Expressway Topics, Links page
pertaining to Santa Clara County, CA, USA
Latest news: Sidewalks have been approved for all
expressways in the Santa Clara County Expressway System in 2009, and shoulders for bicyclists and pedestrians continue to be required.
Current status: All bicycle prohibitions were repealed, and most pedestrian prohibitions. Of eight expressways, only San Tomas and Foothill Expressways still have pedestrian prohibitions.
The Board of Supervisors ordered bicycles to be accommodated on all expressways in 1988 -- at the effort led by Akos Szoboszlay -- and required bike-lane standards to be met in 2003.
Details: The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted to update the County Expressway Plan to include sidewalks along expressways,
usually on both sides of the road, with exceptions if a nearby route is available (on March 3, 2009). Maps were generated and MTS verified the exceptions as being valid. Previously,
a typical detour was one mile if the expressway was prohibited (to pedestrians, transit patrons and bicyclists) due to the hierarchical street patterns that force using arterial roads,
and because these arterial roads -- which include expressways --- are spaced typically every half a mile.
New Readers: the best place to start is:
A 5-slide presentation shows how prohibiting pedestrian increases accident risk. [900KB pdf file].
A comprehensive report, Pedestrians along Expressway Arterial Roads,
has illustrative photos and diagrams, a clickable table of contents and appendix.
Safety topics for various expressways, below.
A history of prohibitions of non-motorists in your city (see Timelines, below).
[Historical details for each Expressway.]
Recent policies at federal (FHWA), State, regional (MTC), VTA,
and County levels
Recent policies of VTA (Community Design and Transportation),
of the County (County Expressway Plan),
of FHWA (Accommodating Bicycle and Pedestrian Travel),
and of Caltrans (DD-64)
confirm what the Modern Transit Society (MTS) has been saying
for years, especially that:
1) Shoulders are bicycle/pedestrian
facilities (stated explicitly by federal, State and County, implicitly by VTA),
2) "County expressways" are arterial
roads, not freeways (stated explicitly by the County, indirectly by VTA).
A recent Legislative Resolution, ACR
211, states "the Legislature of the State of California hereby encourages
all cities and counties to implement the policies of [Caltrans
DD-64] and [the FHWA policy].
Also see: recent State Law, Vehicle Code 21949 (described below).
New in 2006:
MTC -- the Metropolitan Transportation Commission which
approves transportation funding in the San Francisco Bay Area -- required that pedestrian and bicycle facilities be routinely considered in roadway projects,
June 28, 2006 (agenda #9, Resolution #3765). [For details, see the
Spinning Crank article (1.2 MB download) and/or download MTC's .doc file of Resolution #3765.]
Quotes of Policies and Orders of the Board of Supervisors regarding pedestrians along expressways.
New County policy request by MTS and the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC):
Implementation of ACR 211 and preservation of bicycle and pedestrian facilities.
This was referred by the County Board of Supervisors (BOS) to the HLUET Committee
(on May 4. 2004, with the agreement of the HLUET Chair)
but has yet not been placed on the HLUET agenda. Also see detailed recommendation of VTA/County BPAC (Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee).
Two more victories for pedestrians and transit patrons: The Board of Supervisors ordered staff to
remove illegal "pedestrians prohibited" signs (in May, 2004), and to restore the right to use public roadways (in January, 2006)
How this dispute all started:
County highway staff refused to remove "pedestrians prohibited" signs in Sunnyvale after the City repealed the
pedestrian prohibition. (The City acted in full conformance with the County Expressway Plan that supports shoulder and path use.)
Highway staff also refused to remove "pedestrians prohibited" signs that violated State law
that protected the right of pedestrians to use public roadways.
(This only effected Palo Alto because by this time MTS already forced illegal sign removals elsewhere.)
Instead of complying, highway staff embarked on a secret change to State law so they would not have to remove the signs.
Details: MTS requested the County Board of Supervisors (BOS) that staff comply with
City codes, State law and the County's own policies -- the County Expressway Plan -- which were being violated by posting illegal
"pedestrians prohibited" signs. See these violations and the stonewalling tactics
of Michael Murdter, Director of the Roads and Airports Department, and the Department's flat-out refusal to comply with law and policy.
How this dispute ended: The County Board of Supervisors (BOS) voted twice (both unanimously):
May 4, 2004: As MTS requested, the BOS gave a direct order to Michael Murdter (Director, County Roads) to remove "pedestrians prohibited" signs to
comply with repeals by Sunnyvale (specifically mentioned) and other cities, and where-ever else they were in violation of State law.
