I know the shoulder looks like a sidewalk, but it's really not
October 28, 2011 12:34 PM   Subscribe

What are all these pedestrians doing on the freeway?

So I have been wondering about this for a serious while now, google is no help. I'm an NPR addict and at least a couple times a week I hear on the local traffic that there is a pedestrian in the roadway or a bicyclist in the roadway. At first I thought I had misheard and that someone was in a surface road but listening more closely for the last few weeks they are in fact on the major freeway (the 101).

Now I know that public transit is terrible here and as a result there is no way to get from town to town without a car but what the heck are these people doing? I have seen crazy people come out onto the freeway but this is happening so often that I can't believe it is always our local bag lady who thinks she is superwoman (no joke I've seen her a couple times, outfit and all)

So, does anyone know what this "pedestrian in the roadway" is code for or why anyone would think that the freeway contains a sidewalk?
posted by boobjob to Travel & Transportation (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would guess, for the pedestrians at least, that most of the time it's because their car broke down on the freeway and they're walking for help.
posted by something something at 12:36 PM on October 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

What city?
posted by dgeiser13 at 12:44 PM on October 28, 2011

That would be in Los Angeles dgeiser13.
posted by cnanderson at 12:57 PM on October 28, 2011

It might be people trying to cross the freeway, rather than travel along it per se. Here in NJ I see people crossing Route 1 on foot or by bike from time to time, and I strongly suspect it is in fact part of their commute to and from work, as there is literally no better way to get to the other side without a car.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:59 PM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Check the CHP's incident reporting website and you'll find there are a variety of reasons. Sometimes it's due to breakdown or taking a shortcut, but just as likely to be someone scrounging for recyclables. And occasionally, it's someone who got kicked out of a car by the driver.
posted by buggzzee23 at 1:15 PM on October 28, 2011

Ok to clarify I am actually up the road from Los Angeles in Ventura County. Also there is seriously no way to cross the road by foot. The 101 is four lanes in each direction with a median and sometimes those weird five foot high metal things in the middle. I did wonder if it was stranded motorists going for the call box but why is that news?
posted by boobjob at 1:16 PM on October 28, 2011

hmmm...seems to me gas prices might be spiking again (like a few years back)...i remember at the time seeing a report on the news about the number of calls AAA was fielding from folks who ran out of gas spiking (from 1 or 2 a day to like 200) as well...hope it's not happening again. are you seeing abandonded/parked cars as well? i generally avoid the freeways/driving in general (also in L.A.), so I haven't noticed this...
posted by sexyrobot at 1:18 PM on October 28, 2011

It's not that it's newsy news, but it is traffic news. Like, a ladder in the roadway (common here in the Bay Area, and WTF is that about?) isn't news, but it's good to let drivers know about potential or actual problems, things to keep an eye out for, slow down, etc.
posted by rtha at 1:40 PM on October 28, 2011

I think we may need to define "freeway" here. Is this a road with onramps and offramps and no properties fronting on it or traffic lights? Or are we talking about just a big surface road? My understanding is that the nomenclature differs from place to place.
posted by madcaptenor at 1:44 PM on October 28, 2011

When I was in Ireland traffic news was nationwide and occasionally mentioned wandering bullocks in the road. They're probably just mentioning it because it's an obstacle drivers ought to be aware of.
posted by Diablevert at 1:54 PM on October 28, 2011

Ok yes this is a serious freeway with on ramps and off ramps. Large, runs throughout the county into LA. Also no, I haven't seen any cars run out of gas on the side of the road. We do get the "crazy shit in the road" reports because this is a big agricultural area.
posted by boobjob at 1:55 PM on October 28, 2011

Like, a ladder in the roadway (common here in the Bay Area, and WTF is that about?)

That's about putting the ladder back on the truck ladder rack after using it, but not taking the time to secure it because you might use it again.

Don't ask me how I know this.

