Murdter and staff opposed, thwarted BOS policy
Akos Szoboszlay, President, Modern Transit Society
July, 2005; Distributed to Board of Supervisors on August 2, 2005
More recent information on Murdter thwarting Board policy is in:
Triple attack on walkers and transit patrons (the 3rd attack described, in fall, 2005, at the BPAC and at the Legislative Committee of the BOS, where Murdter lost both votes) and
Opposing, contradicting and misquoting Board policy when speaking to, and writing a letter for, the City Council of Santa Clara on June 20, 2006 (where he won by 4 to 3).
Roads and Airports Department staff (especially its director, Mr. Murdter) continue to contradict and oppose the policy of the County Board of Supervisors (BOS). Board policy recognizes that expressway shoulders are safe for occasional pedestrian use. Yet, on three dates (below) staff tried to get the Board to go against both its own policy, and State law.
Staff succeeded to a major extent, by having the Board (by using a hidden process) eliminate the right of bicyclists and pedestrians to use roadways, Statewide (SB 1233, which became law January 1, 2005). This has little effect on Santa Clara County expressways (other than two miles of Foothill Expressway in Palo Alto) because of prior successful efforts of SVBC and MTS to repeal prohibitions and to achieve conformance with the law by forcing staff to remove illegal signs. But Statewide, or for non-expressway roads in the County, it likely means attempts to enact local ordinances for new prohibitions of both bicycles and pedestrians.
The BOS policy is summarized by the sentence:
"shoulder or path facilities can serve ... for occasional pedestrian use." [page 93 of the County Expressway Plan, approved 8/19/03] and this map [page 90]:
County staff repeatedly contradicted this Board policy in staff reports to the BOS on three dates, and to the VTA BPAC:
December 4, 2003, at the BOS' Legislative Committee:
This was the secret process to change State law to eliminate the right of bicyclists and pedestrians to use roadways, Statewide. Staff stated:
"Current law does not provide explicit authority for the County to post 'Pedestrians Prohibited' signs along side of County expressways [a false statement -Akos]. At the same time, it is the County's responsibility to keep this area free of pedestrians to maintain safety on the roadside."
The statement "free of pedestrians" is derogatory, and "maintain safety" is also a scare tactic. This action counters BOS policy that supports pedestrians on shoulders --especially considering all locations with prohibitory signs have shoulders (except "intersection areas" where a path is required). Yet, the public was prevented from even speaking by the deception used. For more information, see "Deception and lack of public process at the County level" at:
Feb. 12, 2004 staff report to the BOS' HLUET Committee by Murdter:
"Policy adopted by the Board in 1991 ... discourages pedestrians from walking along the shoulders of expressways." By adding "in 1991" the statement becomes literally true, but by implying it is current Board policy, by not mentioning the 2003 policy that supports pedestrians on shoulders [above], the reader and the BOS are deceived as to current Board policy. There were many more false statements, of which all but two were either retracted or omitted in Murdter's report to the full BOS on May 4, 2004, as detailed here:
May 4, 2004 staff report to the BOS by Murdter:
Murdter repeated the literally true statement about 1991 policy (above) while omitting current BOS policy, and then falsely stated that the County Expressway Plan "is entirely consistent with the 1991 Board policy." In fact, there was a change in policy regarding shoulders, from "discourages pedestrians" to "can serve ... for occasional pedestrian use" as a result of the two-year public input process, and inclusion of the VTA BPAC's input into the draft Plan. Murdter further states "[there is not] sufficient clear area between the curb and right of way to allow pedestrians room to walk." This is true wherever there is no path or sidewalk, but ignores the fact that there is sufficient area for pedestrians between the shoulder line and the curb at ALL locations having "pedestrians prohibited" signs today (except "intersection areas" where a path is required). This area is also used by bicyclists, but pedestrian almost always walk adjacent to the curb while bicyclist ride closer to the shoulder line. Murdter used double-speak to try to deceive the readers, who include the County Supervisors. Most importantly for this discussion, Murdter again contradicts BOS policy regarding shoulder use, and does so despite me having informed staff of this and other false statements made in the Feb. 12 staff report [the above link]. (Subsequently, in a meeting with Supervisor McHugh on November 10, 2004, Murdter finally acknowledged that the BOS supports shoulder use by pedestrians, but then staff continued with their disinformation, described next).