January 10, 2006: The BOS voted to seek legislation in Sacramento
to repeal all changes in State law that resulted by Michael Murdter's actions behind the backs of the
BOS, and without ever receiving their authorization,
so he would not have to remove many of the same "pedestrians prohibited" signs as directed by the BOS on May 4, 2004.
These BOS votes were despite County highway engineers' opposition.
Furthermore, the County Expressway Plan was NOT repudiated as the County Roads Department also attempted before the VTA/County BPAC
(Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee) in November, 2005, and County Roads Department then dropped their proposal after losing the vote.
See the detailed recommendation of VTA/County BPAC in this regard. The County highway engineers had launched a
triple attack on walkers and transit patrons which they now lost, except they still need to restore the sidewalks
and walking facilities they destroyed on Montague Expressway.
See the recent expressway (publicly known) events (2003-2004) followed by the
secret events of SB 1233 which were kept from the public.
Also see how highway staff opposed and thwarted BOS policy.
Roads&Airports Department is exposed:
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]
Why the VTA/County BPAC Recommended that all pedestrian
prohibition signs be removed from the expressways.
Letter describing the 1996-7
fight for walkers' rights. It also contains a Table of BOS policies.
Starting soon after passage of the pro-pedestrian County Expressway Plan of 2003,
County highway staff fought a three-front war
to eliminate pedestrians from most expressway miles in violation of this Plan (which supports shoulder and path use by pedestrians and requires shoulders):
First, by a secret change in State law, authored by Michael Murdter (highway staff director), that
eliminated pedestrians' and bicyclists' right to use public roadways (2003-2004).
Second, to make use of this new law (effective on 1/1/2005), by a propaganda war to eliminate pedestrians
from most expressway miles (2005 to 2008) with the false claim that unpaved pedestrian paths, wide shoulders and bike lanes are unsafe for pedestrians.
Third, by the destruction of pedestrian facilities along expressways (including sidewalks, paths and shoulders)
starting in 1982, but especially on Montague expressway from 2002 to 2005 (which was in violation of existing policies) solely because they did not want to
pay for relocating pedestrian facilities when adding more traffic lanes.
Conclusion: As a result of our opposition (and of VTA staff and the VTA/County Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee),
the Update to the County Expressway Plan
(approved by the BOS on 3/3/2009) has no pedestrian prohibitions, but rather, sidewalks and directional signage (where nearby route exists).
Pedestrian Safety on arterial roads re-named "expressways"
Expressway arterial roads are the safest arterial roads to walk along, as easily observed from the graphic at right comparing regular versus expressway arterial roads.
The safety problem on expressway roads, that had occurred in certain portions, was entirely the result of the
County Roads Department destroying pedestrian facilities for more traffic lanes. This was mostly corrected,
except for some acceleration and right-turn lanes on Montague. Some unsafe intersection design failures still remain (especially on Montague),
but are correctable by shrubbery trimming for dirt path creation.
All such pedestrian facility destructions occurred where pedestrians have been allowed.
Further safety is achieved by complying with dirt path creation at all "intersection areas" as required by the
County Expressway Plan.
MTS and the VTA/County BPAC (Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee) were successful in changing most
of the dangerous policies and guidelines of the
County highway engineers in a two-year "Expressway Study", the conclusion of which
was approved by the County Board of Supervisors as the County Expressway Plan.
In the past, the County highway engineer's policy was to destroy
pedestrian facilities when adding traffic lanes, including where pedestrians
were and are allowed, and to force people to walk in the lane of traffic. Another
danger was poor intersection design, which is easily corrected today by trimming
shrubbery for safety (or painting lines) but is difficult to get the Department
to do, and they outright refuse to comply where "pedestrians prohibited" signs are posted.
Here are some of our efforts to accomplish safety over the years which
is still continuing, and also two safety studies (next):
Appalling unsafe conditions for pedestrians, who have always been allowed,
after County Roads destroyed their facilities.
San Tomas Expressway:
Comply with County policy for creating paths; Repeal prohibitions because they increase danger.
Capitol Expressway: Increase safety
All Expressways: Increase safety
Timelines, starting with County then sorted by city, and in reverse date order.
campaigns (with start year in red), highlights
of past victories (with achievement year in black),
and other expressway historical highlights (purple)
from the standpoint of transit patrons, bicyclists and pedestrians:
Santa Clara County:
Despite vigorous opposition from County's highway staff, with MTS leading the effort in all cases,
non-motorists won all seven out of seven votes of the
County Board of Supervisors (BOS) from 1988 to 2009. (For some BOS votes, highway staff gave up their fight against bicyclists and pedestrians after losing at the committee level.)
