Using just chalk and leaves, Toronto residents re-imagine ‘poorly designed,’ ‘dangerous’ intersection – Toronto

A group of residents frustrated with the design of an intersection in their midtown Toronto neighbourhood took matters into their own hands this week, using sidewalk chalk and thousands of raked leaves to force traffic to slow down.

Regal Heights resident Dave Meslin came up with the idea after years of worrying about the intersection at the corner of Regal Road and Springmount Avenue — near St. Clair Avenue West and Dufferin Street. He says many vehicles cut through to get away from the often jammed streets nearby, such as Oakwood Avenue and Davenport Road, and he wanted to make for a shorter, safer crossing.

Regal Heights resident Dave Meslin came up with the idea after years of worrying if the intersection at the corner of Regal Road and Springmount Avenue was safe to walk through. (Garry Asselstine/CBC)

Tired of having to look over his shoulder to walk through safely, Meslin says he decided to pick his neighbours’ brains to see how they might redesign the intersection on their own.

Together, they created a kind of do-it-yourself mock-up — with the help of some of their kids.

“We filled that whole space with tens of thousands of leaves using children and their skills of sweeping and raking,” he explained to CBC Toronto, laughing. The move left a metre-and-a-half of sidewalk that the kids decorated with chalk.

“We created this temporary example of how the neighbourhood could be safer,” he said. 

‘Cars stopping for the first time’

When Meslin and his neighbours measured other roads in the area, they found most run 8.5 metres wide.

That meant there was about 185 square metres of surplus space at their intersection that could very well be turned into a parkette with benches or trees and still allow cars the space they need to pass through safely, he said.

The plan was to leave the chalk and leaves intact for just a day. That is, until they saw what kind of impact it was having.

“It looked so good and it was so inspiring to see cars stopping for the first time ever that we decided to leave it for a few days,” he said. “Traffic instantly adapted to what should be the design of the intersection in the first place.”

‘Easy to kind of fly through’

Andrew Tay, who has lived in the neighbourhood for four years and happens to be a designer himself, says cars seem to blow through the intersection all the time, often right past stop signs.

“The street is so wide, it’s easy to kind of fly through,” he said, adding that…

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