The County Supervisors' policy partly resolved this issue (by supporting pedestrians on pedestrian paths):
County highway engineers oppose creating pedestrian paths for pedestrian safety.
Emailed to: Dan Collen, Senior Civil Engineer, Highway and Bridge Design, Santa Clara County
Date: Feb. 3, 2003
From: Akos Szoboszlay, Vice-President, MTS
I met with Masoud, arriving un-announced. I showed him photos of Central Expy under and near 85 and 237 and he will append that to the expy study for ped. facilities. And he'll trim at Winchester & San Tomas (the blind curve). He said photos are the best way. But that's all the photos I showed, since he had to go somewhere. I also asked him to look at Montague photos on the web, showing unsafe conditions easily correctable by creating a path. Nothing was done in this regard despite my letter July 8, and also years of writing, emailing and calling Jones and Merdter. And, your email of Dec. 6 (sending my spreadsheet of San Tomas and Central ped safety improvements) was obviously just ignored, since he was surprised at the unsafe conditions depicted by the excerpted photos I showed.
Misconception creates safety problems
I talked to the field engineer, Roberto, while waiting for Masoud. He was under the misconception that peds are prohibited on all expressways, and that there are no locations where they must walk in the traffic lane. And this is the guy who goes out to look at unsafe conditions! I showed him facts are otherwise, using our web site. This has been a common misconception by many County staff for years. Even if there are no signs, many think that pedestrians are prohibited and do not exist, which has caused safety problems. All cities except Campbell repealed all or most ped prohibitions, and all repealed bicycle prohibitions.
Points re ped paths creation:
Roberto was also was opposed to ped paths for liability reasons, which brings up this entire topic which needs to be put to rest. The following question must be raised after considering these historical facts:
1) R&A was historically opposed to ped use of ped paths, not just in verbal statements, but there was a one-year, unfortunate fight where R&A refused to remove illegal "pedestrians prohibited" signs at ped paths on Capitol in 1996-7, even after a new (third) County Counsel legal opinion stating the signs were illegal, until sidewalks were built covering the paths a year later.
2) R&A has refused to create ped paths at locations where pedestrian facilities, usually shoulders, were eliminated to create traffic lanes (e.g., Montague, in 1989) and pedestrians were allowed. The refusal was by the stonewalling tactic, by Merdter and Jones, of never answering letters, email or phone calls, for years.
Question 1: Does R&A deliberately force pedestrians to use unsafe conditions (walking in the traffic lane, walking in acceleration/merging lanes, and walking in the trajectory of right turning motor vehicles where the driver is looking left or backwards while driving forward) because an accident there would result in the motorist being at fault versus the (perceived) fault of R&A if a pedestrian falls down on a gravel or dirt ped path?
A legal case makes this clear: A pedestrian was killed by the third scenario in 1992, but the motorist was found at fault, not R&A, despite the fact the Supervisors' policy for pedestrian safety (of 1991) was being violated, and the accident would have been prevented if a path would have been created.
I do not believe that falling down on gravel or dirt is a serious liability issue. First of all, most roads themselves were dirt, and even after paving, most shoulders were dirt. A good example of this is Capitol. I used it as a bicyclist before the change to an "expressway." It was 45 mph, was two lanes, and had dirt shoulders. I bicycled in the traffic lane, and I'm sure peds walked on the dirt path (as they do today in similar situations). Two months after a 10-foot wide shoulder was constructed, prohibitory signs were posted.
The FWHA policy states: "There was also anxiety about encouraging an activity that many felt to be dangerous and fraught with liability issues." This anxiety is putting pedestrians at much greater danger (being run over or into by a motor vehicle) than the perceived "fall down" accident, and needs to be quickly resolved.
Question 2: Would you convince Merdter to allow creating ped paths where peds are forced to use unsafe conditions (walking in the traffic lane, walking in acceleration/merging lanes, and walking in the trajectory of right turning motor vehicles where the driver is looking left or backwards while driving forward)? Actually, a direct order to Jones is needed. A place to start is Montague (because they are simple to do, peds are allowed, and I have photos on the web):
If they won't do that on Montague, then they won't look at the spreadsheet, either.
Signs need removal
I told Masoud that three cities repealed prohibitions where he has illegal prohibitory signs: Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Saratoga. He will ask you if he needs to remove signs if the city no longer prohibits. Kretchmer states that all prohibitory actions "must be expressly authorized by statute," which means Masoud cannot place signs by his own decree. The only entity that can prohibit, and then only from "freeways," is the local authority having jurisdiction. Many signs on Foothill also violate the other criteria where driveways prove "right of access" is NOT met so cannot prohibit. Here is the legal opinion: