Modern Transit Society   PO Box 5582, San Jose CA 95150   phone: 408-221-0694

 April 7, 2004

Dear Transportation Policy Aides to the Supervisors,


Subject: The 1996-7 fight for walkers' rights; Table of BOS policies.


In 1996, we asked that “PEDESTRIANS PROHIBITED” signs be removed so pedestrians can use sidewalks, bus stops, pedestrian paths and wide shoulders on Capitol Expressway. For over a year, Mr. Murdter’s Department used one stonewalling tactic after another to keep from having to remove the “PEDESTRIANS PROHIBITED” signs. This continued even after a legal opinion by County Counsel made it clear the signs were illegal. (The legal opinion was requested by a formal vote of the County Bicycle Advisory Committee, now named VTA Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee.)



The photo above (of Capitol Expressway near Snell Ave.) is one example. [Click for more photos.]  Besides the obvious discrimination against pedestrians, prohibiting walking on the sidewalk, these additional points can be made about this photo:
*      Notice the tape across the words “BICYCLES.”  When the bicycle prohibition was repealed, it simultaneously was turned into a “BIKE LANE” (see enlargement). This means bicyclists were prohibited from using the bike lane for years!  [Details:  I bicycled here as a student even before the name change to “Expressway.”  It had the same 45 mph speed limit as today, but no shoulders. Two months after adding the wide shoulders, they posted the prohibitory signs (above). I knew even then it was only for discrimination, because I felt much safer on the shoulder than riding in the traffic lane. And, there was no alternative route.]
*      This sign prohibits transit patrons from walking to the Capitol LRT station, several blocks further.  There is no alternative route. [Click for map. The station is in the middle of Freeway 87 crossing over Capitol Expressway.]
*      The driveway is a proof –according to County Counsel-- that the road, at least in this portion, is not a freeway, and therefore the prohibitory sign is illegal. Mr. Murdter’s Department had no qualms violating the law: then, now and repeatedly.
The signs were removed –after over a year of stonewalling-- only by going to Supervisor Alvarado. (Capitol Expressway is in her district.) The current fight involves all districts except District 1. This is because while District 1 contains Almaden Expressway, Almaden does not have, and never did have, prohibitory signs.  (This is another analysis refused by the County highway engineers: comparison of Almaden Expressway with other expressways, such as Foothill, would show that the shoulders of Foothill are much wider.)
The similarity and differences between the struggles, including the current one, are described in the tables below.  The current struggle is occurring now because we held off forcing sign removal from shoulders and pedestrian paths for years until the BOS policy adoption supporting it.  Now, Mr. Murdter is violating not only the law (as previously), but also the BOS policy adopted on August 19, 2003.  Since that time, Mr. Murdter’s Department has, once again, used various stonewalling tactics to keep from complying.
Board of Supervisors (BOS) policies regarding bicycles / pedestrians (and safety) on expressways.



BOS vote


Roads and Airports Department action/reaction



“Support bicycles on expressways.”


Continued opposing bicycles until last repeals in 1991.



“Support bicycles on expressways.”


Staff's attempt to reverse the BOS policy of 1988 failed.



BOS requires shrubbery trimming at intersections for pedestrian safety.


Refused, resulting in death of pedestrian in 1992.  Details in:



Approves County Expressway Plan which supports shoulder/path use and has bicycle/pedestrian safety requirements.


Opposes (currently);

Refused to implement BOS safety requirements:

The struggle for the rights of bicyclists and walkers.



goal [Click for detailed table]



Allow bicycles on shoulders / bike lanes.



Allow pedestrians on sidewalks, bus stops, and walking access to Capitol LRT Station and Lawrence Caltrain Station (not just car owners using the park-and-ride lot).

Successful efforts also allowed walkers use of shoulders, paths on many expressways.



Achieve compliance with County Expressway Plan (approved by BOS) and the law.

The Roads and Airports Department (and predecessor) attempted to change the Supervisors’ vote (unsuccessfully) in 1989, and tried to change State law (unsuccessfully) in 1988 by asking the BOS to seek legislation in Sacramento to re-instate bicycle prohibitions on expressways that were repealed by cities, thus over-ruling the cities’ jurisdiction. These actions were not a productive use of staff time. Neither is their current major effort to avoid a 3-hour job –unbolting and removing signs in compliance with the law and BOS policy.
I hope you can see pattern: The Roads and Airports Department (and predecessor) has no qualms violating the law and all four BOS policy votes (above). I hope the Board of Supervisors can put a stop to it, either by replacing Roads and Airports Department management and certain staff who are the violators, or by giving direct orders for compliance. Otherwise, the violations --of walkers’ rights, the law, and BOS policy-- will continue.




Akos Szoboszlay,





Mr. Murdter's self-contradictions:


Mr. Murdter's memo:


MTS abridged rebuttal, also with background:


MTS full rebuttal:


Montague at Kruse (true danger example):


The main expressway topics, links page is at:


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