How Toronto's Chief Planner Prepared Her Children to Walk Alone to School

Toronto Chef Planner Jennifer Keesmaat describes how she prepared her children for an old-fashioned commute to and from school.
September 7, 2016, 1pm PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Vaclav Mach

"Toronto's chief planner, Jennifer Keesmaat, says her daughter Alexandra, now 14, started walking to school on her own at age 9."

So goes the caption on a photo of the Keesmaats to introduce an op-ed by the elder Keesmaat, explaining why she believes her daughter should walk alone. That idea isn't foreign to some of us, but it's growing rarer in today's world.

Here Keesmaat lends some historical context to her op-ed:

When I was a kid, no one really thought twice about walking to school unaccompanied by an adult. It was just the way we got to school, full stop. Neighbourhood kids skipped along our local streets. Historical data bears this out: a generation ago 58 per cent of children walked to school, but today, that number has dropped to 28 per cent.

According to Keesmaat, experts pinpoint the age of nine as a good threshold for children to walk alone, and that's the age Keesmaat chose for Alexandra. Keesmatt's son Luis will begin walking to school alone when he reaches the age of nine.

Keesmaat talks about the preparation and the fear that accompanies the decision to let he children walk alone. And for the record, her "greatest fear has been that my kids might get hit by a car. I can teach them street smarts, but it’s unfair that they have to contend with people driving too fast, and too carelessly." 

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Published on Sunday, August 28, 2016 in The Toronto Star
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