Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Stopping for Peds, a Gas Guzzling Prius, “Shark’s Teeth” & Much More

January 21, 2013 14:00 pm · 42 comments

Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Every Monday at 2pm on

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Greetings, all! This column is for everyone who negotiates the highways and public transit of the Bay Area. It runs every Monday at 2pm and answers your commuting and transportation questions.

Email your questions to

COMMUTER: When you are driving, crossing the middle of an intersection with only stop signs (no lights) and suddenly a pedestrian comes to the crosswalk, do you stop in the middle of the intersection? Or do you just keep going because you could cause a car accident being backed up into the intersection?

I was driving on Mt. Diablo Street near the Concord BART when I was already in the intersection and a pedestrian was approaching, but I had already gone before he came. Thanks!

–Stop or not?

TRAFFIC JAMMER: SON, the Jammer checked with California Highway Patrol Sgt. Diana McDermott, who said, “You have the right of way because you’re in the middle of the intersection.” So, in other words, no, you don’t have to stop.

California’s Vehicle Code (section 21950, to be exact), specifies that pedestrians have the right of way in a crosswalk. However, that section also says that pedestrians still have a duty to use due care for their own safety. “No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard,” the code reads.

COMMUTER: I recently moved to El Cerrito, and have noticed some unusual white markings painted on the pavement. It’s a set of eight or so triangles, or pyramids, stretching in a row across the street at certain intersections – the one near me is in the upper part of Moeser Lane, in the median. What is their purpose?

–Puzzled by Pyramid Power

TRAFFIC JAMMER: PPP, the markings you’re describing are colloquially known as “shark’s teeth,” because that’s what they look like. Their purpose is to tell motorists where to yield to pedestrians who are crossing in front of them. Often, they’re accompanied by a “Yield” sign.

Incidentally, these markings aren’t painted on the asphalt. They are thermoplastic material with glass beads. Also, these markings are in cities and towns all over the Bay Area – you probably didn’t notice them before because there wasn’t an intersection with shark’s teeth near you.

COMMUTER: I finally broke down and bought a Prius. It was expensive, and I’m not getting the gas mileage I expected. Any tips?


TRAFFIC JAMMER: Disappointed, right off the bat, you should know that it takes a break-in period of around 10,000 miles to start seeing the big gas savings. So part of this may just be patience.

Otherwise, there is no Sekrit Special Hybrid Recipe for better mileage, according to For example, in a post dedicated to the Prius, says, “Speed is your enemy.” This is the case with any car. Whether it’s a hybrid or not, the single most effective thing you can do to save gas is to slow down.

The difference between hybrids and regular cars is that the optimal gas-saving speed for a non-hybrid is 55 mph, while for a hybrid, it’s between 40 and 45 mph. Other tips mirror gas-saving tips for non-hybrids: Watch your tire pressure, avoid stop and go traffic, and so on.

TRAFFIC JAMMER: That’s it for this week – see you next Monday. Be sure to cruise by at 2pm for more traffic intelligence. Remember, whether you drive, walk, bike or hop Amtrak, BART or AC Transit, Traffic Jammer Janis Mara is here to answer your questions.

Send your questions to

Traffic Jammin’ is brought to you by Lehmer’s Concord Buick GMC. Step up to your next GMC. GMC Truck Month is Happening Now!

1 WC44 January 21, 2013 at 2:09 PM

What were you expecting for your Prius? Per feds 51 MPG in City Driving, 48 on Hwy. Usually the Fed # is high as it is based on perfect conditions. Fast starts will kill your mileage.

2 Cowellian January 21, 2013 at 2:27 PM

Here’s your link:

I was under the impression that stop-and-go traffic helped hybrid gas mileage by recharging the battery while speeding up and slowing down.

3 Julie January 21, 2013 at 2:51 PM

“No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard,” the code reads.

well there ya go. I wish every ding dong “pedestrian” or, person walking on the street, as I like to call them, would stop being such morons and not only read the above, but have someone write this on a post it note and stick it on their foreheads before they attempt to walk ANYWHERE out there, you know, where cars are likely to go, too!

