Anyone driving in North Leaside near the intersection of Hanna Rd. and Glenvale Blvd. in the late afternoon or early evening is likely to encounter a group of children wearing blue and red t-shirts and blowing a whistle. But they are not playing a game.
Rather, these local children have taken it upon themselves to encourage safe driving and complete stops at their increasingly busy intersection. With more drivers cutting through the neighbourhood to avoid the construction on Eglinton, the children, who live on all corners of the intersection, were always running back and forth to play together, and were becoming afraid to do so.
The problem is especially severe with drivers rushing to get to Bayview before the 4 o’clock deadline for turning north there. Adding to the problem is the fact that a small hill starting at the intersection causes westbound travellers to speed up, and eastbound drivers to gain momentum coming down. Local real estate agent Charlene Kalia, the mother of one of the girls, Madelyn Sergnese, commented that the formerly “well-travelled street has turned into a highway due to the cut-through traffic.”
One day in early May while the children were playing a game involving a whistle, they hit upon the idea of blowing that whistle and holding up their hands to signal to impatient drivers who failed to come to complete stops at the intersection. One driver turning on to Glenvale from Hanna praised their actions, and said he “believed in full stops, too.” Thus the slogan, “We believe in full stops” was born and now adorns their t-shirts along with a big stop sign.
This enterprising group comprises Abigail Burns, Makenzie and Mya Gilland, Aidan, James and Olivia Laham, Madelyn Sergnese, and Kaitlyn Towle. They range in age from 8 to 11, and most attend Northlea Elementary and Middle School in Grades 4 to 6.
Since that first day, the group has developed a routine for reminding drivers to comply with the rules of the road. Standing on the edge of the sidewalk, they hold up their hands and say “Stop”. They also count aloud to three, indicating that each driver should wait for three seconds before moving on. They blow the whistle or put their arms in an “X” formation if the driver fails to stop for three seconds or goes over the white line.
Their efforts and commitment have been rewarded with the positive response of the majority of drivers, who smile, give them a thumbs-up or even applaud. But of course, there are some drivers who become angry and complain that the kids’ actions are distracting and dangerous.
The children have also sold lemonade on occasion with the goal of raising funds to install a traffic camera, but learned from Councillor Jon Burnside that the city has no authority to do so. While Burnside himself is in favour of such cameras, permission to install one must come from the province.
In the meantime, the North Leaside Traffic Committee has presented a proposal to create some cul-de-sacs north of Eglinton to reduce cut-through traffic to Bayview, but as Burnside stated, “It is a long and involved process to get to the trial stage” and the idea could be scrapped if it creates more traffic congestion elsewhere in Leaside.
The children’s parents keep a close eye on their activities and are proud of “their initiative in taking a stand and wanting to be safe,” stated Charlene Kalia.
The children, too, are proud of what they have achieved. Not only are their efforts appreciated, but they feel as if they have accomplished their goal of preventing drivers from rolling through stop signs. In fact, Madelyn Sergnese said, “One day I was looking out my upstairs window and was happy to see cars stopping for three seconds without us standing there.”