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Debra Prokop
Debra Prokop was killed in the intersection of 44th & Avenue G on the afternoon of 5-19-01 when she was struck by a pickup truck. It's a four-way stop. We don't know who was at fault, but we suspect that the motorist was at least partially at fault, because how else could he have obtained the speed necessary to kill someone in the intersection if he had stopped as he was supposed to? One suspects that he either didn't stop, or accelerated ultra-rapidly, or both.

Contributions to the "Benefit Fund for Debra Prokop" can be made to Wells Fargo Bank, Red River Branch, Account number 2020403499.


Report by someone who was there

George Wyche writes on 5-19-01:

A woman was hit about 4:30pm Saturday by a black pickup or suv (sorry I was looking at the woman on the pavement and the very crunched bike under the front right wheel). I got there about 1 minute after it happened. Calls had just been completed to 911. The woman was out flat about 10 feet in front on Ave. G just north of 44th. She was on her back, eyes were closed, legs out straight. A bit later I asked the Fire Dept. more about it and all they said was, "She was taken to Brackenridge."

I heard the vehicle driver who was sitting near her say he stopped at the stop sign, looked both ways and that he hoped she would be ok.


Statement by a friend
 
Catharine Echols writes: Karen McGraw, who knew Debra well said, "Debra was a dedicated Hyde Parker who did many things for the community. In 1989 she chaired the Hyde Park Homes Tour. In 1990, she along with Terri Myers, Eric Bodenschatz, Robert Phillips and myself established the Texas Neighborhood Conservation Fund to help protect Hyde Park and other neighborhoods in Texas from inappropriate encroachment. Projects included raising money for legal expenses to fight HPBC and obtaining a National Trust for Historic Preservation Grant that started the Hyde Park NCCD effort. Debra was an election judge in Hyde Park in recent years. You may have seen Debra in the last few weeks at the Memorial for Glen Alyn at New World Deli, at the Alliance fundraiser at the Empanada Parlour or at the NCCD hearing at the Planning Commission. In the last year she started a business - Debra's Gardens - tending gardens around Hyde Park. She didn't have a car and took care of her business via bicycle. In the last month, she did a terrific job of renewing the landscaping at the Hyde Park Marketplace. Debra was apparently in route to water plants when this tragedy occurred."


Photos from the Memorial Ride
A memorial bike ride was held on 6-16-01. Here are some photos of the ride from the Spinning Wheel Project.


Comments by Monty Newton, 5-22-01
I ride through 44th and G every single day. Every single day. And today I stopped to talk to the couple who live on the corner -- they are the house cattycorner from the swimming pool. They don't take the paper and were gone all day Saturday when the accident happened. I assumed they were out discussing it, since they were on the curb with a newspaper. But they hadn't heard of it until I mentioned it. We talked about it and then I realized they thought it just HAD to be at 45th - where the cars really zoom. She said "Where?" and I pointed about 6 feet to my left and said, "Right here." They had no idea. You almost want someone to stand on the corner with a sign and yell to people about what happened. They were shocked, and for emphasis a big pickup did a quick rolling stop and zoomed off while picking up speed. You would think you would be safe tooling around an old Hyde park neighborhood. I heard that Prokop didn't even own a car and conducted her business by bike. Obviously we need a benefit ride for the children or something.
 

The Intersection of 44th Street and Avenue G.
by Bob Farr, "Cycling News", published by the Austin Cycling Association, June 2001, page 16
 
It's the archetypal Hyde Park Neighborhood Intersection. On the northwest is Shipe Park and a tall hedge along the north side of 44th. To the southwest, a large pecan tree and a modest home; southeast, another modest home. On the northeast is a one foot tall and three foot wide limestone marker. One could easily mistake the marker for a gravestone. In the early morning darkness at 5:30 a.m. It's a tranquil place.
 
Arriving in silence, I circle several times then turn to follow the streets in each of the four directions, turn again and one-by-one, approach the intersection from each point of the compass. Eventually, I stop and pause facing South in the middle of that intersection for a minute or so. A few birds and a couple of cars traveling along 45th street just a block to the North are the only presence besides myself.
 
