August 15, 2014 5:55 pm

Safety campaign launched in wake of young girl’s death gaining momentum

TORONTO – A safety campaign launched in the wake of Georgia Walsh’s death by people who live in Leaside is spreading across the city.

Walsh, 6, was hit and killed by a minivan at the corner of Millwood Road and McRae Drive in July. The memorial bearing her smiling face at still stands, as much a reminder of the tragedy that occurred there as the pink ribbons and lawn signs reading “Slow Down Kids At Play.”

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Since this grassroots effort to slow through-traffic launched in the days following Walsh’s death, the signs have gained traction, aided by cash sponsorships from local businesses and residents.

“I have young children, I have friends who have young children and I see it on a daily basis,” says sponsor Patrick Rocca as he points to a loud, speeding red sports car.

Neighbours say the increased traffic is streaming through the neighbourhood to avoid construction on Eglinton Avenue where traffic has come to a halt due to the construction of the Eglinton Crosstown.

The ensuing demand for signs from concerned residents was so high organizers were unable to answer all the emails. They staged three events Thursday night for people to get a sign; first come, first served. They’re using the money they made from voluntary donations to print 600 more.

“I just put another order in for 300 today,” says Roger Cattell, one of the effort’s main organizers.  “So in about 20 days we’ll probably have a thousand signs.”

And that’s just in Leaside.

Watch previous stories on Georgia Walsh and the traffic concerns in Leaside

They estimate close to 800 signs have been ordered by residents in other areas of the city including East York, the Beach, and Yonge and Eglinton where a black and white version of the sign is slowly starting to show up on Lascelles Boulevard.

While the colour scheme is slightly different, the message from parents is the same: They’re doing this because city hall can’t.

“This should’ve been a community issue that was brought forth by the city and it’s an important thing that the streets are safe for the kids,” says Victoria McCowan, a mother of three.

Local Councillor John Parker has ordered a report on the feasibility of a bypass route south of Leaside along Redway Road.  He’s also having staff weigh the pros and cons of reducing speed limits in Leaside to 30 km/h.

Any solutions stemming from those reports are still a long way off though.

Another initiative that council is set to debate next week  could ban right turns on red lights at Millwood Road. and McRae Drive.

“You want drivers focusing on the road ahead,” Councillor Parker said. “You don’t want them looking over their left shoulder at the potential of oncoming traffic.”

Global News reached out to the family of Georgia Walsh for comment  on the growth of the campaign in reaction to their daughter’s death, but a family spokesperson says they respectfully declined and continue to ask for privacy.

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