Residents say it's only a matter of time before a tragedy occurs at the 90-degree bend where Elm Street curves into Eighth Street west of downtown Medford. They've seen enough mishaps there already to be sure of that.
Those mishaps have happened frequently enough over the years that the only question, said Washington Street homeowner Glenette Eller, is "when it will happen next."
Drivers were recently greeted with signs declaring "SLOW DOWN" and "Respect Our Neighborhood" and seemed to respond when the signs were first posted, neighbors say, but that didn't last long.
The problem area has two 90-degree turns as eastbound traffic on Main Street is jogged over one block at the point where Main and Eighth become one-way streets.
Eller, who has lived in the area for four decades, said she has watched dozens of near-misses over the years and a number of accidents at the corner.
Front yards are adorned with large stump pieces or barrels on property lines — aimed at deterring wayward cars — or sections of bent fencing.
Resident John Holden added the new signs after an incident during the first week of September after a car slammed into the curb.
Another spun out, according to police, and hit the curb, breaking its rear axle on May 27.
"The one in September was after that first heavy rain. and someone took the curve to fast and tried to come through the fence," he said.
"People take the corner too fast all the time. The last speed limit sign coming this direction is down by Angelo's, and it's for 30 or 35 (mph). The speed limit through here should be more like 10 to 15 (mph)."
Holden, who said his house felt like the "bulls-eye" at the center of the turn, said he and other residents met with a traffic committee for the city of Medford to discuss the issue and brainstormed everything from additional signage and an extension of bike lane striping — to visually limit the area available for negotiating a left turn.
At issue, neighbors say, are that two lanes feed from nearby Main Street. Motorists on the short stretch of Elm Street can go left, straight or turn right. The vast majority in both lanes turn left, toward downtown, in the same direction they were headed before the street jogged over one block.
On a recent visit during lunch hour traffic, a line of cars and trucks navigated the corner from Main Street, several audibly speeding up as they entered the turn. At least one car honked as another entered its lane without using a turn signal.
Medford Police spokesman Lt. Mike Budreau said while only two traffic accidents were reported at Holden's address this year, speeding cars are one of the primary complaints made by residents to police and "it only takes a few for neighbors to feel like it's an issue."
Specific statistics for the area along Eighth were difficult to ascertain, but Budreau acknowledged that slower rates of speed are needed for the sharp turns.
"It's definitely one of those intersections that people need to proceed through slowly. It has a 90-degree turn and two lanes that can turn at the same time. So anytime you have that there's a possibility of cars bumping into each other on the turn," he said.
"Otherwise, it shouldn't be that hard."
Eller, who said her son witnessed the accident in September, is hopeful the city will add signage and reduce speed limits in the area.
"I really don't see a problem with Eighth Street itself, how it curves around, but people need to just go slower," Eller said. "There are a bunch of houses where the fence has been hit.
"Maybe something could be done letting people know to slow down and pay attention to what they're doing, but that's why they put mirrors on sides of cars and they put signs on the road."
Steven Herring, who spends time at his grandmother's home near Holden's house, said the speed of passing vehicles was among the reasons they won't let a child play in the front yard or on the nearby sidewalk.
"People really need to slow down, but I don't know what would help," Herring said.
"Maybe a police car sitting right there, but that wouldn't stop the problem for long either. As soon as the cop left, they'd speed right back up."
Holden said he was hopeful that better signs and more striping for a bike lane would help slow people down.
"It's a safety issue. There's just a lot of foot traffic through here, people with strollers, kids on bikes, a bus stop," he said.
"If they don't do something about this, it's only a matter of time before somebody gets seriously injured. It isn't a matter of if something happens, but when."
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.