Safety campaign unites Messinger St. neighbors

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Last Saturday morning, Siobhaun Johnson was standing at the edge of the driveway of her Messinger Street home when a woman who was driving past slowed her car and rolled down the window. “I love your little campaign,” the stranger called to Johnson.

(L-R) Siobhaun Johnson with her son Luke, 3, and Adrienne Sullivan with her son, Caleb, 2, with one of Messinger Street’s “little green men.”

(L-R) Siobhaun Johnson with her son Luke, 3, and Adrienne Sullivan with her son, Caleb, 2, with one of Messinger Street’s “little green men.”

The little campaign to which the woman referred is Johnson’s solution to drivers going faster than the posted 25 mile-per-hour speed limit on Messinger Street. She recently purchased several Step2 KidAlert! Visual Warning Signals for her neighborhood. Purchasing and distributing the “little green men,” as Johnson calls them, had an unexpected benefit: In addition to increasing safety on the street, it brought the neighborhood a little closer together.

In late spring, Johnson took her two sons, Luke, 3, and Dominic, now 5 months old, outside between 5 and 6 p.m. so that Luke could practice riding his tricycle. “It was striking to me,” she said. “Cars were definitely coming by without an awareness of how many children live on this street.” She estimated that more than 20 children who are younger than kindergarten age live in the dozen or so houses closest to hers.

She bought four little green men and assembled them by snapping the pieces into place, placing a red flag in the figure’s hand, and then filling the base with sand. She set one at the end of her driveway. Then she placed Dominic in his stroller, took Luke by the hand and picked up another little green man. Then she headed to a neighbor’s home to explain her plan of involving the neighborhood in a summer safety awareness program by placing a warning signal on their property.

“The neighbors were thrilled, enthusiastic and supportive,” Johnson said. When she spoke to her neighbors Adrienne and Jeff Sullivan, they not only agreed to help, they went ahead and bought more little green men for another family to use.

“I’ve been concerned,” Adrienne Sullivan said of people driving too fast on Messinger Street. “I love this neighborhood. It’s teeming with kids. It feels like the kind of neighborhood I grew up in.” She added that she has gone out into the middle of the street and tried to signal to drivers to slow down. Both women said that a number of older children walk down the street to get to the playground and pond, carrying their softballs and fishing rods.

Johnson said that within 30 minutes of placing the first warning signal in front of her home, she noticed that drivers were slowing down. “The impact was immediate,” she said.

There are currently nine little green men on Messinger Street encouraging drivers to be aware of their surroundings and to slow down. Two homeowners on neighboring Dunbar Street also bought warning signals and placed them in their driveways. “It makes me want to go over and introduce myself,” Sullivan said.

“It resulted in this amazing sense of community,” Johnson said of an idea that started as a way to increase safety for the youngest residents of Messinger Street. Johnson, for example, discovered that she and Jeff Sullivan are members of the same graduating class at St. Anselm’s College.

Safety remains the number-one concern for the neighbors and parents on Messinger Street. Johnson recently saw warning signals in another area that carried a message encouraging people to drive as though their kids lived on that street. “I want people to get that sense [on Messinger Street],” she said.

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