Pedestrians along expressways: Board of Supervisors (BOS) policies and orders,

with violations shown in red.

Akos Szoboszlay, President, Modern Transit Society         October, 2006; updated May 2007.

Quotes, numbered 1 through 9, of violated Board of Supervisors (BOS) policies and orders, with links to scans of original documents and with violations shown in red, are as follows:

1.  1991 Board Action: Ordered staff to create pedestrian paths on all expressways:

“Approve the proposed new program to provide pedestrian pathway facilities along the expressway system at the annual level of $75,000.”

 [See Quote 1 from attached page 1 of August 20, 1991 Board action] [for other pages, see bottom]

County highway staff stonewalled on compliance for 15 years, as shown by the fact that most expressway sections do not have paths or sidewalks. (Most have wide shoulders, which are safe for bicyclists and pedestrians and are an interim solution). Paths are most urgently needed where highway staff force people to walk in traffic lanes, after highway staff changed shoulders into traffic lanes. See links documenting violations, listed by roadway, in the Pedestrian Safety section of the Expressway Topics, Links page. Dangers are inexpensively eliminated by compliance with Board policies.


Montague Expressway photos; Left: Woman is forced to walk in the right-turn lane, after traffic lanes were added in 2002. New curb was placed, but no path or sidewalk. Location is just west of the Montague Expressway Light Rail Station. Center: Man is forced to walk in the traffic lane of Montague after shoulders were eliminated. Notice the former shoulder line, a remnant from 2002. Location is east of light rail. Right: Youth, walking to Great Mall, walks in the acceleration lane which previously was the shoulder. There is no alternative to Montague, formerly named Landess Avenue, due to the hierarchical street patterns.


Photo (right): Pedestrian is walking in the acceleration lane on Montague near Houret Drive, but is not visible in the night photo. Most transit patrons leaving work in winter walk in the dark. See more photos of violations on Montague.

2. Staff report for that Board Action, approved by the Board on 8/20/91, states:

“It will take several years [from 1991] to remove all obstacles [basically, “cut back brush”] in the buffer area [between curb and property-line] from the entire expressway system.”

[See Quote 2 from attached page 3.] [for other pages, see bottom]

The Board order should have been completed over ten years ago! Paths are very inexpensive. Most labor is provided free by the “jail crew.”

3. 1991 Board Policy: “It is the [Board approved] Policy ... to encourage cities to repeal pedestrian prohibition ordinances, except where ... the ... area (between the curb and property line) is impeded by obstacles.” [See Quote 3 from attached page 2 of 1991 policy; for other pages, see bottom.]
County highway staff contradicted this policy because no obstacles exist at many blocks where staff not only didn’t support repeal, Murdter actually opposed repeal in Santa Clara even where the paths exist (see details in section below). See next photos.


Left photo: San Tomas from Monroe to Cabrillo (west side).
 Center photo: Cabrillo to El Camino (east side, 1/2 mile path was created in June in one day at MTS’ request.) 
Right photo: Typical prohibited path, Williams to just before Winchester. 
San Tomas description: There is 12 feet (typically) between the curb and the property-line fence in Santa Clara. Paths exist at many blocks but are prohibited in addition to banning shoulder use. Details, detour maps, links, etc. are at:

4. The 2003 Board Policy, usually called the County Expressway Master Plan and formally titled Comprehensive County Expressway Planning Study Implementation Plan, added shoulder use:

“[Wide] shoulder or path facilities can serve ... for occasional pedestrian use.” [See scan of paragraph from page 93 either on a web page – click for web page format – or a succinct printable page – download 900 KB pdf file of quotes 4 and 5 scans.]

Murdter falsely stated:  “Where [pedestrians] are required to walk on the shoulder ... then Board policy supports the prohibition on that segment of the expressway.” You can hear (via Quicktime link) that verbal statement, and hear and/or read more Murdter's false statements, from this web page.