I grew up in a place where I was taught to not only STOP LOOK LISTEN before walking off a curb to cross a street (anywhere, not just an effing crosswalk) but to not even think about crossing a street until IT WAS CLEAR. you know, of cars? because, yeah, I might have had the “right of way” even back then, in the 60’s and 70’s, but a car is bigger, and guess who’s gonna win? ain’t gonna be little ole me. Yep, the car would win. it weighs more! and not being litigious america as it is now, I’d get an “aw poor thing, she got hit by a car! imagine that?!” but that’s about it. In fact, I was hit by a car, when I was 5 yrs old. I was told it was a nurse driving a mustang. And she was sorry. But? I left the curb to run across a not very busy street, to get to the playground on the other side. It was MY fault.

I think it is every ding donged human’s fault that steps off a curb or enters a street where cars are, and thinks that that car needs to stop asap, when they decide to walk out in front of it. No matter. If…they look to see if a car is coming FIRST. or…if that car can stop in time? or….coming around a blind curve/turn, and can’t stop in enough time to let the idiot human crossing the street walk in front of their two ton metal speeding beast.

If I could, I’d give them a one finger salute as I drive on by….but as it is, I must skid to a full stop, while they don’t even look my way, as they step off right in front of my car. Which? I guess, may have the right of way?

The pedestrian is always right? heh.

4 WC44 January 21, 2013 at 3:03 PM

Stopping will send a charge back to the battery, but this is more than offset by the energy used to re-accelerate the car. Friction with the road, wind resistance and the fact that some energy is lost when stopping all contribute to this. Remember your high school physics for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

5 the Shi ite January 21, 2013 at 3:08 PM

A.) You should have Never bought a car from a Stealership. There’s Plenty of low mileage Prius on Craigslist. The Battery carries an 8 year warranty, Just do Not buy a Salvage Prius, No warranty on battery.

B.) Pedestrians: The Problem lies with Pedestrians Not Stopping at the curb, Nope, they just step out usually while texting too. That’s where a Loud horn comes in Handy.

6 Connie Dobbs January 21, 2013 at 4:02 PM

“… right off the bat, you should know that it takes a break-in period of around 10,000 miles to start seeing the big gas savings.”

A new Prius is what, $30k, and you have to drive it for almost a year before it starts saving you much money? Yikes.

7 Traffic Jammer January 21, 2013 at 4:19 PM

@Cowellian, bless you, thanks for putting up the link! It’s now fixed in the column, too. Also huge kudos to @WC44 for explaining about why stop and go is gas-consuming for a hybrid.

@Shi ite, I so agree with your comment (never heard “stealership” before, that’s xlnt). Unless a person is independently wealthy, I honestly can’t see buying a new car when you lose, what, $2,000 driving off the lot? But I guess the pride of ownership is worth it for some!

8 Killjoy January 21, 2013 at 4:19 PM

Well, those number certainly explain why the majority of Prius’ are driving well UNDER the speed limit. They are trying to maximize their mileage.
I just wish they wouldn’t do it in the fast lane.

9 ding dong pedestrian capitol... January 21, 2013 at 4:28 PM

of the world is none other than Bay Point. Try driving Willow Pass from Bailey towards downtown Pittsburg. All ages, nationalities, and both men and women, will just walk into the street without looking for cars or trucks. They do not make eye contact with the driver either. Walnut Creek comes in second.

10 Equal Rights January 21, 2013 at 4:29 PM

I love my Chevy Tahoe, Leave me alone before I crunch you in your china job vehicle. I bet I survive. Love USA and have a USA JOB.

11 Dorothy January 21, 2013 at 4:29 PM

I do get great mileage on my Prius. I have found that when the MPG start to slide it’s time to check the tire pressure. Word of warning, the dealership will set your tire pressue about 10 less than the tire’s max. That will eat into your MPG. I reset when I get home to about 5 under the tire’s max and the MPG starts going back up again.

Speed will bring it down too. Going the speed limit up a hill eats into it. Going the speed limit on a flat road helps bring it up again. Weight in the car will change MPG up or down as well.

Once you are fully used to your Prius, you will find you optimal ways to get the best out of it.

My first Prius went across country 3 times. Now have my 2nd and a long trip planned for this year in it.

