The votes of the VTA/County Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee regarding pedestrians along expressways and SB 1233.


The VTA/County Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) is an official advisory committee for two boards, the VTA Board and the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.

Historical: 1996 vote resulted in removal of illegal "pedestrians prohibited" signs along Capitol

When the BPAC was called County BAC, it voted (in summer of 1996) to request a legal opinion from County Counsel whether the "pedestrians prohibited" signs along Capitol Expressway are legal or not. County Roads (with Dan Collen as staff liaison) claimed the Department can prohibit pedestrians at their will. The legal opinion showed that the signs were illegal, and they were removed, but only after a year of further stonewalling by County Roads, in 1997. This meant that pedestrians could finally use the Capitol Light Rail Station -- staff only wanted to allow those driving a car to the park-and-ride-lot to use the station. Pedestrians could finally access stores all along Capitol, and the Capitol Expressway Flea Market. [See photos of prohibited sidewalks, paths, bus stops, wide shoulders.]

The first vote as the VTA/County BPAC: input to Expressway Master Plan in 2002 (approved by BOS in 2003)

The first BPAC vote (May 8, 2002), as their input to the draft County Expressway Master Plan, was unanimously that "all pedestrian prohibition signs be removed from the expressways." [See details of the vote.]

The County Board of Supervisors [BOS] vote (August 2003)

The County highway engineers had tried to impose more prohibitions in the draft of the County Expressway Master Plan, but the final version unanimously approved by the BOS (on 8/19/03) supported pedestrians on virtually all expressway miles.

The second and third BPAC votes (November 2005).

In the fall of 2005, the County Roads Department tried to repudiate the County Expressway Master Plan by going to the BPAC. They asked the BPAC to vote for a new policy that opposes walking on all shoulders, no matter how wide, and to oppose walking on unpaved pedestrian paths along expressways. This Committee unanimously rejected Mr. Murdter's proposal on November 9, 2005. As a result, Mr. Murdter, Director of County Roads, dropped his attempt to change County policy. If it would have been changed the way Mr. Murdter wanted, County staff could have used SB 1233's secret change in State law, that was drafted by Mr. Murdter, to eliminate pedestrians from these public roads.

The full text of these votes are at bottom. For background, see County staff's triple attack on pedestrians and transit patrons and Violations of law and County Supervisors' policy by the County highway engineers.

The County Board of Supervisors [BOS] vote (January 2006)

As a result of losing the vote, Murdter and his staff dropped the first item, but continued to the BOS with the second item. Staff lost their argument that the "Master Plan does not represent Board policy" and on January 10, 2006, the BOS unanimously voted to seek legislation in Sacramento to repeal all the secret changes in State law that resulted by Michael Murdter's actions behind the backs of the BOS, and without ever receiving their authorization.

The fourth BPAC vote (January 2007) re: SB 1233.

County staff never complied with the Board directive to repeal SB 1233 as part of the 2006 legislative efforts of the County, as has now been admitted by County staff in a letter (described next). In January 2007, the BPAC voted to request the County BOS to undo SB 1233 as part of the 2007 legislative efforts. The request was referred to County staff, which then rejected the BPAC request. This rejection contained many false, deceptive and misleading statements. MTS wrote a rebuttal. See the rebuttal and staff's rejection letter, including the lame excuse for non-compliance with the prior year's directive to seek repeal.

Analyses of SB 1233: What a waste of County resources !

The entire SB 1233 episode was a total waste of time for the Supervisors, staff, Committee members and many members of the public because all of these people, from the Supervisors to the public, had already gone through exactly the same topic, pedestrians along expressways, as part of the two-year public hearing process for the County Expressway Master Plan. The draft of this document was changed from initially opposing all pedestrian use of shoulders and imposing more pedestrian prohibitions, to supporting wide shoulder use by pedestrians. Mr. Murdter dragged everyone through the same process all over again by secretly drafting SB 1233 without informing the VTA/County BPAC, County citizens, or the County Supervisors. The trick and deception used was that the legal text, which was not available to the public at the time, changed the wrong chapter of the Vehicle Code. It did NOT the chapter titled "Traffic Signs ... " as implied on the BOS agenda which was titled "Expressway signage". Instead, it changed "Pedestrians Rights ..." which was never mentioned on the BOS agenda. SB 1233 expanded authority for prohibiting pedestrians and transit patrons, by eliminating their right to use ALL public roadways --by a simple declaration that a road is an "expressway" and adding a new definition for "expressway". Furthermore, staff's seeking of (what become) SB 1233 contradicted the County Expressway Master Plan that was approved just four months earlier, and also laws and policies cited above by the VTA/County BPAC (above).

