Stop banning bicycles and pedestrians from bridges !
Stop destroying bicycle / pedestrian facilities !

Akos Szoboszlay, President

Photo: Sign at San Tomas (at Dell Ave.) approaching the bridge over Winchester Blvd and railroad, in early 2004.

Bridges, otherwise called grade separations, increase safety for all travel modes, and is contrasted with crossing major roads and railroads "at-grade". Yet, County highway engineers and some city traffic engineers pretend otherwise when the topic is bicyclists and pedestrians, instead of motorists, and tried to prohibit non-motorists from bridges. The reason, frankly, is not because bridges are unsafe, but because posting "pedestrians bicycles ... prohibited" signs is cheaper than widening the bridge when they want to add more traffic lanes in the future.

Bridges are also used to cross rivers. On three occasions, despite the fact that pedestrians were always allowed in each case, County highway engineers simply resorted to destroying pedestrian facilities on bridges over three rivers (Los Gatos Creek, Guadalupe River and Coyote Creek), as described below.

The basic problem is that County highway engineers won't spend a penny of their lane-addition / road-widening budget to relocate bicycle/pedestrian facilities --although they do relocate telephone poles and everything else. Their simplistic solution is to try to prohibit by posting "pedestrians prohibited" signs if they are able to. However, such signs have never stopped pedestrians, especially when crossing barriers such as rivers, freeways and railroads. If they were unable to prohibit, they often destroyed bicycle/pedestrian facilities regardless.

Two bridges on San Tomas Expressway currently have pedestrian bans. Both bridges cross a railroad. One of these bridges also crosses an arterial road, Winchester Blvd, with the same speed limit (45 mph) as the "Expressway". There is no signaling to cross at grade at Winchester and using the shoulders of San Tomas --by both pedestrians and bicyclists-- is over 1000 times safer than crossing at grade.

There is a history of County highway engineers fighting for years in their attempt to prohibit bicycles and pedestrians from bridges, and in one case, a pedestrian underpass. Here are locations where they lost their fight to prohibit. Also included are bicycle / pedestrian facilities that they have destroyed despite the fact that bicyclists / pedestrians were always allowed:

  • Capitol Expressway, crossing over 50 mph Monterey Road and the railroad. A pedestrian was killed while crossing at grade and the County paid reparations after a lawsuit. MTS forced sign removal in 1997.
  • San Tomas bridge over Los Gatos Creek: In 1982, bicycle / pedestrian facilities --the 8-foot shoulders-- were destroyed on the bridge, despite this portion of San Tomas always allowing bicycles/pedestrians because this portion was formerly Camden Avenue. After 17 years of fighting by MTS, the highway engineers were forced to restore bicycle /pedestrian facilities in 2000.
  • Lawrence Expressway crossing over 101. County highway engineers posted new signs banning the sidewalks circa 1987, planning to destroy the sidewalks approaching the bridge upon adding more lanes. MTS forced sign removal in 1993 and sidewalks were saved. (Note: the bridge itself is Caltrans jurisdiction.)
  • The pedestrian underpass crossing under Central Expressway (at Lawrence). County highway engineers posted new signs in 1987 banning use of the underpass. They then fought for years to keep pedestrians from using the existing pedestrian underpass so they would not have to use any of their lane-addition project money for relocating the pedestrian facilities. This forced Lawrence Caltrain patrons (about half) to jay-walk across 50 mph Central (including my brother), while the other half risked ticketing by police for using the pedestrian underpass. Despite vigorous opposition from the Santa Clara City traffic engineer, the City Council repealed the prohibition of the pedestrian underpass and approaches to it on June 4, 1991 at MTS' request. MTS then had to fight County highway engineers (Masoud) to force compliance with the repeal, in other words, to remove prohibitory signs. MTS forced the County highway engineer to reconstruct the underpass and to construct sidewalks the length of Lawrence Expressways in Santa Clara (1997) and Sunnyvale (1993), where they were missing, at least on one side.
  • While Caltrans built sidewalks on Montague crossing Freeway 880, County highway engineers destroyed the pedestrian facility approach to the bridge by changing the shoulder into still another traffic lane. [photo, right] While pedestrians were never prohibited on Montague, MTS forced shrubbery trimming so walkers won't have to step onto traffic lane, which was changed from a shoulder to a freeway-entrance right-turn lane with fast traffic.
  • Montague bridge over Coyote Creek: In 1989, sidewalks were destroyed on the bridge, despite Montague always allowing bicycles / pedestrians. MTS informed Supervisor Gonzales who was told the lie by County highway engineers that they are not destroying the sidewalk, merely relocating it. 16 years later, the sidewalk still has not been reconstructed. [photo, then scroll down]
  • Montague bridge over Guadalupe River: In 2005, sidewalks were destroyed on the bridge --used by residents of the new high density housing just two blocks from the LRT station-- despite always allowing bicycles and pedestrians on Montague. SVBC and MTS informed Supervisor Beall on 8/25/05 and we are waiting for a response.
  • San Jose traffic engineers have been stonewalling --for over 10 years-- on removing illegal "Bicycles ... Prohibited" sign at Blossom Hill Blvd crossing over 50 mph Monterey Road and the railroad. There is no at-grade signaling and no alternative crossing in the area. [See photo and details]

    For more history and a timeline, see timeline.

    Also see: Expressway topics, links page.

    home page | about MTS | Cashout | HOV lanes | Bay Bridge | Solution | Allow Pedestrians! | AGT | letters | webmaster