Amazon Death Run

March 16, 2010

Speeding in the Amazon neighborhood is a serious concern for local residents and pedestrians. Mary Tegel, a resident in the neighborhood, explores the concern and issues posed by these fast drivers.

By Kanyapak Wuttara

EUGENE –As the world spins faster, people tend to move faster, literally. Yes, people speed. The Amazon neighborhood is experiencing speeding problem. What’s the rush? A rush lifestyle has hit the heart of Amazon. As Mary Tegel says, “who are you to steal the security of the people who walk? You’re taking it away when you step on that paddle.”

While gardening one time at her front yard on a quiet typical Amazon day, Mary Tegel says that she was almost got run off by a car that was zooming down hill. “I see cars go by really fast close to me, very few people slow down and notice the happening of their surrounding,” says Tegel.

Mary Tegel has been a resident at the Amazon neighborhood for 16 years. She lives just way upper the hill in the Amazon neighborhood. She earned a degree in architecture and planning at the University of Oregon back during her time in school. Now, she is actively involved with the Amazon Neighborhood Steering Committee under design and planning.

Tegel says there are combinations of factors associate with the problem of speeding. Through the perspective as an architect, Tegel explains the idea of immediate gratification. Because people now live in such a fast world, people will do anything just to get to places on time for time is too precious to waste. Having set that time frame in ones head, people just simply drive without paying attention to the surrounding. “People move through space instead of moving through places,” says Tegel.

According to Tegel, people drive without cautions. They don’t bare the idea that there are pedestrians walking. They don’t take in considerations of the surrounding that they’re driving through. “I’ve seen cats and dogs been run over, it’s not a great sight,” says Tegel. Having lived in a big city before, Tegel said that she’s very much used to the idea of walking from places to places. “See with these drivers, they don’t know what it’s like to walk, it’s quite different.” says Tegel. In the Amazon neighborhood, the majority of residents do a lot of walking and biking, both as a method of transportation and recreation.

April Bacas, the manager and designer at the flower store Rhythm & Blooms, also agrees that the Amazon neighborhood has been experiencing the problem with speeding for quite some time. “I’ve seen accidents, a lot of cars honking at each other, a lot of angry drivers,” says Becas.  “People should be aware of the problem. It’s been like this for so long, and still no one has done anything about it, well I haven’t seen any changes anyway,” Becas adds.

In fact, the problem has been brought up several times at the Amazon Neighborhood Steering Committee meetings. However, the problem lies for it lacks help from the authority. “We tried putting post cards on peoples cars windshields, we even tried talking to regular speeders if they could slow down,” said Tegel. “We tried pursuing the idea through education. At the Edison elementary school, we gave out flags to the children and have them hold these flags up when they cross the road, it worked for a while,” Tegel adds. The Committee talked about trying to insert speed bumps on the streets. However, Tegel explains that the proposal of increasing more speed bumps clashes with idea of bike paths, a planning that was brought up at the most recent Neighborhood Steering Committee meeting.

On a Wednesday night, March 10th, 2010, the Amazon Neighborhood Steering Committee meeting was held. The main topic that the meeting covered was the new planning of bike paths and sidewalks. Lindsay Selser from the City’s Transportation Department proposed a new plan for pedestrian and bicyclists in the Amazon area. A plan is to enhance the public safety for both pedestrians and bikers. “The big thing that the New Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan is going to be looked at is the gap analysis. Where we’re lacking infrastructure, where people are having trouble getting to, and where we’re missing sidewalks,” said Selser at the committee.

Randy Prince, Co-Chair of the Amazon Neighborhood Association, said that the issue of speeding is in fact a problem. “I’d like to see more of those radar speed display signs,” says Prince. With the nature of the Amazon area, speeding in the area is sometimes unavoidable. “It’s very hilly in this neighborhood, so people tend to speed when they’re driving up and down the hills,” says Erik Muller, another Co-Chair of the Amazon Neighborhood Association.

As the Amazon committee established, what the Amazon neighborhood lacks are sidewalks. “We need something on Emerald: bumps, more predominant crossing at 25th, 26th, and 28th. As well, 28th is not safe for walkers from Emerald west to University where sidewalks and parkways begin,” says Tegel. With hilly roads on Amazon, along with inconsistent sidewalks for pedestrians make the Amazon neighborhood quite a dangerous area. With hills so steep that sometimes it is impossible to see a pedestrian standing only a few meters away from the car. Tegel explained that the problem with these very steep hills is the blind spot. At a certain distance, a pedestrian is not visible to the driver as the car goes down the hill. With the Amazon area, sidewalks often end and pedestrians are forced to walk on the road.

As to what Tegel explained earlier, it is rather a combination of things. There are people who speed, and the area’s lack of pedestrian sidewalks, all contribute to an unsafe environment. Surprisingly, as far as the complaints go with the speeding in the Amazon area, according to Police Records from City of Eugene Police Department, there were only 67 speed violations in 2009. From the Oregon Department of Transportation, a crash summary dated all the way back to 1999 shows a total of 88 crashes in the area in regarding the ten-year period, and none were killed.

“Not many people go report to the police after accidents, in fact the police don’t even come patrol in this neighborhood that often,” says Tegel. “We have filed a request for a police patrol many times, and they only come once a month,” Tegel adds. According to Tegel, the police’s explanation regarding speeding in the Amazon neighborhood was to blame the walking pedestrians and not the drivers. The police claimed that majority of pedestrians don’t obey the law and walk outside the designated crosswalks. With a slow shake on her head, “police don’t do a lot of walking in their field work, they don’t understand what it is like to walk,” says Tegel.

“People are always in such a hurry, it is very dangerous for pedestrians. I see it all the time, and I know because I’m on the street almost everyday,” says David, the daily U.S. Postal Service deliver for the Amazon neighborhood.

The Amazon neighborhood is consisted of a friendly environment where families walk, run, and bike. Indeed that the privilege is lost when people do things without cautions. Tegel explained how her husband was taken out by a car door once while biking in a bike lane. He came back home limping and sleeves all torn up. “The Amazon neighborhood still is a peaceful neighborhood, but people are just going to have to learn to drive with others in mind,” says Tegel.

SIDEBAR I: Oregon Department Summary of Crashes

SIDEBAR II: Sites of Regular Speeding in the Amazon Area

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