Photos depict the situation: While opposing pedestrian (and previously, bicycle) use of the wide shoulders on Foothill Expressway (left), Roads and Airports has no such qualms where the name of the same, County-owned "G-5" road changes to Junipero Serra Blvd. (middle). Pedestrians have always been allowed on the shoulders there. What further emphasizes the hypocrisy is that on a portion of Junipero Serra Blvd., the County highway engineers eliminated the shoulder when adding a lane, with the result shown (right). [details]

Full MTS rebuttal to the staff report by Michael Murdter, Director, Roads & Airports

Update: Murdter's false statements (below) were retracted or removed
by County Executive staff.

Quotes from Murdter's staff report (to HLUET Committee meeting of 2/12/04) --in order of appearance-- are in italics. Two important quotes --shown in red-- have counter-quotes that prove the entire premise of Murdter's staff report to be false. Murdter's staff report fails to mention and contradicts County Counsel legal opinions and the County Expressway Plan (with counter-quotes highlighted).

Update: Murdter's false statements, shown in italics below, were either retracted or removed (as marked) for the Board meeting of May 4, 2004, as a result of our multiple letters and emails --seeking corrections-- to the Deputy County Executive and Deputy County Counsel, while one was subsequently acknowledged to be correct by Murdter, and one is extremely deceptive. The Board directed signs to be removed. Signs were removed in Sunnyvale, but staff disobeyed the Board by stonewalling on sign removal on Foothill Expressway. [Download the corrected staff report, or see County's link near bottom].

"MTS opposed County policy." Update: Removed.
This blatantly false statement was made for the sole purpose of discrediting public input. The fact is that MTS has asked for compliance with BOS policy, while Roads and Airports opposes BOS policy.

MTS successfully lead the effort for the repeal of bicycle and most pedestrian prohibitions on arterial roads named "expressways" and for pedestrian safety.  We worked within the system, and at our request the BOS voted that they "support bicycles on expressways" (1988) and support pedestrians (2003) on shoulders and paths.  Roads and Airports (and predecessor), in contrast, continued opposing BOS policy by opposing bicycles (for years) and pedestrians (currently) after the BOS policies were adopted, and also repeatedly stonewalled or refused to comply with BOS policies with pedestrian safety requirements (1991 and 2003), including recently.  MTS was responsible for stopping the County highway engineers from forcing pedestrians to walk in the traffic lane after lanes additions --by restoring shoulders or constructing sidewalks-- on Lawrence Expressway in Santa Clara, southern San Tomas Expressway and several locations on Montague. All are described in links at the bottom of this page.

"Board has designated nearly all expressway mileage as a freeway." Update: No longer claimed as basis for the County to prohibit bicycles or pedestrians.
The BOS recognized that all expressways are arterial roads in the Aug. 19, 2003 policy which states: "The expressway vision statements all classify the expressways as arterials." [Source: County Expressway Plan, page 88]. So does VTA policy of 2002.  The staff report refers to obsolete documents from the 1960s called "freeway declarations," but NONE of County Counsel's legal opinions on this matter gives any credence that a "declaration" can simply turn a road into a "freeway." In fact, the word "freeway" is defined by State law, not by County declaration. These "declarations" were simply a ruse to violate the rights of pedestrians and bicyclists to use existing public roads that were renamed "expressways."

"Policy adopted by the Board in 1991 ... discourages pedestrians from walking along the shoulders of expressways." [Update: By adding "in 1991" the statement becomes true, but by implying it is current Board policy, by not mentioning the 2003 policy [highlighted quoted below], the Reader and the BOS become deceived as to current Board policy. Murdter recognized that the Board supports pedestrians on shoulders in November 10, 2004, in a meeting with Supervisor McHugh, John Sullivan, Chair of VTA BPAC and Akos Szoboboszlay, President of Modern Transit Society]
The BOS policy of Aug. 19, 2003 states that "shoulder/path facilities can serve ... for occasional pedestrian use."  [Source: County Expressway Plan, page 93]

"not sufficient area ..., close proximity to traffic."  [Update: This statement, while true for locations where bicycle/pedestrian facilities were destroyed on Montague Expressway --which has always allowed bicycle/pedestrian use-- is extremely deceptive. The innuendo, that this is the usual case, is absolutely false and contradicts the County Expressway Plan [highlighted quote above.]
No matter how wide a shoulder, County highway engineers opposed bicycle and pedestrian use of the shoulders until they lost a fight by repeal of a prohibition. Yet, staff says nothing about shoulder use where pedestrians are allowed --most expressway miles-- and shoulders use of many other arterial roads with the same speed limit as expressways.

