Dangerous actions, policies and guidelines of Roads and Airports

Akos Szoboszlay, Vice-President, MTS

Actions dangerous for pedestrians

The County highway engineers in three cases forced pedestrians to walk in the 45 or 50 mph traffic lane, despite knowing full well pedestrians were and are allowed. The unsafe actions are the results of false assumptions that they finally put in writing as their Pedestrian Plan Guidelines (draft County Expressway Plan). The three cases are described below:

In all the above cases, the relocation of pedestrian facilities from wide shoulders to sidewalks should have been part of the lane additions project. Instead, pedestrians have been subjected to unsafe conditions for years: --from the time lanes are added until pedestrian funding becomes available. To justify their actions, the highway engineers falsely assume that pedestrians do not exist on expressways unless there is a sidewalk, and seek to re-establish or impose new pedestrian prohibitions as is stated in their Pedestrian Guidelines.

The policy of the County highway engineers --to construct sidewalks years after adding traffic lanes-- is not only evident by their actions but is given acceptance, or cover, in their Pedestrian Guidelines. Their policy is proven by their list of expressway projects and the relative dates for construction, written by the highway engineers: On Expressways where they plan to add lanes in the future, they prioritized constructing sidewalks years after adding traffic lanes. Details are at:

Policies and guidelines dangerous for pedestrians

County highway engineers assume that pedestrians are prohibited from expressways, and do not exist, unless there is a sidewalk. This has resulted in unsafe actions (above) that assume exactly that, even where pedestrians have always been allowed, and there never were prohibitory signs posted. This false belief --or actually, a deliberate pretense-- was finally put into writing (4/26/02) when the draft County Expressway Plan commenced. Three web pages by MTS discuss their "guidelines" but the portions in red, below, describe their basic misbeliefs --or denial. Other pages are the abridged Attack on Pedestrians! and the full rebuttal at false assumptions that they finally put in writing.

Very important information was missing from the (4/26/02) staff report: a map showing what facilities are available for pedestrians, and whether or not there is a nearby alternate route.
The highway engineers use of the word "many" in "Frontage roads and nearby parallel roads or trails are available along many portions" will be shown to be false. The correction is "few."
[Update: this was corrected on the March 12, 2003 draft].

The "expressway pedestrian map" should have the following color-coded categories. Each depicted expressway would have a line on each side for the pedestrian facility on that side.:




wide shoulder (6 feet or more) or pedestrian path


narrow shoulder (4 to 5 feet)


NONE: no shoulder, path, sidewalk or nearby alternate route




alternate route (max. detour of 1/8 mile added to trip, which is two city blocks of a grid pattern)

A separate map will show the remaining pedestrian prohibitions. Only the existence of alternative routes has eliminated pedestrians from expressways. Prohibitions never have.
The highway engineers assumption that "pedestrians [are / shall be] prohibited where sidewalks are not available" will be shown to be false. [Update: the new version of the County Expressway Plan recognizes that shoulders and paths are legitimate pedestrian facilities and was approved by the BOS.]

The color coding of this "expressway prohibitions map" should be:




not posted



Matching the two maps would reveal both (1) illogical and (2) unsafe situations, for example:

(1) where San Jose prohibits pedestrians from using even sidewalks or paths

(2) pedestrians forced to walk in the traffic lane (portions of Montague Expressway in San Jose and Milpitas) as a result of lane additions yet where walkers have always been allowed.

At the last PAB meeting [6/28/02], the Highway and Bridge Design Department's photo presentation deliberately confused issues, showing unsafe conditions that they created but omitted the fact pedestrians have always been allowed there. (MTS tried to correct their poor design for years by shrubbery trimming and trail building.) Then, the highway engineer tried to imply all shoulders are unsafe by only showing narrow shoulders (where pedestrians are allowed), without ever stating that the real reasons for posting "pedestrians prohibited" signs on wide shoulder and pedestrian paths is that signs are cheaper than relocating pedestrian facilities in future lane additions projects. Without these maps, logical and pedestrian-safe actions would be very difficult.

The above maps will confirm my statements that are in the detailed rebuttal of the highway engineers' Guidelines which are at: moderntransit.org/expy/rebuttal.html

Proposed Safe Pedestrian Guidelines by MTS

MTS requests that the four Guidelines (in the 4/26/02 staff report) be changed to the following:

Guideline #1: Because of the hierarchical street network whereby each expressway performs the function of an arterial, it is recognized that pedestrians do walk along expressways wherever there is no nearby alternative route, whether or not "pedestrians prohibited" signs are posted. A detour of 1/8 mile or more added to the walking trip will be considered to be "no nearby alternative route."

Guideline #2: Where there is no nearby alternative route, pedestrians use whatever facility along expressways is available: sidewalks, pedestrian paths and shoulders. In no case will pedestrians be forced to walk in a traffic lane. Relocation of pedestrian facilities, including shoulders, brought about by adding lanes will be paid from the same funding that pays for adding lanes, not from pedestrian funds, and will be completed no later than the opening day of the new lanes to traffic. If and where pedestrians must use shoulders, the minimum shoulder width will be that of bicycle use.

Guideline #3: The County Policy that states "shrubbery at expressway intersection areas will be trimmed" for pedestrian safety will be promptly accomplished. (Approved by County Supervisors in 1991)

Guideline #4: State law protects pedestrians' and transit patrons' right to use the roadways. The Legal Opinion of County Counsel "Prohibition of Pedestrians on Expressways" (Nov. 12, 1996) will be recognized and no attempt will be made to contradict State law. Cities are encouraged to repeal all remaining ordinances that prohibit pedestrians along expressways.

Also see: Expressway topics, links page.

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