Request to Repeal San Jose City Ordinance 11.32.070 (prohibition of pedestrians)

Akos Szoboszlay, Vice-President, Modern Transit Society

Nov. 14, 2003

Result of the request:

San Jose staff rejected allowing pedestrians even on sidewalks!  Note that because the individual staff person who wrote the reply used the same statements that were made verbally to me over the years, using even some of the same slogans, his reply is a SJ DOT departmental position. Here are quotes of SJ DOT's statements in red (full text below) and my rebuttals:

The City would consider requests to allow pedestrians on specific sections of County Expressway where sidewalks currently exist. 

First, why "consider" allowing pedestrians on existing sidewalks, why not just allow them?

Second, they rejected my request to do even that: to allow use of sidewalks. It was just another stonewalling tactic, stating they "would consider" allowing use of sidewalks, but a year and a half later, they have done absolutely nothing to revise or repeal the ordinance prohibiting even sidewalk use. (Either that, or they considered but rejected allowing pedestrians on sidewalks, but failed to inform me of their decision.)

If you think prohibiting pedestrians from sidewalks is too ludicrous and can't be for real, consider that SJ DOT fought vigorously to prohibit bicycles from bike lanes! (Signs were change from "bicycles prohibited" to "bike lane" on Capitol Expressway with no roadway change other than signage.)

When combined with Expressway high traffic speeds and volumes, these sections without sidewalks do not provide adequate safety for pedestrians.

First, this is a re-iteration of the scare tactic and false slogans used against bicycles by SJ DOT.

(a) There are more regular arterials than expressways with so-called "expressway high traffic speeds," --45 or 50 mph-- all allowing bicycles and pedestrians, even on shoulders, a fact deliberately ignored by SJ DOT. See photos of two of them (Monterey Rd. and Trimble Rd.) having 50 mph and shoulders for pedestrians, or see the LRT patron walking on the shoulder of Curtner Ave at

b) Traffic "volumes" is another phony argument and scare tactic. Increasing the number of lanes adds danger (exponentially) to pedestrians crossing the roadway. However, the number of lanes, proportional to traffic volumes, has almost nothing to do with the accident risk of pedestrians walking along the roadway because the cars in the left (inner) and middle lanes are far removed from pedestrians. Those walking along the expressway are less likely to be hit, by over 10 times less (less than 1/10), than those crossing the expressway. They are even less likely to be hit than bicycles because they tend to walk adjacent to the curb, while bicyclists ride closer to the shoulder line. Update: FHWA uses "curb lane volume" not roadway "volume."

Second, the County Supervisors policy, FHWA policy and Caltrans all recognize that shoulders are safe for pedestrians (as well as bicycles). VTA policy also recognizes that pedestrians are forced onto expressways by the hierarchical street network/pattern (as opposed to a grid pattern of pre-1950s development). Links to all documents are at:

Third, SJ DOT ignores the fact that pedestrian paths, existing along much of San Tomas, are also safe to walk on.

Ordinance 11.32.070 only prohibits pedestrians on County Expressways where specifically posted, not on all sections of County Expressway.

First, let's not muddy the issue: The ordinance is only applicable to those expressways "providing no right or easement of access." This situation, and therefore the prohibition, only occurs on
(A) Lawrence (having sidewalks) and
(B) San Tomas (having pedestrian paths and shoulders).
It does NOT occur on
(C) ALL OTHER expressways. Even where pedestrians must walk in the traffic lane, on portions of Montague Expressway in San Jose, or on shoulders, including Almaden, pedestrians are allowed. (Side note: MTS is fighting to restore the sidewalks and shoulders that were destroyed in 1989 on Montague in San Jose when more lanes were added. MTS already forced them to restore sidewalks and shoulders on San Tomas in Campbell and on Lawrence in Santa Clara, which were also destroyed upon lane additions, despite the fact pedestrians and bicycles were also allowed there).

SJ DOT has not recognized the above distinctions because they deliberately want to confuse the issue, to make it harder to repeal. At no location would repeal of the ordinance newly allow pedestrians to walk in the traffic lane! This is because the expressway where they are forced to walk in the traffic lane, they are already allowed today, which is on portions of Montague, and Montague has never had prohibitory signs. The deliberate misconception of SJ DOT is that pedestrians would walk in the traffic lane as a result of repeal of the ordinance, and that is utterly false.