Mr. Murdter then continued his agenda by trying to repudiate the County Expressway Master Plan in the fall of 2005 by proposing new policy to oppose pedestrians on all shoulders. Mr. Murdter's proposal that the BOS adopt new policy to repudiate portions of the County Expressway Master Plan would also have been illegal because it would have violated the Master Plan process. These two actions, SB 1233 and the attempt to change policy, show a lack of concern and regard for people's time, the two-year public input process that occurred, and the law.

A huge amount of staff time --and therefore money-- was wasted in not only the SB 1233 effort but also the subsequent policy change attempt. This attempt had multiple staff reports, with up to three extra staff attending 5 meetings of the VTA/County BPAC, trying to convince them to change policy in order to eliminate pedestrians and transit patrons from arterial roads renamed "expressway".

Fifth and sixth BPAC vote (September 2008) to try to achieve compliance with policies by the County Roads Department.

This fifth vote is detailed at:

There was also a sixth pedestrian-issue vote at the same meeting. It's main point was to create pedestrian paths along expressways, but County Roads requested a modification, which passed. This modification nullifies the original request. County Roads claims that sidewalks are cheaper than unpaved paths, in the long term. If this was the case, according to the modification, they won't have to comply with creating paths. Contrary to statements by County Roads that unpaved paths are more expensive than paved sidewalks when considering maintenance, all unpaved pedestrian paths along expressways cost nothing to maintain -- the feet of pedestrians keeps the weeds down -- and cost nothing to build -- as the pedestrians created them by walking. Unfortunately, these facts are contradicted by false claims of County Roads, so this BPAC vote will have no effect for the future.

Seventh BPAC vote (October 2008) to eliminate all pro-pedestrian policies: Vote failed.

Someone tried to pull a fast one by holding an "emergency" vote to support highway staff's attempt to eliminate all pro-pedestrian policies. This matter was not on the officially distributed agenda, and the Modern Transit Society (MTS) was not informed that it was going to be added to the agenda as an "emergency" item. There is no pedestrian advocate on the BPAC at present, and MTS has been the sole pedestrian advocacy group attending BPAC meetings -- only when a pedestrian issue is on the agenda. Furthermore, there was no real "emergency" because all information was available and known when the official agenda was written one week earlier. There was no reason for the "emergency" placement, other than to prevent MTS from opposing highway staff's tactics to eliminate all the pro-pedestrian policies that MTS worked so hard to have enacted. Fortunately, the vote did not win approval.

Vote details (of BPACs second and third vote)

On November 9, 2005, the VTA/County Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee unanimously voted on "Draft Policy for Bicycle and Pedestrian Use of Santa Clara County Expressways" (agenda item # 15), and on SB 1233 (agenda item #16) as follows:
M/S/C (Stallman/Wadler) to adopt policy:
VTP 2030 (adopted February 2005) and County Expressway Plan (adopted August 19, 2003) are County policy for bicycle and pedestrian use of expressways, and bicycle and pedestrian facilities on expressways.  The “wide shoulders” in the County Expressway Plan are shoulders that are five feet wide or wider. Wide shoulder facilities can serve for occasional pedestrian use. The County of Santa Clara practices will comply with:
• Assembly Concurrent Resolution 211 (ACR 211),
• United States Code, Title 23, Chapter 1, Subchapter I, § 109 Standards, (m) Protection of Nonmotorized Transportation Traffic - The Secretary shall not approve any project or take any regulatory action under this title that will result in the severance of an existing major route or have significant adverse impact on the safety for nonmotorized transportation traffic and light motorcycles, unless such project or regulatory action provides for a reasonable alternate route or such a route exists.
• Streets and Highway Code Section 888, and
• California Vehicle Code Section 21949, Section A and Section B.

M/S/C (Wadler/Carpenter) on an order of 9 ayes, 0 noes, and 1 abstention, that
the County of Santa Clara seek legislation to undo changes of SB 1233 [and] to bring it [law] back to the state it was prior to January 2005.

Federal link for above US Code is:
Other sources are on our Expressway topics, links page.
For legal text of referenced laws, click here.

Also see: Expressway topics, links page.

home page | about MTS | Cashout | HOV lanes | Bay Bridge | Solution | Allow Pedestrians! | AGT | letters | webmaster