Letter to Palo Alto: Repeal 10.32.050 Pedestrians prohibited - Foothill Expressway

Modern Transit Society

December 6, 2004

Mayor Bern Beecham and City Council
City of Palo Alto
City Hall, 250 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301

Subject: Repeal 10.32.050: Pedestrians prohibited - Foothill Expressway

Dear Mayor Beecham and Council Members:

We are requesting the repeal of Municipal Code 10.32.050 which prohibits pedestrians from using the bike lanes / shoulders of Foothill Expressway, despite a lack of sidewalks.

The County Expressway Plan, which recognizes that expressways are arterial roads and supports pedestrian use of expressway shoulders, was endorsed by Palo Alto on August 14, 2003 and approved by the County Board of Supervisors on August 19, 2003. The VTA BPAC voted for removal of all prohibitory signs on expressways. Links to all these are contained in the web page (link at bottom). The web page discusses many other topics, including the fact that the prohibitory signs increase risk of a collision as shown by a recent study.

It is important not to mislead motorists by even one prohibitory sign --which in appearance are like those at freeway entrances-- that they don't need to be aware of pedestrians and bicycles on Foothill Expressway.

City Ordinance 10.32.050 violates at least nine different governmental policies and laws. These are listed in the same web page with links to the policies and laws themselves.

Most importantly, the ordinance does not meet the stipulation in the enabling section of the Vehicle Code, section 21960, which states that a jurisdiction can "with respect to freeways ... to which all rights of access have been acquired, prohibit or restrict the use of the freeways or any portion thereof by pedestrians, ... " Even if a claim is made that Foothill Expressway is a "freeway," the driveways on Foothill Expressway within City limits prove that the right of access has not been acquired. The ordinance contradicts a stipulation in the enabling law, and Vehicle Code 21.

We ask that you repeal ordinance 10.32.050 which states:

(a)No person, other than peace officers acting in the performance of their duties or authorized maintenance or construction personnel, shall, except in designated crosswalks, walk upon or drive any livestock upon the Foothill Expressway at any location on said expressway between Page Mill Road and the southerly city limits at Adobe Creek.
(b)Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a) hereinabove, the driver and passengers of a disabled vehicle stopped on Foothill Expressway at any location between Page Mill Road and the southerly city limits at Adobe Creek may walk to the nearest exit, in either direction, on that side of the expressway upon which the vehicle is disabled, from which telephone or auto repair services are available.
(Ord 2844 § 1, 1975)

Some of the prohibitory signs along Foothill Expressway have already been removed years ago for unknown reasons, in a seemingly random manner. To date, pedestrians are allowed on the following expressways: Central, Lawrence, Almaden, Montague, Capitol, Southwest (San Jose) Oregon/Page Mill and portions of San Tomas. Only Foothill Expressway within Palo Alto and portions of San Tomas Expressway have prohibitions of pedestrians. (Prohibitory signs posted within Los Altos also violate the Vehicle Code because the City does not authorize banning pedestrians.)

When Palo Alto repealed the bicycle prohibition on Foothill Expressway, the signs were changed from "Bicycles Prohibited" to "Bike Lane." This meant that, for years, bicyclists were banned from using those bike lanes. Furthermore, the Vehicle Code allows walkers to use bike lanes where, as with Foothill Expressway, there is no adjacent sidewalk.

Photos of and reasons why the City should repeal the prohibition of pedestrians on Foothill Expressway, and references, are in this web page:


If you have any questions, please email or call.


Akos Szoboszlay

Cc: Joe Kott, Director, Transportation Division
Cc: Gary Baum, City Attorney
Cc: Paul Goldstein, Chair, Bicycle Advisory Committee
Uploaded to: moderntransit.org/expy/paloalto.html

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