See Victory at the BOS ! for these wins, below.
The VTA/County Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) votes are listed separately
if that resulted in a BOS vote.
- 2009 Victory at the BOS !:
After years of advocacy from MTS, County Board of Supervisors approve update to County Expressway Plan
that includes sidewalks along expressways (and directional signs where nearby route exists) on 3/3/2009.
County highway staff originally tried to impose new pedestrian prohibitions (2005 to 2008),
and fought against creating sidewalks along San Tomas Expressway (until early 2008) by falsely claiming that there was no room for additional lanes if sidewalks are built.
To greatly and inexpensively improve pedestrian safety, the Modern Transit Society (MTS)
requested VTA/County BPAC to recommend six points,
giving priority to fixing unsafe roadway design failures of County Roads, rather than paving over existing pedestrian paths which adds negligibly to safety,
but has been County Roads' usual practice. Conclusion: VTA staff used the trick, on two occasions, of appending the words "Discussion Only" onto the agenda to prevent a vote.
Eventually the BAC did vote to implement some of these items (9/2008), but then highway staff countererd that by deleting those items from the
County Expressway Plandraft update.
- 2007: MTS letter to County Supervisor Ken Yeager:
Prompt, inexpensive solutions exist for pedestrian issues was referred to staff. An earlier letter,
Compliance needed with Board order to create pedestrian paths along San Tomas Expressway with
attachments of violated policies and orders and photos, maps
was referred to County highway staff. The reply by highway staff falsely stated that ADA (handicapped) law prevents path or trail creation
by requiring "asphalt or concrete." It is proven false by the 4-page MTS pictorial report
that includes photos of federal gravel and dirt paths in the nearby National Wildlife Refuge. See the MTS report, a
pdf file with either
photos for viewing (3.3 MB) or photos for fine printing (22 MB).
- 2006 Victory at the BOS !: The County Board of Supervisors (BOS) voted, on January 10, 2006, to seek restoring the rights that were
secretly eliminated by SB 1233 (in 2004).
Remove large prohibitory signs --half the prohibitory signs-- which increase danger and are illegal.
(Update: these were replaced by small signs, April 2005.)
- 2004 Victory at the BOS !: Roads & Airports Department was ordered by County Board of Supervisors
to remove "pedestrians prohibited" signs which violated the law and Board policy.
Don't force Pedestrians and Bicycles into the
acceleration lane! Also see nearby: Preserve
bike/ped path at Montague-Trimble in San Jose (not yet agreed to by
Requested the County Board of Supervisors: Implementation
of ACR 211 and preservation of bicycle and pedestrian facilities.
- 2003: Trimming
of shrubbery for pedestrian safety at several locations on Montague (but much more is required).
See Montague Photo Gallery.
- 2003 Victory at the BOS !: County Supervisors
adopted a policy that recognizes that expressways
are arterials and support pedestrians on paths and shoulders.
MTS had a major impact from the original
draft, which was an Attack on Pedestrians!
- 1991 Victory at the BOS !: County Board of Supervisors (BOS) ordered staff (on 8/20/91) to create pedestrian paths on all expressways
after the Mercury News Op-Ed article by MTS and an MTS letter to the BOS.
The BOS action was to
"Approve the proposed new program to provide pedestrian pathway facilities along the expressway system at the annual level of $75,000."
The staff report stated that it would take "several years" to achieve that (from 1991)
for "the entire expressway system."
The BOS also approved policy which states "encourage cities to repeal the pedestrian prohibition ordinances, except where ... area between curb and property line is impeded by obstacles."
[page 2 of Policy]
Unfortunately, almost none of the money was spent for paths during the past 15 years.
Spending the money as allocated would have ended prohibitions and the conflicts which continue to this day.
[The scanned pages of this "transmittal document" are: Staff report
page 3, and the 1991 Policy
- 1989 Victory at the BOS !: MTS and SVBC obtained County Supervisors policy that required bicycles to be accommodated
on all expressways, by requiring minimum width for bicyclists, the equivalent of a standard bike lane. Highway staff fought to ban bicycles at the advisory committee level, but lost.
- 1988 Victory at the BOS !: MTS and SVBC stopped
the County highway engineers' attempt
to re-impose bicycle prohibitions on expressways by seeking State legislation to over-rule cities that repealed bike bans.