Roads and Airports uses false "safety" arguments to eliminate pedestrians for reasons best described in the FHWA document, while forcing pedestrians to walk in truly unsafe situations where it eliminated pedestrian facilities to add more traffic lanes --but where pedestrian have always been allowed. This makes two separate issues:
1) Allow shoulder use --complying with the County Expressway Plan and the law--, and
2) Restore shoulders/sidewalks where pedestrians are allowed --now remaining are a few locations on Montague.

The scenario that Roads and Airports wants you to believe is that:
by removing "pedestrians prohibited" signs, pedestrians would have to walk in the traffic lane.
This scenario does not exist and has, in fact, never existed on any expressway because:
1) All locations where signs were removed had pedestrian facilities (including shoulders).
2) All locations where signs remain today have pedestrian facilities (including shoulders).
3) All locations where pedestrian facilities were destroyed (portions of three expressways) were where pedestrians were and still are allowed. Subsequently, at our efforts, pedestrian facilities were restored on southern San Tomas and on Lawrence Expressways, but not on Montague. [See why this came about.]

"The Department, in collaboration with County Counsel ..." Update: Retracted.
The staff report ignores and omits ALL County Counsel's legal opinions, and did not even address the fact the there is a violation of the law by keeping the prohibitory signs on Foothill Expressway and on Central Expressway in Sunnyvale. (Signs in other cities containing Central Expressway were removed years ago after repeals in those cities.)  Details of the violations and links to County Counsel's legal opinions are on our web site.

"Vehicle Code ... provides ... authority for the County to prohibit pedestrians ..." Update: Retracted.
County Counsel quote: "It is the County Counsel's opinion that where authority to prohibit bicycles on County expressways exists, the authority rests with the city in whose jurisdiction the expressway or portion thereof may lie."
The County Expressway Plan quote [page 93]: "Pedestrian prohibitions ... are established by city ordinances."

News article: Suit Blames Death on Lack of Sidewalks.
[Update: The news article, a scare tactic, was completely omitted to the full Board as a result, apparently, of our successful rebuttal.]
The article describes an accident in southern California and states it occurred because "rock and debris filling the dirt area ... forced" the pedestrian into the traffic lane. This situation (of "rocks and debris") does not exist on County expressway shoulders since they are all paved! Furthermore:

"The Department recommends ..."
... an action contrary to the law and BOS policy.
[Update: The recommendation was completely changed, and resulted in prohibitory sign removal.]

"ACR 211: ... County and VTA polices are in general conformance."
[Update: The BOS referred this to the HLUET, despite staff's attempt to dismiss it (described next).]
Staff dismissed MTS's and SVBC's 3-sentence policy request referred to them by Sup. Alvarado on 12/16/03.  While this was their prerogative, omitting the 3 sentences from the agenda packet, to prevent the Supervisors from even considering it, was not.

Certainly, destroying bicycle/pedestrian facilities is not in conformance, and many examples of this are on our web site.  The County highway engineers sometimes destroy these facilities [examples in links below] to add lanes, thereafter making people walk in the traffic lane --usually by eliminating the shoulder-- and then try to use TDA (bicycle/pedestrian) funds to restore it --years later. This request, which applies to County roads in general --not just "expressways"-- is copied here.

Brief: How this despute started. How it ended: Victory for non-motorists! (So we thought, at the time, but staff keeps fighting.)

Details of this despute; links to documents.

Further information: A letter to the Supervisors describes major deficiencies in Murdter's staff report (of 2/12/04).

Downloading instructions for staff reports:

The February 12, 2004 staff report is on this website, not the County's, because the County does not always upload public agenda information, as in this case.

The May 4, 2004 staff report is agenda #63 at the BOS agenda web site, then click "Transmittal". Or, download from this (MTS) web site.

Also see related articles:

Don't force Pedestrians and Bicycles into the acceleration lane!
Dangerous policies of County highway engineers
Analyses of Pedestrians along Expressways

or the Expressway topics, links page.

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