On MTS letterhead

Jan. 9, 2000

Council member Manuel Valerio
City of Sunnyvale
PO Box 3707
Sunnyvale CA 94088-3707

Subject: Anti-Pedestrian actions and ordinance in Sunnyvale need correction.

Dear Council member Valerio,

As a member of the VTA Board, I am hopeful that you will give this issue its due attention.

Light Rail Transit patrons working near Java Drive have to walk in the lane of automobile traffic to get to or from the LRT stations, and the speed limit is 45 mph. This includes myself, as I work on Bordeaux Drive one block from the Borregas Ave. station. The situation is not only unsafe, it discourages transit use as it scares potential transit patrons. I and co-workers cannot even walk to the nearest deli during lunch without walking in the traffic lane of Java Drive.

The Modern Transit Society wrote a letter to Mayor Patricia Castillo dated May 27, 1992 requesting that the shoulder lines be painted on Java Drive to change the above situation because this road is also used by many bus routes. The response we obtained from staff was that sidewalks would be constructed concurrent with light rail construction, so nothing was done. Unfortunately, this did not happen.

For a simple low-cost interim solution, paint shoulder lines as we requested in 1992. This would result in a 4 foot shoulder or bike/ped. lane and a 10 foot car lane, both meeting minimum State requirements for width.

Ordinance 10.44.010 is anti-pedestrian and we ask its repeal or major revision. It prohibits people from using bus stops, pedestrian paths, and safe shoulders on Lawrence and Central expressways. This ordinance was revised in 1993 at our request but did not go far enough, as it only allows using sidewalks. Before, sidewalks were also prohibited. The ordinance causes major disruptions for pedestrians, as there is no parallel route in most cases. I enclose maps for these two examples:

Last year, I worked at the corner of Central and Middlefield Road, but the #32 bus going along Mary Ave. dropped me off one block away. Pedestrians do not walk in the traffic lane of Central, as indeed most of the way is totally removed from traffic. Yet, you still have the signs stating “pedestrians prohibited.” See map.

The most frequently used expressway section in Sunnyvale by pedestrians is Lawrence Expressway between Palamos Ave. and Tasman Dr. People use the pedestrian path to get to or from the light rail station and buses on Tasman as there is no alternative route. Your ordinance prohibits them. I make the important point that people were living here before the road was renamed from “Lawrence Station Road” and before your unjust ordinance was enacted. See map.

Forcing people into detours by prohibiting pedestrian paths forces unnecessary crossings of intersections, which actually increases danger to walkers compared to just walking on the pedestrian path. This is because crossing the road is the most dangerous action by pedestrians. Walking along the road is relatively safe unless one is walking in the lane of traffic as on Java Drive.

The only part of any expressway within Sunnyvale that does not have shoulders or pedestrian paths or sidewalks is on Lawrence between Lakewood/Bridgewood and Lakebird/Palamos. Fortunately, there is a paralleling route here. We ask either the repeal of the ordinance, or only prohibiting pedestrians from this section. With repeal of the ordinance, signs can still be posted advising pedestrians approaching the section without shoulders to use the parallel route.

All bicycle prohibitions and most pedestrian prohibitions have been repealed by other cities in this County. In particular, as a result of our efforts, all “pedestrians prohibited” signs were removed on Central Expressway and Lawrence Expressway in the City of Santa Clara by 1991. Central does not have sidewalks in most places. People walk on the safe shoulders. Lawrence in Santa Clara has sidewalks only because the signs were first removed, and highway engineers wanted to add more auto lanes, thus necessitating sidewalks. This was one of the political reasons for prohibiting bicycles and pedestrians: The highway engineers wanted to spend all transportation money on automobiles-only facilities. To do that, they even claimed “shoulders,” which are identical to bike lanes, are “dangerous” for bicyclists. After repeal, signs on three expressways were changed from “bicycles prohibited” to “bike lane”. The signs in Sunnyvale likewise need to be removed.

The ordinances prohibiting bicycles and pedestrians were never enacted for safety as the highway engineers claimed but for political reasons. A history of the prohibitions is on our web site at http://moderntransit.org/ctc

Staff has opposed allowing even bicycle use on expressway shoulders, and it took two years of fighting before that prohibition was repealed by the City Council in 1987. This was despite repeated testimony that expressways are much safer than alternate routes because they have 1/5 as many intersections (the main cause of accidents), few driveways, no parked cars, and a safe shoulder, as opposed to walking or bicycling in the traffic lane. The prohibitions greatly increased danger for both bicyclists and pedestrians.


Akos Szoboszlay

Also see Sunnyvale Campaign page which includes illustrations.

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