April 14, 2001
Mayor Henry Manayan
City of Milpitas
455 East Calavaras Boulevard
Milpitas, California 95035
Appalling pedestrian conditions on McCarthy Blvd. (and solutions)
Use of levee system for commuting is further thwarted
Dear Mayor Manayan:
You should see the pedestrians trying to balance while walking on the 6-inch sidewalk (actually, curb) on McCarthy Blvd.! They flop their arms trying to keep balance but sometimes they have to step into the traffic lane because they lose their balance. They are so pathetic it makes me sick. They are very hard to see by a motorist at night and in the rain. Sometimes, they just walk in the traffic lane and jump onto the embankment whenever a motorist approaches. It's not even flat, it's a steep slope for beatification purposes --for the delight of passing motorists!
Official government policy is to encourage transit usage. There's even a nice paved sidewalk in the bus stop area of McCarthy Blvd., but after 20 feet pedestrians are subjected to these appalling conditions. This situation discourages walking and transit use since most people are too frightened to use the road. Probably, only those who are transit-dependant would do it. There is little chance of getting people to switch from driving to transit under your existing conditions.
We suggest that the City Council direct the traffic engineering department to do the following on McCarthy Blvd.:
1) Immediately paint shoulder lines for a bike/ped lane. This is even more important than on other roads because of the winding nature of the road: I see cars routinely cut curves, and the fact that pedestrians. walk in the traffic lane means some motorist will sooner or later kill a walker. Shoulder lines are known to keep the great majority of cars within the proper lane width, instead of cutting the corners as they do now under the assumption they "own" all the space between the striped line and the curb.
2) Implement a cheap sidewalk: have staff or volunteers use shovels to cut a level area into the embankment and put gravel on it. I know traffic engineers don't like this idea, but from pure logic it's absurd to oppose it. People walk on trails all the time in parks: where they can slip on the mud, or trip on rocks or tree roots. This would be a very easy "trail" to use.
Encourage use of the levee paralleling McCarthy Blvd! While useful for less then half of McCarthy's pedestrians (most businesses in the area are on the other side of McCarthy), the levee is a very nice place to walk and bike. This is how I get to work on my bike most of the time, riding almost two miles free from exhaust fumes, traffic roar, and the uneasy feeling that maybe I'm going to get killed for doing my part to not add to air pollution and traffic congestion. In order to use the levee, I and other people have to climb over and around fences, and walk up very steep embankments because of the obvious deliberate policy to discourage pedestrians and bicycles. It's ludicrous, as there is never any water to fall into because this is a backup second levee, and it even has a gravel one lane road on top. You need to open up fences so bike/peds can get through easily, and place sloping trails to the top about every quarter mile.
A new problem just arose: someone is constructing a chain link fence between the levee and the bike/ped path that connects McCarthy Blvd. to Tasman Dr. This path includes a bike/ped bridge and I use this in rainy weather to get to the nearest Light Rail Transit station. To get to this bridge, I first have to get onto the levee, since I work adjacent to the levee at KLA-Tencor. There is a path to get onto the levee (albeit, steep), but the chain link fence would prevent me from doing that. Theoretically, I could walk a half-mile detour for no logical reason, but there is another factor that would totally eliminate my access to LRT: another chain link fence is being constructed on the other side, to prevent access to the levee on the San Jose side. Use of this levee is absolutely mandatory in wet weather because the bike/ped path floods (in San Jose, just south of 237) every time we have a decent rain. The levee is needed to go around this flood area.
A further feature of using the levee gravel road is that there are no intersections. This not only decreases travel time, but also adds safety. Intersections are the location of most bicycle and many pedestrian accidents. This levee road goes underneath Hwy. 237 and Tasman Ave. On Tasman, the gates need to be opened to bicycles/pedestrians on both sides of the road to handle all traffic patterns of bicyclists. All other intersections encountered by a bicyclist traveling on the parallel McCarthy Blvd. are also eliminated when using this levee.
The levee system is ideal for commuting. In Milpitas, you can go between Montague Expy. and Dixon Landing on the levee. Milpitas should take an active role, as the City of Santa Clara successfully did, in opening up their levees to bike/ped use. The City needs to request the Flood Control District, or whomever owns the land there, to make this possible. It's public land.
Bob Livengood, Vice-Mayor
Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition