Community calls for safer streets after toddler's death in South Boston

Community calls for safer streets after toddler's death in South Boston

Weeks after the tragic death of a toddler in South Boston, residents are advocating for safer streets in unique ways.

One couple is committed to the cause, creating T-shirts that are urging drivers to slow down.

Ashley Balaconis is handing out hundreds of shirts, with the words "Drive slow" printed on them to warn drivers.

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"Probably one of the most important things I've ever done," Ashley Balaconis said.

The move comes as residents, particularly those who have children, worry about walking and riding bikes on the streets in South Boston.

"It could be my child," Balaconis said. "It could be anybody's child, and it could be somebody's loved one, and it's not necessary."

Balaconis is the mother of a 1-year-old boy, and she and her neighbors have all experienced close calls on the roads, witnessing too many accidents. Now, they're fed up with speeding in the area.

"It's something that I go crazy about all the time," Southie resident Nancy Pickup said. "The way the cars fly up and down L Street, and all our residential streets."

Balaconis' T-shirts are free, created at cost by The Spot Boston and covered by Balaconis and another organizer.

Suggested donations of $5 will benefit the Colin McGrath Fund for South Boston Catholic Academy, in the name of the 2-year-old boy who was killed last month after a minivan jumped a curb and struck him in his stroller.

"I feel like this community is coming together, and it's just an absolute tragedy for anyone," Southie resident Shane Dunn said. "Whether you have kids or not, to hear that, hear that a 2-year-old boy was killed accidentally. It makes me sick and very sad."

Since McGrath's death, some road improvements have been made, including new speed limit signs.

But residents are demanding more around Southie.

"I personally would like to see stop lights or four-way intersections," Balaconis said. "Stop signs, raised speed bumps or raised intersections. Pushed-out sidewalks would be awesome."

Residents are planning to discuss improvements with city leaders in a community meeting this week, but the changes can't come soon enough.

"There's clearly not the infrastructure we need to protect pedestrians, bikers and even drivers," Dunn said. "Everyone's in danger here."

A community member donated more money to buy more T-shirts to hand out next week, and nearly $2,000 has been raised for the Colin McGrath Fund at South Boston Catholic Academy.