June 8, 2005, at VTA BPAC meeting by Dan Collen:
The repeal of the pedestrian prohibition by Sunnyvale was stated as the reason for changing State law by Dan Collen, who works for Murdter. Collen described the repeal of the pedestrian prohibition by Sunnyvale as "irresponsible". The fact is, the BOS policy, Caltrans, and FHWA all recognize shoulders are safe for pedestrian use. To be even more explicit, the Expressway Pedestrian Map in the County Expressway Plan [page 90] shows these shoulders as suitable for pedestrians. Sunnyvale's repeal fully complies with BOS policy, and is detailed here (with map):
Yet, the last remaining prohibitory signs were removed from Central Expressway, the result of the BOS directive of May 4, 2004. This means that this reason for changing State law (SB 1233) was no longer applicable.
Roads and Airports Department staff have not informed the BOS on relevant sections of the California Vehicle Code (CVC) with regard to pedestrian use of roads and shoulders. Pedestrians are allowed to use bike lanes where adjacent sidewalks or paths are lacking --which is the situation on Foothill in Palo Alto-- by Vehicle Code 21966. The bike lanes are also shoulders. Vehicle Code 21949 states "pedestrian travel and access ... be provided." Furthermore, the CVC does not prohibit use of shoulders by pedestrians, and therefore, pedestrians are allowed to use shoulders by default. Prior to staff's secret change in CVC 21960, bicycles and pedestrians could only be prohibited from freeways and only if all rights of access were acquired. These two stipulations were just ignored by County staff until SVBC and MTS demanded compliance.
Photos of Caltrans practice:
In 1988, staff asked the BOS to seek legislation in Sacramento to re-instate bicycle prohibitions on expressways that cities had repealed. Instead, the BOS voted that they support bicycles on expressways. The BOS also referred to the County Highways and Bikeways Committee [since replaced by VTA BPAC] to come up with bicycle accommodation on expressways. The County highway engineers, as staff to this committee, continuously opposed bicycle use of shoulders by stating "there is no room for bicycles" after adding additional lanes (such as for Lawrence Expressway). But the Committee came up with 5-foot shoulders (minimum) for bicycles. Today, we have achieved both this standard (usually, it's at least 6') and a sidewalk on Lawrence, an arterial road without nearby alternatives. Staff also stonewalled on removing "bicycles prohibited" signs, despite this policy, on Lawrence and San Tomas. Only after the last repeal of bicycle prohibitions, in 1991, did County staff support bicycles on expressways. [Note: Campbell still bans bicycles but signs were removed.]
On May 4, 2004, Murdter opposed the County adopting ACR 211 which 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]. Instead of following Murdter's recommendation, the BOS referred this matter to the HLUET Committee. It still has not been agendized there by Sup. Gage (Chair), over a year later. For the ACR 211 adoption effort by SVBC and MTS, see:
The deceptive, and possibly illegal, process started with the Dec. 4, 2003 BOS' Legislative Committee action to seek authority to "install" signs, not "prohibit" bicycles and pedestrians, as actually occurred. This process used blatantly false statements, such as "minor modification", to thwart the County Expressway Plan. It did so without informing the VTA BPAC, Sunnyvale or County citizens.
County staff continued stonewalling on sign removal despite the County Expressway Plan supporting pedestrians on shoulders and the BOS directive (of May 4, 2004) to remove signs to comply with State law. In Palo Alto, the prohibitory signs prohibited use of the 8-foot wide shoulders/bike lanes and access to businesses on Foothill Expressway. The signs were illegal because neither the freeway stipulation nor the right of access stipulation of CVC 21960 was met. Instead of complying, staff stonewalled until January 1, 2005 when the change in State law became effective.
More information is on the SB 1233 links page. Appendix D documents the deception and all lack of public process at the County level: