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.
the "Benefit Fund for Debra Prokop" can be made to Wells Fargo
Bank, Red River Branch, Account number 2020403499.
Report by someone
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
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.
by a friend
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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."
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.
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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