OK, I've never done exactly this thing, but let's just say that I know the motif.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 2:00 PM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, absolutely serious freeway. Not even like Route 1 on the east coast. I guess I'm coming up blank though boobjob, because I live near you and listen to local NPR (KPCC) literally all the time, and I can't ever remember hearing a pedestrian on the freeway alert or report.
posted by crabintheocean at 2:13 PM on October 28, 2011

California Department of Transportation: Can I ride my bicycle on the freeway?:
Of the more than 4,000 miles of freeways in California, about 1,000 miles are open to bicyclists. These open sections are usually in rural areas where there is no alternate route. California Vehicle Code Section 21960 says Caltrans and local agencies may prohibit bicyclists from traveling on freeways under their jurisdiction and that they must erect signs stating the prohibition. There are no signs permitting bicyclists on freeways. When a bicyclist is legally traveling on a freeway, he/she may be directed off the freeway at the next off-ramp by a sign that says "Bicycles Must Exit." The freeway will be posted at the next on-ramp with a sign that says "Bicycles Prohibited."
Next time you drive the route, watch for such signs.

There was this a few years ago: Crimanimalz -The Freeway Ride I (more)

Was it in LA or Ventura County? There's not many alternate routes passing through that corridor, and a bicyclist would have limited choices - though I admit when I commuted I don't specifically remember bikes. It's basically, Malibu, or the 101, or the 118 to pass East/West there, not many surface streets I can think of as alternative, though I could be wrong.

I can't speak to the pedestrian issue, as nobody walks in L.A.

This might be a good question for the LA Bicycle Coalition.
posted by artlung at 2:59 PM on October 28, 2011

It's just contextual help; it is not news for anyone except those people who need it, and those people are in cars driving 70-80mph. Knowing there's a person (or a stalled truck, or a bookcase) in the road up ahead is extremely useful information. Yes, we should all be looking for it, but honestly, with everything else going on, who expects a pedestrian trying to cross the freeway, or the car in front of you to swerve and reveal a bookcase in the middle of the off-ramp?

I didn't hit it, thankfully
posted by davejay at 3:15 PM on October 28, 2011

It's Ventura county because I listen to KCLU and it only covers the area north of Calabasas to Santa Barbara. Thanks for all the answers!
posted by boobjob at 3:36 PM on October 28, 2011

Up in Ventura, they could be agricultural workers waiting for the van to take them from one field to another. Or they're walking, for whatever reason.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:44 PM on October 28, 2011

why anyone would think that the freeway contains a sidewalk?

There is a bike lane on some sections of the 1/101 between Santa Barbara and Ventura. It has painted lines, a little bike symbol, signs indicating that bikes are allowed, and everything one expects from a bike lane. There is nowhere else for cyclists travelling down the coast to go (mountains on one side, the ocean on the other) and these bike lanes are actually part of the Pacific Coast cycle route. I've biked on them and it isn't much fun, but not as bad as I thought it would be. I'm sure people walk in those bikes lanes too.
posted by ssg at 3:59 PM on October 28, 2011

I'm with crabintheocean - I listen to KPCC all the time and have never heard about a pedestrian in the road. The thought is pretty terrifying, though.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 4:23 PM on October 28, 2011

Here is a streetview link showing the start of a bike lane on the side of the 1/101 south of Carpentia. Cyclists enter the freeway just before the bike lane starts (and if you look back, you'll see a Share the Road sign just after the entrance).
posted by ssg at 4:40 PM on October 28, 2011

I mean Carpinteria.
posted by ssg at 4:41 PM on October 28, 2011

In many places where it is safe cyclists are allowed and encouraged to use freeways with wide shoulders, there are usually maps available somewhere pointing out where you can do this.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:38 PM on October 28, 2011

Here's an example from the CHP website that is happening now on a very busy freeway in San Bernardino. It's the peak of the rush hour on a piece of freeway that is 6-8 lanes wide and this guy is hitchiking from the center divider. Most likely got dropped off by someone transitioning to the northbound 215 from eastbound I-10. He is totally screwed and can't get out of the CD until the cops pick him up:

Incident: 1359 Type: Pedestrian Location: EB I10 JEO NB I215 TBM/LatLon: 606 7H
Detail Information
Unit Information
5:22 PM 1 CHP Unit Enroute
posted by buggzzee23 at 5:53 PM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

There are a couple of miles of 280 where Crystal Springs Trail has a gap that I see occasional bicyclists on the freeway. It's always a little shocking.
posted by doctor_negative at 4:09 AM on October 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Note the 101 is a Federal highway but that doesn't make it a freeway, not in the limited-access style of the true Interstate. A lot of the 101 in metropolitan LA and the Bay Area IS limited-access, but as noted above it depends on the location -- in downtown San Francisco it's surface streets with traffic lights, on the Van Ness and Lombard approaches to the Golden Gate Bridge.
posted by Rash at 7:58 AM on October 30, 2011

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