Instead, County Supervisors rejected highway staff's request and voted
that they "support bicycles on expressways."
Now, only San Tomas Expressway still has pedestrians prohibitions on both sides of the road in the City, but it's only 1.75 miles long in San Jose,
and has pedestrian paths and/or wide shoulders the entire way.
See our main report for San Jose: Repeal Ordinance 11.32.070.
Photo (right): Pedestrians on walkable path of San Tomas "Expressway" (notice curb) with some overflowing at
Barnes & Noble book-signing. Notice "Pedestrians Prohibited" sign banning them. [courtesy, Mercury News]
Request to Han Larsen, Director, SJ DOT, to request City Council to repeal the pedestrian prohibition.
A one-page handout with photos was given the BPAC,
the requesting letter was given to Mr. Larsen attending the BPAC meeting (11/8/10),
and the link to the slide presentation [no narration needed, download 9 MB PDF file] was emailed to Mr. Larsen.
BPAC votes that the pedestrian prohibition be repealed. The BPAC letter to the City Council was censored by SJ DOT
and never forwarded to the City Council.
Death resulted by walking facility removed from Blossom Hill Road bridge. Yet,
bridge is easily made safe for walkers. (Not an expressway issue, but same principles apply.)
Remove "pedestrians prohibited" signs banning sidewalk use along Lawrence. [click for photo]
Allow bicycle access on two city streets (not an expressway issue).
Refusal of SJ DOT to allow walking on sidewalks of "expressways"
SJ DOT statements with MTS Rebuttal. Related 2003 Letter
to J. Helmer, Director, DOT. MTS got no reply to this letter (which presented new facts).
- 1997: Victory for pedestrians
on Capitol Expressway. Signs removed. See Sidewalks
Prohibited! (photos) and the huge detours forced upon walkers.
- 1989: Victory for bicycles
on expressways. Prohibition repealed. See Despite
Unanimous San Jose City Council Vote, the Struggle was Not Over
Santa Clara (City):
Now, only San Tomas Expressway still has "pedestrians prohibited" signs in the City.
See Map of pedestrian prohibitions,
showing status of four expressways in the City and the year of repeals. The prohibitory law is Resolution 5603.
[Also see details about this struggle in Santa Clara.]
Photo: "Prohibited" pedestrian path and
entrance to condominiums -- see gate -- with John Sullivan, (then) Chair, VTA/County BPAC, and member, Santa Clara BAC. (See 2004-2008, below.) Prohibitory sign
was finally removed in 2008.
- 2007: MTS requested City staff to accomplish implementation of six
Prompt solutions for pedestrian issues along three expressways, most being safety issues.
City staff called to say they forwarded this to County Roads staff. Only items #1 and #5 of 6 items have been accomplished to date.
- 2005-2006: Repeal the discriminatory pedestrian prohibition! See the San Tomas Expressway page,
with links to recent events. For further details, see detailed timeline with links to
presentations, votes, and reports. Council voted to postpone action until after Update to the County Expressway Plan.
This occurred in 2009, but now MTS is waiting for further two action items before bringing the matter before Council:
(1) completion of the Creek Trail to El Camino and (2) posting of "directional signage"
as stated in the 2009 County Expressway Plan, and shown on the San Tomas pedestrian map.
- 2006:The San Tomas Creek Trail is currently (2009-2010) being extended to El Camino, which solves the issue of opening 5 fences that
the BAC (Bicycle Advisory Committee) voted for. The BAC also voted that the pedestrian prohibition be repealed.
[Click for details, then see under March 2006 and June 2006, respectively].
- 2004-2008: Remove illegal "pedestrians prohibited" signs on San Tomas Expressway
between Forbes and Homestead. See photo, at right. [For details, see item 5 in this request to Supervisor Yeager.]
The sign was removed (in 2008) only after years of requests to City and County staff to comply with the law by removing the sign.
- 1997: Due to MTS
efforts, sidewalks were constructed on Lawrence within the
City --several years after shoulders were eliminated (despite being used by
pedestrians and bicycles and there were no prohibitory signs since 1991.)
- 1991: Victory for bicyclists
by the repeal (June 4) of the remaining bicycle prohibitions, on Lawrence and San Tomas Expressways.
To stop forcing pedestrians to unnecessarily cross the expressway [see map],
all pedestrian prohibitory signs were also removed from Lawrence.
