Conflict of Transportation Competitors

Akos Szoboszlay


Traffic and highway engineers compete with bicyclists, pedestrians and transit patrons when they have conflicting goals. This competition has existed historically and continues today. Traffic engineering departments and Caltrans (formerly the California Department of Highways) have historically sided with just one of the competing modes of transportation.


It is hoped that government officials will 1) recognize this competition, and 2) consider broader transportation and environmental goals when making transportation decisions. Public officials need to consider transportation of people, and not just of motor vehicles.

The A-trains of the Key System (shown) went between San Francisco and San Leandro [map]. The Oakland traffic engineering department wanted trains eliminated near Lake Merritt so the right of way of the trains could be used for more automobile lanes. In 1950, the "heavily used" A-line was severed. As a result of a hostile takeover in 1946 by General Motors Corp., the Key System transit company supported its own destruction.

Many more examples of how General Motors and traffic engineers decimated the train system is contained in this report

A 1947 California Department of Public Works Report shows the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge configuration (right) [enlarge] and states:

"Electric interurban railways have a greater capacity and offer safer and faster transportation (particularly during rush hours) than do other forms of transportation. Therefore, it is essential that the electric railways be retained on the present bridge. "

Why then were the trains destroyed? Read on for the answers.

On May 10, 1965, just seven years after the destruction of the Key System trains, traffic engineers convinced the City of San Jose to prohibit pedestrians and bicycles on roads that were renamed "expressways." The roads were never changed into freeways, and the 45 m.p.h. speed limit remained unchanged. The ordinance prohibited bicycling in bike lanes (right) and walking on sidewalks. This report explains why, and why the traffic engineers fought for 20 years to keep the prohibitions.

While bicycle prohibitions were repealed in 1989, the San Jose City ordinance still prohibits pedestrians, with no exception given even for sidewalks. [Shown: Capitol Expressway in San Jose, formerly named Capitol Avenue, in 1997].

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Also see

The Author, Akos Szoboszlay, did research on the Key System as the former editor of the Modern Transit Society's GUIDEWAY. The author used to bicycle in the bike lane pictured above when traffic engineers placed "pedestrians bicycles prohibited" signs there about 1970. He successfully fought for their repeal.

Conflict of Transportation Competitors was first published October, 1989 in the Spinning Crank [Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition newsletter] and portions in Moving People [Modern Transit Society newsletter]. Updated and uploaded to the Internet in January 1999.

©1999 Akos Szoboszlay. Permission is granted to reproduce this report for non-profit purposes if credit is given.


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