Request (again) to Repeal San Jose City Ordinance 11.32.070

Result of the request: No reply at all, to date. [This line will be changed if a reply is received.]

James R. Helmer
Director of Transportation
4 N. 2nd Street, Suite 1000
San Jose, CA 95113

Jan. 22, 2003

Subject: Ordinance 11.32.070

Dear Sir:

Congratulations on your appointment as Director of Transportation.

In 1989, the City Council, at my request, repealed the prohibition of pedestrians on 4 of 6 expressways, and the prohibition of bicycles on all expressways. The DOT staff, at the time, vigorously opposed allowing bicycles on expressways. At my insistence, the ordinance, 11.32.070, was also brought into conformance with State Law which protects the right of pedestrians to use the roadways, with the only exception being freeways.

By a quirk in the law, expressways that were previously orchards can be interpreted to meet the definition of a freeway. Expressways that were previously regular roads do not. This has resulted in a completely irrational, and unsafe, situation for pedestrians. Half the “pedestrians prohibited” signs prohibit use of sidewalks on Lawrence Expressway. (A few remaining on Capitol also prohibit sidewalk use, but are illegal as per County Counsel’s legal opinion and the ordinance itself.) The other half prohibit use of pedestrian paths and wide shoulders on San Tomas. On narrow shoulders (portions of Almaden) pedestrians are allowed. Where there are no shoulders or sidewalks (portions of Montague) pedestrians are allowed and are forced to walk in the traffic lane. 

This absurdity needs correction by a complete repeal of the ordinance. The ordinance does not “protect” pedestrians in the unsafe locations because these have no prohibitory signs posted (since they would be illegal). Most importantly, the existing ordinance creates danger to pedestrians by forcing detours which greatly increase the number of intersections that have to be crossed, the greatest source of accidents, and for other reasons as described on our web page:

The ordinance also contradicts recent policies of VTA, the State Legislature, Caltrans and FHWA. Links to these are also on this web page.

Your predecessor had an anti-pedestrian policy which, even last year, resulted in a total rejection of our request to repeal this ordinance, including allowing use of sidewalks. It is so contradictory that your staff member, John Brazil, bicycles on Central Expy to work and has no problem with pedestrians walking on Central Expy shoulders (I forced those signs to be removed in 1989) but, nonetheless, supports your predecessor’s position opposing pedestrian use of shoulders, pedestrian paths and sidewalks on expressways in San Jose. In 1989, San Jose staff also opposed allowing bicyclists on “expressways” but the Council voted 11-0 as per my request, including requiring shoulders on all expressways in the City. 

I hope that your representative to the County Expressway Study, Technical Working Group, will not continue your predecessor’s position.

Please note that you cannot just “keep options open” by keeping the ordinance and removing signs. The ordinance states that “signs shall be posted” where prohibited. This sentence was inserted by staff when the ordinance was revised. 

Another sentence staff tried to insert, but which I successfully opposed, was that expressways are "primarily for motor vehicle movement." This blatant prejudice is well-described by the FHWA policy. In fact, current government policies, at all levels, are to “move people and goods” instead of motor vehicles. 

Would you support repeal? 


Akos Szoboszlay

Also see: Expressway topics, links page.

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