- 1991: Victory for Caltrain patrons who were finally allowed to use the pedestrian underpass
going under Central Expressway to get to business parks nearby (June 4).
This was vigorously
opposed by the city traffic engineer. After the ordinance was changed, a huge
fight ensued with the County highway engineers (Masoud) to force sign removal.
The highway engineers wanted to prevent pedestrian use of the
pedestrian underpass which they planned to destroy in the lane-addition project
of 1995 (but which was reconstructed by MTS' effort).
- 1989: Victory
for pedestrians on Central Expressway, where MTS forced removal of
all "pedestrians prohibited" signs after a huge fight with the County
highway engineers (Allen Jones).
- 1988: Victory for pedestrians on Lawrence Expressway. Ordinance modified.
Prohibitory signs were removed on one side or the other, often alternating
at every block as shown by the map. This enabled pedestrians use of the 8-foot wide shoulders,
but nullified use for bicycling since that would force wrong-way travel about
half the time. The pedestrians were also unnecessarily forced to cross the expressway, the greatest danger.
This demonstrates how ludicrous the prohibitions can get.
- 1982: SVBC
led successful repeal of both bicycle and pedestrian prohibition on Central Expressway,
but signs prohibiting pedestrians were only removed in 1989 after a huge fight (see above).
Montague Expressway was constructed without any prohibition.
- 2004: Forced removal of "pedestrians prohibited" signs by going to the County Supervisors (May 4, 2004),
after a year of stonewalling by Roads and Airports Department. [Details above.]
- 2003: Victory for pedestrians
and transit patrons by MTS and the Sunnyvale BPAC. Ordinance
de-facto repealed all pedestrian prohibitions. See Campaign for pedestrian safety
and walkers rights.
- 1993: Partial
victory for pedestrians, who are now allowed to walk on sidewalks!
- 1993: sidewalks were constructed
on both sides of Lawrence between 101 and Monroe Ave.
- 1988: Forced removal
of all remaining "bicycles prohibited" signs after a year of stonewalling
by Rollo Parsons, County highway engineer.
- 1987 setback
for pedestrians by "revenge" tactics for the victory two months earlier:
New "pedestrians prohibited" signs, which
never existed before, were posted by County highway engineers on Lawrence,
preventing use of the pedestrian underpass (under Central) and preventing
walking on the sidewalk to cross Hwy. 101. These were removed only in
1991 (see below) and 1993 (see above) by MTS requesting city council action.
Victory for bicycles. Prohibition repealed on Lawrence. Effort
led by John Forester.
- 1982: SVBC
led successful repeal of bicycle prohibition on Central Expressway
SVBC led successful repeal
efforts on Foothill Expressway (1980) and Central Expressway (1982), and contributed to
repeals listed above.
Only two of eight expressway still have "pedestrian prohibited" signs on both sides: Foothill and San Tomas. For a summary of the current status
on prohibitions, see Recent Expressway (publicly known) Events 2003-2004
Recent State Law, Caltrans Policy, a Legislative Resolution and FHWA policy that impacts expressways
Recent California State Law: Vehicle Code 21949
became effective on Jan. 1, 2001 and states: "It is the policy of the State of California that safe and convenient pedestrian travel and access
... be provided.
It is the intent of the legislature that all levels of government ... work to provide convenient and safe passage for pedestrians on ...
all streets and highways,
increase levels of walking and pedestrian travel, and reduce pedestrian fatalities and injuries."
Recent Caltrans Policy, DD-64, (excerpt) states: "The Department fully considers the needs of non-motorized travelers (including pedestrians,
bicyclists and persons with disabilities) in all programming, planning, maintenance, construction,
operations and project development activities and products."
[Click to download policy in pdf format.]
Recent Legislative Resolution: ACR 211,
states "the Legislature of the State of California hereby
encourages all cities and counties to implement the policies of [DD-64] and [the FHWA policy].
Recent FHWA policy: See excerpts as it relates to expressways.
Photo: Brand new road
in Bend, Oregon is like Santa Clara County expressways but is named "Bend Pky." The red asphalt for the bike lane, also used on some local roads,
is from the local volcanic area. Despite being grade separated, like a freeway,
bike lanes and sidewalks were included.
Also see photos of PED
ONLY lane on CA Hwy. 190 and pedestrians on shoulders of urban state highways.
Historical and analyses articles relevant to the current struggle to repeal pedestrian prohibitions:
home page |
about MTS |
HOV lanes |
Bay Bridge |
Allow Pedestrians! |