Attempt to thwart the repeal by Sunnyvale (and BOS policy): it failed.

Akos Szoboszlay, President, Modern Transit Society

Background: (copy of Speech to County Board of Supervisors on 7/14/05):

Almost every time a city repealed the prohibition of bicycles or pedestrians, the Modern Transit Society (MTS) and Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC) had to go through a huge fight with county highway engineers, to get them to comply with the law by removing signs. In May 2003, Sunnyvale repealed the pedestrian prohibition, which was the only remaining prohibition on Central Expressway. (The repeal for Lawrence Expressway occurred in 1993.). Walkers only used paths (shown). But Murdter continued stonewalling until this Board gave a directive to remove the signs on May 4, last year.

Staff (Dan Collin) told VTA/Countywide BPAC (on 6/8/05) [See his presentation handout.] that the reason for this secret change to State law was to counter this repeal by Sunnyvale. Yet, all these signs were removed, as the BOS directed.

Therefore, changing State law, which contradicted the Master Plan in all respects, was a stonewalling tactic. Prompt action is needed to restore our rights before highway interests, in other counties, prohibit bicycles and pedestrians on any road they desire.

Staff's stated reason for prohibiting: The “depressed section” of Central Expressway

Dan Collin (staff) told the VTA/Countywide BPAC that the allowing pedestrians in the depressed portion of Central Expressway is "irresponsible." [See his presentation handout.] This statement contradicts reality because no one ever walks there (other than bicyclists with a flat tire). But if they did walk there, it would be in full compliance with BOS policy, which support pedestrians on expressway shoulders. The depressed section of Central Expressway has 6-foot shoulders and is shown on the County map as "wide shoulders". This is page 90 (copied below) of the County Expressway Plan (adopted 8/19/03). This plan states (page 93) under "Wide Shoulder or Path" that
"these shoulder or path facilities can serve ... for occasional pedestrian use."
To re-iterate, the depressed section --shown in gray color on the map-- satifies the BOS policy requirements for pedestrian use, but has no pedestrians for several reasons, described next.

Why no one walks in the depressed section

I commuted in this “depressed section” of Central Expressway for years by bicycle, and I never saw a pedestrian other than a bicyclist with a flat. Here are the reasons why:

The main determining factor of where people walk is trip length. The grade separations actually increases trip length, making walking around the square loops longer than the parallel street. In fact, the parallel street (California Avenue) is a segment in the square "clover leaf." [Star, below, is at the Mathilda Avenue bridge over the (depressed) Central Expressway]

Furthermore, pedestrians prefer at-grade crossings, and avoid the depression as much as an over-crossing. A further factor is pleasant vs. unfriendly place to walk. Even if all other factors are about equal, walkers choose the quieter route. Walkers avoided the depressed section for all these reasons, not because of "pedestrians prohibited" signs. Such signs never eliminate pedestrians, only reduce their numbers (typically, by a factor of 3).

Safety Improvement resulted by removing prohibitory signs

The prohibitory signs increased danger by misleading motorists not to be aware of bicyclists and not to be aware of pedestrians crossing the expressway at the many signalized intersections along the expressway --the greatest cause of fatalities. This hazard was removed soon after the May 4, 2004 BOS directive to remove signs.

The typical situation: no nearby walking alternative

It is important to point out that the the nearness of the parallel street to the depressed section of Central is unusual. Arterial spacing is typically every half mile, often resulting in one-mile walking detours where pedestrians are prohibited. The detour needed to avoid walking for one block on the pedestrian path, between Middlefield Road & Central (where I worked at Radix, one block west of the star below) and Mary Avenue (with #32 bus line, star below), is typical. It even forced the crossing of Fwy 237, twice. This detour increased danger, unnecessarily crossing extra intersections --the greatest accident risk. This detour was also ludicrous, ignored every day by many people walking past the prohibitory signs.

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