5. The pedestrian-expressway maps in the County Expressway Master Plan contain this quote in the map legends:

“Wide shoulder or path” followed by the color gray. [See scanned map legend of the main pedestrian-expressway map on a web page – click for map legend and main map on page 90 – or a succinct printable page showing the same map legend with the San Tomas Expressway example – download 900 KB pdf file of quotes 4 and 5 scans].  [Downloading instructions for all pedestrian-expressway maps.]

County highway staff repeatedly ignored these maps with regard to the wide shoulders and paths, by only pointing out sidewalk facilities while ignoring path and wide shoulder facilities.

6. Board ordered staff (on 1/10/06) to seek repeal of SB 1233 that eliminated the right of bicyclists and pedestrian to use public roadways. County staff misleadingly called this Expressway Signage Law in Quote 6 and Quote 6b, but it is actually very damaging as described in our SB 1233 short article and full article. Also see the annotated Vehicle Code 21960 showing changes and effects on non-motorists.

The County would not be able to prohibit if repeal occurs. Yet, Murdter and Collen ignored this BOS order by citing SB 1233 law changes when they stated that the County will enact new pedestrian prohibitions in 2007 — despite the fact that the BOS ordered the law repealed. [To read Murdter’s statement, see Murdter’s letter to the City Council, which is two pages as a 2.3 MB pdf file]

7. Both the 1991 and the 2003 policy require creating pedestrian paths at intersection areas. The better-worded 2003 policy also opposes walking in the traffic lane, and states:

"Landscaping needs to be kept trimmed back at intersection areas and along the travel way so pedestrians do not have to enter the travel lane."  [page 93, County Expressway Master Plan]

County highway staff stonewalled for 15 years on compliance! [see photo examples]

Note: Quote 7 needs to have the highest compliance priority due to a higher accident risk [see details with graphics] at intersection areas, especially where shoulders were eliminated and people are forced to walk in traffic lanes, acceleration lanes, and where motor vehicles make a right-turn on red or yield..

8. “Expressway crossings of barriers (freeways, rivers, and railroads): A sidewalk/path on at least one side of the expressway will be provided to the adjacent public street intersection in both directions from the barrier.” [1991 policy page 2]

Quote #1 requires shrubbery trimming for paths, but bridges and undercrossigns do not have landscaping. Therefore, this quote covers these situations.

In 2002, County highway staff changed the pedestrian (shoulder) facilities on Montague near Freeway 880 into a traffic lane, despite the fact that sidewalks, built by Caltrans, exist on both sides of Montague crossing over the freeway. Staff is required to build a sidewalk or path at this freeway crossing “to the … street intersection.” Instead, they eliminated the pedestrian facility, the shoulder, which was 8 to 10 feet wide. This act is a violation of quotes # 7, 8, 1 and 2. [See photos, map and details of this location.]

Photo: Pedestrians must step from the sidewalk, built by Caltrans, into the traffic lane, after County highway engineers eliminated the pedestrian facility – the shoulder – in 2002. The sidewalk ends where the roadway becomes County owned. [See more photos, map and details of this location.]

9. “It is the policy … to not eliminate existing sidewalks/pathways/informal paths.” [1991 policy page 3]

In 2005, on the Montague bridge crossing over Guadalupe River, County highway staff destroyed the sidewalk.

In 2007, over two miles of pedestrian paths along San Tomas were plowed under, eliminating this walking/jogging facility. See the before-and-after photos. Also see the “before” photos with crosswalks.

Other policy violations: The above policies and orders are just those of the County Board of Supervisors (BOS). See the State and Federal violations by Murdter and the County Roads Department at this link.

Vehicle Code 21966 and Vehicle Code 21949 are also violated.

Murdter’s letter and speech to City Council contradicted Board (BOS) policies #1, #3, #4 and #5 (quoted above)

Michael Murdter, Director of County Roads department, came to the City Council of Santa Clara meeting and opposed repeal of the pedestrian prohibition (on 6/20/06). Murdter opposed allowing use of wide shoulders, thus contradicting the 2003 policy [Quote 4]. Murdter opposed allowing use of existing pedestrian paths, thus contradicting the order to create paths [Quote 1] and to encourage repeal of prohibitions [Quote 3]. Murdter opposed and contradicted BOS policies in his letter to the City Council [next link], and ignored the San Tomas pedestrian-expressway map [Quote 5]. The Council vote was 4 to 3 to keep the prohibitions (for now).

