Regal Heights neighbours draw lines on road to make intersection safer
Published Friday, December 1, 2017 3:12PM EST Last Updated Friday, December 1, 2017 3:21PM EST
Sometimes all you need is a stick of sidewalk chalk to prove a point.
At least, that’s what a group of residents in Toronto’s Regal Heights neighbourhood discovered after they took it upon themselves to try to improve the safety of a local intersection.
Dave Meslin, a local resident and advocate, said he organized the community effort after witnessing years of dangerous driving in his neighbourhood.
Currently, the three-way intersection at Springmount Ave and Regal Road has neither painted pavement markings nor a sidewalk. Despite the posted stop signs, Meslin says drivers roll through the intersection as if there are none.
The CTV News Chopper flew over the area Friday and spotted several vehicles roll through the sign in a half hour period.
Using a wet sidewalk chalk mixture, Meslin and fellow residents drew clear lines on the road to better define the intersection. The temporarily lines designated a stopping point at each section and a pseudo sidewalk barrier.
They even filled a portion of the roadway with fallen leaves to act as an artificial island.
Meslin said he was shocked to see how well drivers responded to the new temporarily markings.
“We just wanted to show the neighborhood that the intersection could be much safer, that we could create greenspace and new sidewalks,” he said. “But obviously we need engineers planning our roads and not people like me.”
The chalk lining took two-hours to create and only lasted a few days before fading, but Meslin believes he proved his point.
Speaking at an unrelated event Friday, Mayor John Tory commended Meslin and his team for their initiative but said any change made permanently to a neighbourhood needs unanimous support from all its residents.
“You know, the neighbours don’t all agree on exactly what should be done, that’s why we have a process in place to make these decisions and not just have any official or any councillors or any neighbour for that matter just go and change streets around as they see fit,” he said.
“I respect the fact that people here have taken here have taken some action to indicate, if nothing else, their very strong concern about this. I respect that completely.”
Back in the summer, an elderly man’s plight building an eight-step wooden staircase to connect his neighbourhood to a community garden made headlines across the country.
Retired mechanic Adi Astl built the staircase with the help of a homeless man for $500 after a city staff estimate pegged the cost at around $150,000.
Eventually the city cited him for the project and demanded he take it down.
The move caused uproar across the city, prompting Tory to backtrack and direct city crews to build a new set of stairs at the Etobicoke Park.
Recognizing the impact of Astl’s efforts, Meslin said he intends on having his neighbourhood changes “built to code” so to avoid repercussions.
“The real great part of that story is that in the end, he got the city to build one that is the code,” he said. “We could debate that the city spent too much money on it but it think citizens should do temporarily installations to build public support and inspire the city to do the proper change with engineers, like we’re trying to do here.”
Meslin said he’s “on the same page” with Tory and respects the process required to make the changes permanent. While he works towards next steps with the city, Meslin also cautioned Torontonians looking for change at a local level about the risks of the do-it-yourself tactic.
“My advice is always try and work with the city, get to know your city councillor. You can do a lot of stuff on your own but I want to stress that we took a lot of precaution – we had safety vests, we had pylons,” he said.
“I’m not suggesting that people be totally reckless and go out there (and do these things). You can create a dangerous situation by redesigning a road, it’s a risk, there are liability issues, so I don’t want to sound like a reckless anarchist. That said, I think there’s a beautiful space in between recklessness and doing everything by the book and that’s the space we’re experimenting in here in Regal Heights.”