Second, the implication of SJ DOT, that they want to retain the ordinance to keep their options open (previously, they also explicitly stated that), is also utterly false. The Ordinance has a section stating
"When pedestrians are prohibited on any County expressway pursuant to this Section, signs shall be posted providing notice of such prohibition."
This means that staff is prevented from optionally removing signs that prohibit walking on the sidewalk. In fact, staff added this clause on their own accord in 1989, without City Council nor myself asking them to, when the ordinance was revised at my request to allow bicycles on all expressways, and to allow pedestrians on those expressways where State law protects their "right to use the roadway."

CSJ staff would not likely support a universal repeal of ordinance 11.32.070.  

Nor, even a partial repeal!

Instead of wasting huge amounts of staff time over the years fighting repeal of prohibitions of bicycles and pedestrians, SJ DOT should spend just a fraction of this time preventing future destruction of bike/ped facilities by setting requirements for the County. (The City does have jurisdiction on all expressways within City limits.) Obviously, they won't do that as long as we have the ordinance, which they pretend enables them to prohibit or not prohibit pedestrians anywhere they desire.

The request by MTS:

Email from: Akos Szoboszlay, Vice-President, Modern Transit Society

April 2, 2002

John Brazil, Program manager for the bike/ped program
City of San Jose

Subject: Request to Repeal San Jose City Ordinance 11.32.070

Dear Sir:

City Ordinance 11.32.070 prohibits people from walking on the sidewalk, using bus stops, walking on pedestrian paths or on safe shoulders along any road where the name was changed from 'Avenue' or 'Road' to 'Expressway.' The only exceptions are a function of contracts signed or not signed by property owners of abutting lands.

In 1989, this ordinance was modified at my request by the City Council to allow bicycles on expressways. Unfortunately, the tremendous opposition of the San Jose traffic engineering department, who were against allowing bicycle use of shoulders along expressways, prevented me from having the ordinance completely rescinded.

In the interim years, I have tried numerous times to repeal, but have been stonewalled repeatedly by San Jose staff. However, there have been minor successes. The Ordinance prohibited use of the Capitol Light Rail Station except for those driving a car to the park and ride lot. Because of a tremendous effort (many phone call, letters, meetings), the signs were removed to "allow" transit patrons to walk to the station, despite the Ordinance still prohibiting pedestrians to this day. Another success was construction of sidewalks along Capitol Expressway. Yet, the Ordinance still prohibits use of these sidewalks. Only after many confrontations (the County BAC and myself vs. the County highway engineers) were most, but not all, of the signs removed. I have taken pictures of signs prohibiting use of sidewalks, bus stops, and pedestrian paths which are at:

The Modern Transit Society requests that you recommend to City Council a complete repeal of this discriminatory, unjust and illogical ordinance. .

Please see further details at


Akos Szoboszlay
Modern Transit Society

cc: Gladwyn d'Souza, Chair, San Jose Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee

Full text of SJ DOT's email:

April 17, 2002

Mr. Szoboszlay
Modern Transit Society

Thank you for your April 2, 2002 email regarding pedestrians and County Expressways.

The City of San Jose (CSJ) supports and encourages multi-modal transportation facilities, including pedestrian facilities, where ever safe and practical. The City would consider requests to allow pedestrians on specific sections of County Expressway where sidewalks currently exist. However, certain sections do not currently have sidewalks. When combined with Expressway high traffic speeds and volumes, these sections without sidewalks do not provide adequate safety for pedestrians. Therefore, CSJ staff would not likely support a universal repeal of ordinance 11.32.070. (Please note that CSJ ordinance 11.32.070 only prohibits pedestrians on County Expressways where specifically posted, not on all sections of County Expressway.) 

Regarding Capitol Expressway, CSJ staff continue to participate in two studies which may provide opportunities for pedestrian access. First, the County of Santa Clara Department of Roads & Airports is in the process of master planning for the County Expressway System. As pedestrian issues arise, CSJ staff will discuss with County representatives the possibility of allowing pedestrians on County Expressways where sidewalks exist. Second, the Valley Transportation Authority is in the process of building the Capitol Light Rail line. While not technically on Capitol Expressway, the line travels along Capitol Avenue and ends just north of Capitol Expressway. This project will attract pedestrians and therefore impact Capitol Expressway. As a participant in the project, CSJ staff will seek opportunities to increase pedestrian access and mobility.

John Brazil
Bike/Pedestrian Program Coordinator
Dept. of Transportation, City of San Jose
Tel: 408-277-4938, Fax: 408-277-3034

Also see: Expressway topics, links page.

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