The annotated version of Murdter’s letter to the City Council [two pages, 2.3 MB pdf file] shows Murdter’s false and misleading statements in red. You can also hear audio clips (QuickTime) of Murdter’s and Collen’s spoken false and misleading verbal statements. Many can be used against bicyclists, especially City staff verbally citing County staff’s “60% fatalities caused by roadway departures”. The source of their claim (only recently given) was actually motorist fatalities, not pedestrian fatalities. Murdter, Collen and City staff talked for an hour about how dangerous expressway wide shoulders are [8 to 10 feet wide, south of El Camino], equated them to freeway shoulders (and showed 3 photos of freeway shoulders), and stated much other nonsense. Advocates for non-motorized transport were given just 3 minutes each to rebut that, which was impossible. The same scare tactics were used to fight against bicyclists (until 1991) by County highway staff and the City staff, and may yet be used again.


Photos: Pedestrians paths are inexpensively and quickly built – half a mile per day – as shown by this path [center] created by trimming brush [left] on San Tomas for an entire block (Cabrillo to El Camino) by maintenance staff [County Road Operations Branch]. Path is even wider than path used by Caltrain patrons [right] along 40 mph De La Cruz bridge in Santa Clara.

Attempts to make the Expressway Master Plan’s Pedestrian Element
to be anti-pedestrian

Murdter has been trying to change the Pedestrian Element of the County Expressway Master Plan to be anti-pedestrian by banning shoulder use, no matter how wide. Murdter failed at the VTA/Countywide Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) in 2005, by a unanimous vote. [See vote details.]  Murdter also lost a related vote at the BPAC and the County Board of Supervisors (BOS), when County highway staff tried to prevent repeal of SB 1233 (which secretly eliminated the right of bicyclists and pedestrians to use public roadways).

But Murdter (and other County highway staff) will try again. Murdter stated in his letter to the City Council of Santa Clara that he will “update” the County Expressway Master Plan in 2007. To date, probably more staff time has been spent fight against compliance with Board policies, and trying to change those policies, rather than simply complying with those policies. This is especially so when considering that over 90% of the labor to create paths is provided free by the “jail crew.” It is imperative, for both pedestrian safety and for efficiency of walking and transit use in hierarchical street pattern areas – that’s where expressways are located – that pedestrian-expressway policies and orders of the Board of Supervisors be retained. County highway staff will try to change that in 2007, with the “update” to the County Expressway Master Plan.

More information and links

For more information about expressways in general, see the Expressway Topics, Links page and/or contact Akos Szoboszlay, President, Modern Transit Society.

For historical information about how the Board order and policy came about in 1991, see the Mercury News Op-Ed article and the originating 1991 MTS letter to the BOS containing requests, most of which were implemented.

Links to all pages of 1991 BOS action (8/20/91) and 1991 policy:

The scanned pages are: Action / staff report [page 1], [page 2], [page 3]; and the attached 1991 Policy [page 1], [page 2], [page 3].

Printing instructions: how to print above quotes onto one page:

See and print the single page (abridged) version, a pdf file;

Printing instructions: how to print quotes with original document pages:

A two-page-plus-attachments version, needed for official purposes, such as for a Committee, Board or Council, where use of links are discouraged. Here are instructions for printing these:

Print the summary two-pages of Quotes and print and append the scans of documents. [Note that Quotes 4 and 5 are on the same page. Scanned Quote 7 is from the same scan as Quote 4. Scanned Quote 8 is from the same scan as Quote 3. Scanned Quote 9 is an additional page. To print all pages of the 1991 BOS order and 1991 Policy, see bottom.]

Original file = quote.doc