Expressway topics, links page (Historical archive, February 2006)

New Readers: the best place to start is:

Analyses of Pedestrians along Expressways,

a comprehensive report with illustrative photos and diagrams, a clickable table of contents and appendix.

All Readers:
New policies

New policies of VTA, the County Expressway Master Plan (approved by Board of Supervisors, endorsed by cities), FHWA, and Caltrans confirm what the Modern Transit Society (MTS) has been saying for years, especially that:

1) shoulders are bicycle/pedestrian facilities (stated explicitly by the later three, implicitly by the first), and that

2) "County expressways" are arterial roads, not freeways (stated explicitly by the second, indirectly by the first).

A new Legislative Resolution, ACR 211, states "the Legislature of the State of California hereby encourages all cities and counties to implement the policies of [Caltrans DD-64] and [the FHWA policy]. 
Also see: new State Law.

New County policy request by MTS and the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC):
Implementation of ACR 211 and preservation of bicycle and pedestrian facilities. This was referred by the County Board of Supervisors (BOS) to the HLUET Committee (on May 4. 2004, with the agreement of the HLUET Chair) but has yet not been placed on the HLUET agenda. Also see detailed recommendation of VTA BPAC (Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee).

Violations of law and County Supervisors' policy by the County highway engineers.

Update, January 2006: The County Board of Supervisors (BOS) voted, on January 10, 2006, to restore the rights that were secretly eliminated by SB 1233 (in 2004). This was despite County highway engineers' opposition to restoration and their triple attack on walkers and transit patrons. The BOS unanimously approved this proposal (agenda #25): "Santa Clara County previously sought ... SB 1233 of 2004. This new proposal would repeal that language." Furthermore, the County Expressway Master Plan was NOT repudiated as the County Roads Department attempted before the VTA BPAC (Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee), and County Roads Department then dropped their proposal after losing the vote. See the detailed recommendation of VTA BPAC in this regard.

Recent Expressway (publicly known) Events 2003-2004 and Secret Events: SB 1233. Also see Murdter and staff opposed, thwarted BOS policy.

How this dispute all started: with our request to the County Board of Supervisors (BOS) that staff comply with City codes, State law and the County's own policies which were being violated by posting illegal "pedestrians prohibited" signs.

Details are in a Letter to the County Supervisors and a second letter, Unjust discrimination by the County.

Instead of complying --a 3-hour job to unbolt and remove signs-- Mr. Michael Murdter, Director, County Roads and Airports Department, wrote a staff report that sought approval from the BOS for his violations of the law and BOS policy. It does so by not recognizing the existence of the County Expressway Master Plan -- while contradicting major points -- and by omitting and contradicting ALL relevant legal opinions from County Counsel. This item was agendized for the HLUET Committee without giving any notice to the Modern Transit Society (which had requested BOS action) that this item was being placed on the agenda.

Subsequently, MTS brought to the attention of the County Executive Office three major deficiencies in the staff report. These were corrected for the full vote of the BOS, which accepted the staff report on May 4. For those interested, the deficiencies are detailed here:

Photos showing the many self-contradictions of Mr. Murdter in his report to the County Supervisors.

Three major deficiencies in the staff report are described in the MTS letter to the County Supervisors [download .doc file now or see it on the web]. It rebuts the primary points that leave the entire staff report without basis. The full MTS rebuttal rebuts all the secondary points also. Also uploaded to the MTS web site is the staff report itself

Victory for pedestrians! (also, transit patrons and bicyclists) on May 4, 2004. See details in this Thank You letter. For links to the staff reports, scroll to agenda item #63 at this link.

But the stonewalling continues! Mr. Murdter continues his stonewalling on illegal sign removal, despite his promises to the Supervisors to comply. See details in these letters to Supervisor Jim Beall and the Deputy County Executive. Mr. Murdter then falsely claimed to Supervisor Jim Beall (on 8/4/04) that signs were removed on two expressways when in fact they were not, and ignored other violations of the Vehicle Code which MTS had pointed out [see previous two links].

Another pedestrian fatality on Capitol Expressway partly due to non-compliance by the current stonewalling!
See the brief letter and speach to the County Supervisor McHugh, with attached comments by the Deputy County Executive, Jane Decker.
Or, see full details and actions to prevent another fatility to Councilmember Cortese and Supervisor Alvarado.

Sept. 28, 2004: Speach to Supervisors and letter re staff's de-facto refusal to comply with the Board of Supervisors.

The basic legal issue is simple and has been true from day one for both bicycles and pedestrians, as follows. [Update: Using deception, false statements, and avoiding a public process, County staff succeeded in obtaining changes to the law, which became effective on January 1, 2005. See: The right of bicyclists and pedestrians to use public roadways was eliminated. The 3rd legal violation (below) is no longer valid. The second and fourth items have been complied with. The first item is still in effect, although jurisdiction for prohibiting pedestrians is now by County with city approval.]

In addition to violating law as described above, the County R&A Dept. is violating the County Supervisors' policy, and also contradicting policies of VTA, FHWA, Caltrans, a new Legislative Resolution, and a new Vehicle Code by posting "pedestrians prohibited" signs.

