New attack on pedestrians along expressways using BACs and BPACs.

Akos Szoboszlay, President, Modern Transit Society     9/28/06

County Roads has launched a new front in its war against pedestrians walking along expressway shoulders and paths, by using BAC and BPAC members who are uninformed of the situation. This is disguised as “updating” the Pedestrian Element of the County Expressway Master Plan -- actually, starting over to make it anti-pedestrian.

County Roads staff will go to most of the city BACs and BPACs, also the VTA/County BPAC on November 8, in order to get answers to their questions, and possibly votes, regarding pedestrians along expressways. Each BAC / BPAC member can answer, and is recorded. Below are the questions County Roads asked of the BAC members in Campbell, by letting each member answer (on 9/27/06). The public was only allowed to speak at the end, but I didn’t get time to answer most of the questions (which I answered below).

No advance information was given, so many answers of the BAC members were incorrect. For example, for the question, “Are the shoulders wide enough for pedestrians?” was answered by several BAC members, who stated they never bicycled or walked along San Tomas Expressway, with the answer, “no”. (This is the usual answer given by those who only drive on expressways.)

The fact is, San Tomas in Campbell has the (consistently) widest expressway shoulders today of any city (mostly, 9 feet wide). That’s in addition to a worn (used) pedestrian path along almost its entire length, and complete (quad) crosswalks at all intersections. The existence of this path was totally ignored by all BAC members, as well as a City police officer who also made recorded comments opposing pedestrian use, and questioning bicycle use, of San Tomas. I could not speak until they made their incorrect -- but recorded -- statements. However, I did show slides of the paths after the meeting. [link below] The Campbell BAC did not vote, though legally could have.

A fundamental question BAC / BPAC members should ask County Roads staff is: Why ask questions that have already been asked and then answered by the two-year Expressway Study ? Those answers and conclusions were already voted on by most BAC / BPACs, endorsed by the cities, and then approved by the County Board of Supervisors (BOS) on August 19, 2003 . This is called the County Expressway Master Plan ( formally titled, Comprehensive County Expressway Planning Study Implementation Plan ).

The answer to that fundamental question is that the Pedestrian Element of this Master Plan is pro-pedestrian while County Roads wants to make the Pedestr ian Element anti-pedestrian. BAC / BPAC members should tell County Roads staff that they oppose any change to the Pedestrian Element. Furthermore, County staff should be told that their questions are already answered in the Pedestrian Element of the County Expressway Master Plan , VTA’s Community Design and Transportation , and T-2030 documents. (Many quotes are already on our website.)

Questions and my Answers (but wasn’t given time to answer)

Here are the questions County Roads (Collen, Masoud and Dawn Cameron) asked, and I’m sure will ask other BAC / BPAC members, when they get placed on the agenda:

Q: Are there any destinations on the expressway (within the City), such as a business, that pedestrians would need to go to?  This has two answers.

A 1: That’s irrelevant. The hierarchical street pattern -- as contrasted with the grid pattern of pre-1950s streets -- forces pedestrians to use arterial roads. This fact is recognized by VTA. Expressways are all arterial roads. This fact is recognized by the County Expressway Master Plan . Arterial roads, which include expressways, are typically spaced every half mile. This is seen by looking at Silicon Valley maps. By prohibiting any arterial road -- including one that is called “expressway,” means the next nearest arterial road is typically a half mile away. This often means a one-mile walking detour. It takes 10 times longer to walk a detour than to drive it, a fact ignored by County Roads.

A 2: People use an expressway because it is the shortest way to get to their destination elsewhere. To allow use of roads only if you have a destination on a road is absurd.

Q: Is there a demand for pedestrians to walk on the expressway?

A: Yes, as shown by many well-worn dirt paths along expressways. Furthermore, pedestrian numbers greatly increase after “pedestrians prohibited” signs are removed, by about 3 times.

Q: Are the shoulders wide enough for pedestrians? There are four answers

A 1: The pedestrian-expressway maps of the County Expressway Master Plan shows 5-foot shoulders as a “wide shoulder” (violet or gray on maps, see map legend). There is no reason for change.

