also. MY BIG COMPLAINT IS THE SPEEDERS  some of them are the people driving kids to school. And yes we do have alot of people who love to walk down Chine Dr, because of the area put a side walk there, its just another street. Maybe the kids need to learn how to walk on a rural road that does not have sidewalks. Walk on the left facing traffic
    And thank you and your right KENNY i am going to die one day so it might be a long wait before you will be able to buy a house on Chine Dr. But your more than welcome to visit just bring the Timmies ok, Sad that you hate us Old People, I don’t know what age bracket your in please do tell ????

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