Veteran crossing guard wins battle for East York crosswalk

Jack Aldred helps Grace Kalsatos, left, and Jasmine Ross, across the street. He has worked as a crossing guard at the Carlaw and Mortimer intersection for 23 years. He learned last night that his petition for a permanent, lighted crossover at that spot was approved by Toronto City Council. (Aneta Tasheva/Toronto Observer)

Last night, Toronto’s city council approved the request for a pedestrian crossover at the corner of Mortimer and Carlaw avenues.

The intersection in East York will now have overhead lights installed. Students from Centennial College’s East York campus, Chester Elementary School and Westwood Middle School cross there frequently.

Coun. Mary Fragedakis (Ward 29) said that Jack Aldred, the crossing guard at the intersection for the past 23 years, spearheaded the project.

“He is a great example of civic engagement,” she said. “He… gave us all a sense of the problem at that intersection and how it impacts the children.”

Aldred, 87 and a navy veteran of the Second World War, had expressed his concern for pedestrians crossing during after-school hours, when no one helps them cross at the intersection. He has rallied neighbours and pedestrians in the community, asking them to sign a petition for the installation of a crossover.

Aldred’s concern for the safety of pedestrians motivated him to get involved. He said that when drivers turn from Pape Avenue westbound onto Mortimer Avenue they ignore the school crossing sign at the Carlaw intersection.

“(The drivers) are looking at the lights at Logan; they’re not looking in between. And I know — I’m the guy that they swerve around,” Aldred said. “The majority of people are sensible drivers, (but) there are the odd (drivers that go) right past me.”

Aldred said the crossover will benefit pedestrians mostly during the times of day when he‘s not on duty.

Persuading the city to install the crossover, however, proved a difficult process. Aldred said he has encouraged neighbours and pedestrians in the community to sign the petition for about 10 years.

Earlier this year, Fragedakis informed Aldred that the petition to install a crossover at the intersection didn’t meet the requirements of the city’s Transportation Services department. It contended the intersection didn’t have a sufficient number of people crossing during busy periods. Nevertheless, she continued to advocate for the crossing device.

After a community council approved the crossover, on March 22, Fragedakis hoped that it would be approved at last night’s city council meeting. She said she appreciates the involvement of Aldred and the entire community.

“I feel that I’ve done something for the community… something positive; something that will affect other people rather than just something that I will enjoy,” Aldred said.

Aldred will continue working as a crossing guard at the intersection after the installation of the pedestrian crossover.

“I’ve been there for 23 years; I enjoy the job. It gets me up; it gets me out; it gets me meeting lots of nice people,” he said.