Hypocrisy of R&A Dept. exposed:

[enlarge photos]

Photos depict the situation: While opposing pedestrian (and previously, bicycle) use of the wide shoulders on Foothill Expressway (left), Roads and Airports has no such qualms where the name of the same, County-owned "G-5" road changes to Junipero Serra Blvd (middle). Pedestrians have always been allowed on the shoulders there. What further emphasizes the hypocrisy is that on a portion of Junipero Serra Blvd, the County highway engineers eliminated the shoulder when adding a lane, with the result shown (right). [details]

Also see:
Why the VTA BPAC Recommended that all pedestrian prohibition signs be removed from the expressways.

The 1996-7 fight for walkers' rights; Table of BOS policies.

Pedestrian Safety on arterial roads re-named "expressways"

We were successful in changing most of the dangerous policies and guidelines of the County highway engineers, and this "Expressway Study" was approved by the County Supervisors. In the past, the policy was to destroy pedestrian facilities when adding traffic lanes, despite the fact that pedestrians were and are allowed, and to force people to walk in the lane of traffic. Another danger was poor intersection design, which is easily corrected today by trimming shrubbery for safety (or painting lines) but is very difficult to get the Department to do. Here are some of our efforts to accomplish safety over the years which is still continuing, and two safety studies (next):

Photos: Pedestrians must step from the sidewalk into the traffic lane (near right). The sidewalk, built by Caltrans, ends where the roadway becomes County owned. County highway engineers eliminated the pedestrian facilities in 1989 when adding more traffic lanes. After over 10 years of requests by MTS, the shrubbery was finally trimmed (far right) for safety in March 2003. Location is Montague Expressway near 880 in San Jose. [More locations, photos and details in Montague Photo Gallery]

Timelines, sorted by jurisdiction

Our current campaigns (in red, with start year), highlights of past victories (black bold, with achievement year), and other expressway historical highlights (purple) from the standpoint of transit patrons, bicyclists and pedestrians:

Santa Clara County:

2005: Remove large prohibitory signs --half the prohibitory signs-- which increase danger and are illegal. (Update: these were replaced by small signs, April 2005.)

2004: R&A Dept. told to stop violating law and policy, detailed above.

2004: Don't force Pedestrians and Bicycles into the acceleration lane! 

Also see nearby: Preserve bike/ped path at Montague-Trimble in San Jose (not yet agreed to by County.)

2003: Requested the County Board of Supervisors: Implementation of ACR 211 and preservation of bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

2003: Trimming of shrubbery for pedestrian safety. See photos/caption, above.

2003: County Supervisors adopted a policy that recognizes that expressways are arterials and support pedestrians on paths and shoulders. MTS had a major impact from the original draft, which was an Attack on Pedestrians!

1991: County Supervisors adopted a policy that requires trimming of shrubbery at expressway intersections for pedestrian safety.

1988: MTS and SVBC stopped the County highway engineers' attempt to re-impose bicycle prohibitions on expressways. County Supervisors voted that they "support bicycles on expressways."

San Jose: Main report is Repeal Ordinance 11.32.070.

Photo: Pedestrians on walkable path of San Tomas "Expressway" (notice curb) with some overflowing at Barnes & Noble book-signing. Notice "Pedestrians Prohibited" sign banning them. [courtesy, Mercury News]

2005: Death resulted by walking facility removed from Blossom Hill Road bridge. Also see: Blossom Hill Road bridge is easily made safe for walkers.

2003: Allow bicycle access on two city streets (not an expressway issue).

2002: Refusal of SJ DOT to allow walking on sidewalks of "expressways" SJ DOT statements with MTS Rebuttal.

2003: Letter to J. Helmer, Director, DOT. MTS got no reply to this letter (which presented new facts).

1997: Victory for pedestrians on Capitol Expressway. Signs removed.  See Sidewalks Prohibited! (photos) and the huge detours forced upon walkers.

1989: Victory for bicycles on expressways. Prohibition repealed.  See Despite Unanimous San Jose City Council Vote, the Struggle was Not Over


2004: Forced removal of "pedestrians prohibited" signs by going to the County Supervisors (May 4), after a year of stonewalling by Roads and Airports Department. [Details above.]

2003: Victory for pedestrians and transit patrons by MTS and the Sunnyvale BPAC. Ordinance modified.  See Campaign for pedestrian safety and walkers rights.

1993: Partial victory for pedestrians, who are now allowed to walk on sidewalks! 

1993: sidewalks were constructed on both sides of Lawrence between 101 and Monroe Ave.

1988: Forced removal of all remaining "bicycles prohibited" signs after a year of stonewalling by Rollo Parsons, County highway engineer.

1987 setback for pedestrians by "revenge" tactics for the victory two months earlier: New "pedestrians prohibited" signs, which never existed before, were posted by County highway engineers on Lawrence, preventing use of the pedestrian underpass (under Central) and preventing walking on the sidewalk to cross Hwy. 101.  These were removed only in 1991 (see below) and 1993 (see above) by MTS requesting city council action. 