What a quiet corner of the city this is. It is a peaceful spot. Ironically, a few days ago, this place was where a young mother named Debra Prokop probably experienced her last conscious moment in this life. Her grand exit came in the form of a pickup truck that rolled into her while she rode her bike through this tranquil intersection. It is a four-way stop. On her way to water plants for a friend when the fatal collision occurred about 4:35 p.m. Saturday. Prokop was riding her bicycle east on 44th Street when she was struck by a Ford pickup traveling north on Avenue G. The truck hit her in the middle of the intersection.
 
This morning I was compelled to visit because I wanted to get a sense of the space where this young lady lost her life. It is very near my bike commuting corridor through the city, so I detoured from Guadalupe to survey the scene. Did I intend to investigate the scene of a crime? I suppose that's true, I certainly wanted to get a sense of what might have happened. Except now I'm left with that familiar sense of absurd irony that afflicts me whenever something unexplainable confronts the natural order of day-to-day existence.
 
The irony of this unfortunate tragedy is that this is the sort of intersection where a Mother might feel safe enough to allow her toddler a first street crossing perhaps even releasing the child's hand. How could this happen? Did something in the park distract both the parties in this unfortunate accident? Absent some sort of profound altered reality, it seems there is no possibility that this place could be the scene of a critical traffic accident.
 
It's as if the most tranquil and safe activity is suddenly wrought with hidden danger. Must I now dread something falling from the sky to smite me as I tend my garden? And why must beautiful, helpless babies be so very fragile, drowning in a mere inch of water while the mother is distracted by something benign. In the day-to-day world of the normal, some things are wrought with danger and some things are not.
 
But in the ironic world of the unlikely, those things that are not hazardous somehow become an exit door from this life. In this harsh reality, a peaceful slow roll on a bike through a tranquil Hyde Park intersection becomes lethal. This is awful. This is tragic. This is not easily explained. It is a mystery, as is life and death.
 
With the pickup truck traveling north on Avenue G and Debra traveling east on 44th, Debra Prokop may have come to rest within inches of that stone marker along the street a few feet north from the northeast corner of the intersection. The inscription reads "Hyde Park."
 

Wreck kills Hyde Park activist, Mother of two had been concerned about traffic safety in her neighborhood
by Claire Osborn, Austin American-Statesman, 05-22-2001, p. B1
 
Last week Debra Prokop was supposed to speak before the Austin planning commission in support of a plan that included improving traffic safety in her Hyde Park neighborhood. The hearing was postponed, and Prokop died five days later, after she was hit by a pickup while riding her bicycle a few blocks from home.
 
Her death stunned neighbors, who said Prokop, 45, got involved in whatever her neighborhood had to offer, from gathering signatures on petitions to kneeling in the dirt of people's yards, working with their plants. "She was a neat kind of vestige of old hippies, grown up and raising kids and cats and plants in old-time Hyde Park," said Terri Myers, a friend. "She loved her old ramshackle house, and she loved her kids, and she was out there fighting the good fight."
 
Prokop, a resident of Hyde Park since 1973, had been an election judge and chaired the Hyde Park Homes tour. She spent tedious hours typing minutes of meetings the neighborhood association held as part of an endless fight with Hyde Park Baptist Church over its expansion plans. Prokop, a divorced mother of two girls, didn't own a car but rode her bike everywhere to take care of her year-old gardening business.
 
Her landscape clients included the Hyde Park Marketplace, Kerbey Lane Cafe and her neighbors. Friends said they think she was on her way to water plants for a friend when the fatal collision occurred about 4:35 p.m. Saturday.
 
Prokop was riding her bicycle east on 44th Street when she was struck by a Ford pickup traveling north on Avenue G, police said. The truck hit her in the middle of the intersection, which is a four-way stop, investigators said. Detectives were trying Monday to determine who failed to yield the right of way. The driver of the pickup was 36-year-old Neil D. Lawler of Austin, police said.
 
Prokop, who was not wearing a helmet, died of head injuries at 8:18 a.m. Sunday at Brackenridge Hospital. A friend said Prokop had been concerned about how safe neighborhood streets were for her daughters, 11 and 7. "She would talk about people speeding in the neighborhood and wanted to get speed bumps in the street," Maria Dallman said.
Funeral arrangements are pending. Survivors include her daughters, Evelyn and Erica Bodenschatz; her father, Joe Prokop of New Jersey; and her brother, Rick Prokop of California.
 
From June 2001 "Cycling News" "At the intersection of 44th and Ave. G" by Bob Farr, "Cycling News" Associate Editor



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