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Students launch unique road safety initiative to take back neighbourhood

A Toronto neighbourhood is taking safety into its own hands as LRT construction continues pushing traffic on to normally quiet residential streets.

If you’ve ever driven through Leaside you may have noticed neon orange flags at the four-way stops. It’s a simple concept to catch the attention of drivers. Pedestrians grab a flag and wave it as they cross the street and return it to a canister on the other side. It all began at a single intersection outside Northlea Elementary and Middle School where a trio of grade 6 students noticed more and more cars were rolling through stops signs.

“We just thought given it’s happening so close to a school where there’s a hundred of kids and families walking here all the time there was room for an incident and we didn’t want that to happen,” said 11-year-old Arnav Shaw, one of three co-creators of The Crosswalk Company.

The trio of friends got the idea from a suburb in Seattle that was using the safety initiative. The young entrepreneurs then took skills they learned at a University of Toronto business camp to start up their own version of the neon flag program.

“Then we got contacted by other parent groups from others schools asking how they can start it,” Said co-creator Quinlan Birmingham.

Two years later, at least four other schools are using the flags. They are also available at well over a dozen intersections throughout the Leaside neighbourhood.

Residents tell CityNews traffic is a nightmare and only getting worse as construction continues on the Eglinton LRT.

“There’s a lot more noise and cars on every side road because they can’t go down Eglinton – it’s insane,” said Liz. While she doesn’t use the neon flags herself she believes they are a great option for the many children who walk to school everyday. But Victor believes they create a false sense of security

“The kids have to learn to make contact with the driver. They can’t just step in front of the car.”

The Crosswalk Company kids, now in grade 7, tell CityNews they have been hearing success stories from other schools.

“There was an 8-year-old girl and a driver almost hit her but she had the flags so the driver came to a stop. It’s scary but it’s good to know our system may have saved a life.”

The trio is hoping, this safety program will encourage both pedestrians and drivers to pay better attention.