County Roads attempts new pedestrian bans in San Jose

Akos Szoboszlay, President, Modern Transit Society      October 17, 2006

Background and description of attacks

Deceptive tactics to ban pedestrians from pedestrian paths [see photos] along San Tomas in Campbell and San Jose -- in full violation of the County Expressway Master Plan -- are detailed in New attack on pedestrians along expressways.


Murdter, Director of County Roads, stated in a recent letter that:

"The County ... [will] develop pedestrian prohibition ordinances ... where no sidewalk or walkway exists back of curb".

Murdter furthermore falsely stated that BOS policy opposes shoulder use, by quoting obsolete 1991 policy, and he ignored the 1991 BOS order to create pedestrian paths along the "entire expressway system". Murdter indicates "pedestrians on the expressway pavement" is unsafe (and verbally stated that at the meeting), which means shoulders are claimed unsafe by County Roads. [Murdter's two-page letter with even more false statements, with our annotations in red, is online as a 2 MB pdf file.]

San Jose attack: New pedestrian ban attempt: Montague and Almaden

At the San Jose BPAC (Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee) meeting of Oct. 10, 2006, Dan Collen (County Roads) attempted to solicit comments supporting the prohibiting of pedestrians from Montague and Almaden Expressways, two arterial roads that never had prohibitions, and showed photos where County Roads either (case 1) destroyed the pedestrian facility, or (case 2) just claimed the wide shoulder was unsafe.


An example Collen gave of case 1 is what was already on the MTS website (see aerial map at right) documenting the destruction of several pedestrian facilities on Montague in 2002. As they have done before, County Roads uses their destruction of pedestrian facilities, and non-compliance with pedestrian safety requirements of County policy (don't force people to walk in the traffic lane by Board order of 1991 and the 2003 policy), and non-compliance with the County Expressway Master Plan (sidewalk creation) as the rationale for prohibiting pedestrians.


An example Collen showed of case 2 also was on the MTS website: a photo of Capitol that he claimed to be unsafe, despite the fact that there is a 10-foot wide shoulder and a pedestrian path. The County failed to trim a few shrubs (as ordered by the Board in 1991), and that’s what Collen showed the photo of. He claimed that walking on the “pavement” (of the shoulder) is unsafe. This block still has “pedestrians prohibited” signs has a hold-over (without logical reasoning) and has been documented on our Capitol Expressway web page (see bottom two photos which are of that block).

Description (of the aerial graphic, above):

Location: Montague Expressway in San Jose, McCarthy to Old Oakland Road, including crossing Freeway 880 (south side).

Sidewalks currently exist most of the way as follows:

1) crossing over Freeway 880 plus 100 feet on both sides -- built by Caltrans, their usual practice,

2) continuing eastward from 880 to Old Oakland Road -- probably built by a developer,

3) another long sidewalk segment just east of McCarthy -- built by VTA, a former bus stop which was relocated.


Missing sidewalk (color red in aerial graphic):

The block between McCarthy to 880 has a missing sidewalk portion in the middle of the block. However, half of this block already has sidewalks, built by VTA (from the west) and Caltrans (from the east). In between, until 2002, people walked on the 8-foot wide shoulder where there was no sidewalk. Caltrans even had an ADA ramp from their sidewalk onto the shoulder of the County expressway. Then in 2002, County Roads changed the shoulder into another traffic lane, forcing people to walk in the traffic lane.


Caltrans' sidewalk tapers (see photo) for pedestrians to use the shoulder that was changed to a traffic lane in 2002 by County Roads. Another photo shows the same location after I got Road Operations sub-department to trim shrubs so people can walk in the adjacent parking lot: [click for photo]


VTA's sidewalk (above photo), a former bus stop at the other end of block, was also used by pedestrians. Notice the bridge over 880 has Caltrans' sidewalks. Collen (County staff) took a photo here (almost the same photo) and stated to the San Jose BPAC that pedestrians need to be prohibited.


Google Map: [Click for map.]


County Roads solution -- stated by Dan Collen this week -- is to totally ban pedestrians, despite these facts:

1) The County Expressway Master Plan shows sidewalks here (color red on the pedestrian-expressway map), in addition to earlier documents (T-2020) specifying sidewalks here.

2) Sidewalks already exist most of the way.

3) This is a freeway crossing, specifically cited in County policy as very important for pedestrians because freeways act as "barriers".

4) It would have cost almost nothing to create a dirt path connecting the existing sidewalks.


Here is my interim solution, which was implemented:

I got shrubs trimmed (by going to County's Road Operations sub-department) and a path created between the end of the Caltrans' sidewalk and the nearby parking lot. Note that this was meant only as a short-term (road-construction time-period) safety action. Despite repeated requests and showing these photos to Murdter and Supervisor McHugh in 2004 with other similar locations, nothing was done to rectify them. This is no permanent solution because at the end of VTA's sidewalk, walkers must either:

a) Climb up and over a steep ornamental  embankment to get to/from the parking lot (and through it to/from Caltrans' sidewalk), or

b) Walk in the traffic lane -- formerly the shoulder.


Permanent solution:

Use the County Roads budget to complete the missing sidewalk (and interim dirt path), mid-block because County Roads created the problem by eliminating the pedestrian-shoulder facility. Therefore, they need to rectify the danger they created, rather than use that danger as the excuse to ban pedestrians.


The problem keeps getting repeated:

County Roads won't spend a penny to re-locate pedestrian facilities as part of road widening, unless they get TDA or similar pedestrian funding. Road widening does not benefit pedestrians. Therefore, relocation of pedestrian facilities, just as for telephone poles, must be paid for by the same budget that widens the road.


County Roads practice -- most apparent today on Montague east of Trimble --  is to destroy pedestrian facilities when adding lanes without relocating pedestrian facilities (unless obtaining pedestrian funding), and (now) try to prohibit pedestrians at those locations. On Montague, County Roads has been ignoring and violating the Master Plans which shows sidewalks on both sides of the road. (The Master Plans are the County Expressway Master Plan and the predecessor T-2020 Transportation Master Plan).

Bottom line:

All the claimed unsafe locations (several on Montague, click link below) and on Almaden are the direct result of recent re-designs by County Roads. These design failures are the result of ignoring pedestrians who have always been allowed. County Roads needs real solutions to the problems they created. Prohibiting pedestrian is no solution, especially considering that simply posting "pedestrians prohibited" signs has never stopped pedestrians when there is no alternative route, which is the usual case since expressways are actually arterial roads.


Here is a quote from Caltrans' DD-64 that Murdter needs to comply with:

"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."


Additional laws are cited by VTA BPAC at this link:


Unsafe Montague locations (more photo links at bottom of this web page):

Expressway topics, links page:

SB 1233 links page:

San Tomas Expressway page:

Foothill Expressway page:

Contact Akos Szoboszlay: cell phone (ok to try first): 408-221-0694      home phone: 408-241-8214.