A 2: Vehicle Code 21966 allows walking in a bike lane where there is no adjacent sidewalk or path. A standard bike lane is 5 feet wide. This also is the standard minimum shoulder on expressways, per the County Expressway Master Plan . So 5 feet is the answer from these facts.

A 3: If County Roads deems any shoulder to be not wide enough, then they need to comply with the BOS order to create paths along the “entire expressway system,” rather than try to use their non-compliance as the rationale for prohibiting pedestrians. Typically, there is 12 feet between curb and property-line, plenty of space for a 2-foot path or a 5-foot sidewalk.

A 4: The VTA/County BPAC already voted for the 5-foot width last fall, rejecting County Roads attempt to prohibit pedestrians on all shoulders, no matter how wide. The two-year Expressway Study (2001-2003) -- the draft of the Master Plan -- also rejected County Roads initial draft to prohibit pedestrians not only from all shoulders, but also all pedestrian paths, by only allowing use of paved sidewalks.

Q: Are the shoulders safe for pedestrians?

A: This has already been answered by the County Expressway Master Plan : “[Wide] shoulders or paths can serve ... for occasional pedestrian use.” [page 93]

Q: Should pedestrians even be allowed?

A: Prohibiting pedestrians violates poli cies and laws which have already been cited by VTA/County BPAC [see link below] and the Modern Transit Society [see link below.].

The tactic of County Roads is to ignore (by not stating) the portions of the County Expressway Master Plan that they don’t agree with -- such as the Plan’ s support of pedestrian use of wide shoulders, then make a few “scary” points, and then ask leading questions to obtain desired answers.

For BAC / BPAC members who see this appear on their agenda, I suggest that you forward this email to all the Committee members, by emailing this link:


List of BOS policies and orders that Murdter (director of County Roads Department) is violating and contradicting; and their attempts to thwart the Pedestrian Element of the County Expressway Master Plan :

Here are audio clips of false statements by Murdter and Collen (recently told to the City Council of Santa Clara):

Here are two photo series, of pedestrian paths along San Tomas, that proves Murdter opposes pedestrian path use despite his statement in the audio clip (prior link) to the contrary:

Paths from Williams to Winchester:

Paths in Santa Clara (City):

Here is the excerpted County Expressway Master Plan :

What Murdter wants to do is shown by the secret change in State law that he drafted, without BOS approval, and which the BOS ordered staff to seek repeal (Jan. 2006). Murdter slipped the words "county freeway" into law, to make it easier to construct a freeway by making it easier to prohibit both bicycles and pedestrians. Here is a short article (with links to any level of detail you desire):

You should also read the minutes (excerpt) of VTA/County BPAC last year, including their citations of law. Murdter lost both votes, and the vote in 2002 which was their input to the Pedestrian Element :

For the Modern Transit Society’s citations of violated policies and laws, see the San Tomas page (center section):

Here is our main expressway topics page, which has links (or links to links) to all our information regarding pedestrians along expressways, and the struggle that continues due to Murdter's fight against the County Expressway Master Plan :


County highway staff has thwarted, opposed, subverted, contradicted and violated the Pedestrian Element of the County Expressway Master Plan starting soon after it was approved on (8/19/03), when in the same month they refused to remove "pedestrians prohibited" signs from Sunnyvale despite the fact that the County Expressway Master Plan recognizes that wide shoulders are safe for pedestrians, and that Sunnyvale fully complied with the Plan by repeal of the prohibition. County staff refused to comply with the law which necessitates an ordinance in order to have "pedestrians prohibited" signs. I then had to go to the BOS and they gave a direct order to Murdter to remove those signs (on 5/4/04).


Murdter wants to change the Pedestrian Element to be anti-pedestrian. Otherwise, Murdter would just comply with it. There is no need for change, other than to add two sentence already approved by the VTA/County BPAC (on 11/9/05). There is a need for compliance.