Pedestrians on State Hwy. 99, a comparison

An accepted practice state-wide: shoulders are legitimate and legal pedestrians facilities where sidewalks are lacking. Speed limit on State Hwy. 99 in Red Bluff, CA (above) is the same as for most "expressways," 45 mph. The shoulders are wide enough to park a car, so certainly they are wide enough for pedestrians. Even a 55 mph speed limit is no basis for prohibiting pedestrians (below, State Hwy 36, also in Red Bluff, CA).

Also see: PED ONLY lane on Hwy 190, peds on Hwy 395.

Email to Dan Collen, Expressway Study Manager, Roads & Airports Dept., Santa Clara Co.
From: Akos Szoboszlay, 6/12/02

I came back from camping vacation (bicycled around Mt. Lassen) and noticed that Hwy 99 in the suburbs of Red Bluff has, in most portions, no sidewalks and the people walk on the shoulder. To be specific, I saw the pedestrians walk in the gutter area of the shoulder; altogether, the shoulder was about 6 feet wide. This is a commercial district with businesses on both sides, and has a 45 mph speed limit. Traffic flow per lane appeared to be even greater than expressways on this 4-lane road because there are no major crossing arterials. The main difference was that the road was not a "divided road" so cars can make left turns anywhere. The center barrier on expressways is a feature that increases pedestrian safety by preventing left turns into a driveway, a common cause of car-bike and car-ped accidents (See driveway conflict accidents).

Going through many small towns (e.g., Los Molinos), Hwy. 99 would be the main street and the speed is reduced to 45 and the scenario was repeated. Obviously, Caltrans does not think shoulders are dangerous for peds. even with 45 speeds. And these are just examples since I see this scenario on most vacations.

In between towns up north, Hwy. 99 is at least 55 mph but both bikes and peds. are allowed. In fact, all highways allow them except most freeways and portions of Santa Clara Co. expressways pretending to be one-block-long freeways.

I hope you agree with me that the reason for prohibiting pedestrians and bicycles from expressways was not safety. (The reason for the prohibitions is stated in the web report.) In fact, a simple logical analyses leads to the conclusion that pedestrians are safer on shoulders than bicycles, because they walk in the gutter while bicyclists ride closer to the shoulder line. (Intersections are a separate matter, but County highway engineers have implied that the shoulders themselves are "dangerous.") So, if bicycles are allowed on expressways and it is safe for them, why prohibit pedestrians who are even safer?

Driveway conflict accidents

I have had accidents because of driveways. In 1984, a car turned into the driveway where I happened to be walking on the sidewalk. I jumped back, dropping my briefcase which got smashed by the car. When bicycling, I've had two head-on accidents with left turning cars, one going into a driveway in 1997. Another accident I have written about before: A car suddenly accelerated out of a gas-station driveway in 1976 and broadsided me while I bicycled to work on Scott Blvd. This accident only occurred because the safer, faster (less travel time for the bicyclists because fewer red lights), and more comfortable route, the parallel San Tomas Expressway, was "prohibited." San Tomas has almost no driveways, and has 1/5 as many intersections as Scott. This episode strongly suggests that posting of those signs did cause an accident. I am sure it caused many more, but it is never reported in the police report as "accident occurred because the safer route was prohibited." I resolved never to comply with those signs again, because my life is more important than complying with prejudice against and intolerance of non-motorized traffic. 

While use of accident statistics is preferable to personal accident experience, highway/traffic engineers have never provided accident statistical data that I requested.

Back to Analyses of Pedestrians along Expressways

Also see: Expressway topics, links page.

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