1987: Victory for bicycles.  Prohibition repealed on Lawrence.  Effort led by John Forester. 

1982: SVBC led successful repeal of bicycle prohibition on Central Expressway

Santa Clara (City): Map of pedestrian prohibitions

2005: Repeal the discriminatory pedestrian prohibition! See the San Tomas Expressway page.

2004: Remove illegal "pedestrians prohibited" signs on San Tomas Expressway between Forbes and Homestead. Photo: "Prohibited" pedestrian access to condominiums, with John Sullivan, Chair, VTA BPAC, and member, Santa Clara BPAC.

1997: Due to MTS efforts, sidewalks were constructed on Lawrence within the City --several years after shoulders were eliminated (despite being used by pedestrians and bicycles and there were no prohibitory signs since 1991.)

1991: Victory for bicycles by the repeal (June 4) of the remaining bicycle prohibitions, on Lawrence and San Tomas Expressways. To stop forcing pedestrians to unnecessarily cross the expressway [see map], all pedestrian prohibitory signs were also removed from Lawrence.

1991: Victory for Caltrain patrons who were finally allowed to use the pedestrian underpass going under Central Expressway to get to business parks nearby (June 4). This was vigorously opposed by the city traffic engineer.  After the ordinance was changed, a huge fight ensued with the County highway engineers (Masoud) to force sign removal. The highway engineers wanted to prevent pedestrian use of the pedestrian underpass which they planned to destroy in the lane-addition project of 1995 (but which was reconstructed by MTS' effort).

1989: Victory for pedestrians on Central Expressway, where MTS forced removal of all "pedestrians prohibited" signs after a huge fight with the County highway engineers (Allen Jones).

1988: Victory for pedestrians on Lawrence Expressway.  Ordinance modified.  Prohibitory signs were removed on one side or the other, often alternating at every block as shown by the map. This enabled pedestrians use of the 8-foot wide shoulders, but nullified use for bicycling since that would force wrong-way travel about half the time. The pedestrians were also unnecessarily forced to cross the expressway, the greatest danger. This demonstrates how ludicrous the prohibitions can get.

1982: SVBC led successful repeal of both bicycle and pedestrian prohibition on Central Expressway, but signs prohibiting pedestrians were only removed in 1989 after a huge fight (see above).

1970s: Montague Expressway was constructed without any prohibition.


2005: Repeal the discriminatory bicycle and pedestrian prohibition! See the San Tomas Expressway page.

2000: Sidewalks and shoulders restored: See Pedestrians forced to walk in the traffic lane for 17 years on San Tomas Expressway. 

1991: Victory for bicycles! Bicycle prohibition repealed except for two blocks, but all signs were removed. The pedestrian prohibition remained. The 1991 letter to the City Council is still accurate today. [See web page or download .doc file].

Palo Alto:

2005: Allow use of bike lanes by walkers, as does the Vehicle Code. See the Foothill Expressway page.

2004: (now obsoleted info) Foothill Expressway: Remove illegal "pedestrians prohibited" signs! [Update: Murdter refused to comply with the BOS directive to remove signs, and waited till he no longer had to by SB 1233]. MTS letter to Palo Alto (now obsolete due to SB 1233): Repeal the pedestrian prohibition!


1970s-1991: SVBC led successful repeal efforts on Foothill Expressway (1980) and Central Expressway (1982), and contributed to repeals listed above. 

Only two of eight expressway still have "pedestrian prohibited" signs on both sides: Foothill and San Tomas. For a summary of the current status on prohibitions, see Recent Expressway (publicly known) Events 2003-2004

New State Law, Caltrans Policy and a Legislative Resolution impacts expressways

New California State Law / Policy: Vehicle Code 21949 became effective on Jan. 1, 2001 and states: "It is the policy of the State of California that safe and convenient pedestrian travel and access ... be provided. It is the intent of the legislature that all levels of government ... work to provide convenient and safe passage for pedestrians on ... all streets and highways, increase levels of walking and pedestrian travel, and reduce pedestrian fatalities and injuries."

New Caltrans Policy, DD-64, (excerpt) states: "The Department fully considers the needs of non-motorized travelers (including pedestrians, bicyclists and persons with disabilities) in all programming, planning, maintenance, construction, operations and project development activities and products." [Click to download policy in pdf format.]

A Legislative Resolution, ACR 211, states "the Legislature of the State of California hereby encourages all cities and counties to implement the policies of [DD-64] and [the FHWA policy]. The FHWA policy is excerpted on the MTS web site as it relates to expressways.

Photo: Brand new road in Bend, Oregon is like Santa Clara County expressways but is named "Bend Pky." The red asphalt for the bike lane, also used on some local roads, is from the volcanic area. Despite being grade separated, like a freeway, bike lanes and sidewalks were included. Also see photos of PED ONLY lane on CA Hwy. 190 and pedestrians on shoulders of urban state highways.

Historical and analyses articles relevant to the current struggle to repeal pedestrian prohibitions:

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