12 Justsayin January 21, 2013 at 5:08 PM

We drove our Prius cross country last summer and averaged 51 MPG. We are very happy with our Prius

13 Anon January 21, 2013 at 5:15 PM

Prius? Maybe the dental dam needs to be replaced.

14 Parsnip January 21, 2013 at 5:42 PM

@Connie Dobbs — That’s exactly what I was thinking. I average 9,000 miles a year. I wonder how much the blue book value drops after a year before the gas value starts kicking in. Pass. I’ll stay with my Honda.

15 TinFoiler January 21, 2013 at 6:14 PM

Oh No! A Prius was mentioned!!! All the MK Ultra Mind Controlled minions will now come out of the woodwork to tell us about their 8mpg gas guzzler If gas goes above $5.00 / gal – Where’s the genius in that? People will be laughing at how ignorant your are for spending 75% of your income on gas so you can commute from Antioch to San Jose.

16 CW January 21, 2013 at 7:07 PM

I got a $500 ticket in Concord on Clayton Rd. last year for passing a stopped car way over in the left lane (I was in the far right one) that I thought was just making a left turn. Turns out it was stopped because of a pedestrian in the crosswalk that I couldn’t even see because he/she was so far over. I was long gone before the pedestrian came anywhere near my lane so it wasn’t a safety hazard, but unfortunately a cop was around and pulled me over.

Bottom line: ALWAYS stop for a pedestrian unless you want to shell out hundreds of bucks to the city of Concord.

17 Anon January 21, 2013 at 7:09 PM

So tinfoiler you are telling us to watch out for people with faulty wiring in their noggin. . . right.

18 TinFoiler January 21, 2013 at 7:34 PM

I don’t know, just be sure the hat is pure tinfoil and has the true pyramid shape.

19 ClayDen January 21, 2013 at 8:18 PM

I don’t normally watch South Park, but one of my sons had me watch an episode that was hilarious. It was about the Pious, and the air was filled with smug.
The reality is, that once you get around 30 MPG, the actual dollar cost of gas starts to get relatively small (unless you drive a LOT). If you drive 12,000 miles a year, and gas is $3.50 per gallon, you are spending $1,400 per year for gas. At 40 MPG, that drops to $1,050 per year, at 50 MPG it’s $840 per year. So the net savings going from 30 to 50 MPG is only $560 per year, or about $47 per month. Over 10 years, you save $5,600, but you have to replace an expensive battery, so you wind up saving little or nothing. All the while, you could be driving something that is a lot more fun and costs less to buy. A good example is a Mazda 3i Grand Touring Skyactiv 2.0 and automatic transmission that sells for around $24,500 very well equipped and gets 28 city, 40 highway and a combined 33 MPG. Compare that to a Toyota Prius 4 that gets 51 city, 48 highway and 50 combined MPG; the Prius costs about $28,400.
At 12,000 miles per year, $3.50 per gallon, and the above purchase prices, at the end of 10 years and 120,000 miles, the Prius will have cost $28,400 + $8,400 gas = $36,800, or $3,680 per year (minus residual value). The Mazda will have cost $24,500 + $12,727 = $37,227, or $3,723 per year. The cost difference is about $43 per month. But wait, you still have to replace the battery in the Prius at a cost of about $3,000-4,000. So, you could easily end up spending more to drive the Prius. I also think most people would rather pay a little more each time they fill up, rather than one big chunk when they buy the car, and another to replace the battery. Toyotas and Mazdas are both reliable cars, but there is more to go wrong in the Prius, as there are essentially two power systems, rather than just an IC engine. There is also that high voltage battery pack that could be a problem in an accident if there is a fuel spill. Another reason to buy something like the Mazda is driving fun; it has it, the Prius doesn’t. I realize this is a much simplified analysis, but it is illustrative. Another plus to the Mazda is that you don’t have to waste your time removing the Obama bumper sticker that seems to be standard equipment on the Prius.
I am not involved in the auto industry, and I own both brands (my Camry is the most boring car I’ve ever owned, but my son likes it), while my Mazda 3 is like a 4 door sports car. Zoom Zoom!

20 Antler January 21, 2013 at 9:46 PM

#9 ~ ~ ~ I’ve lived in Concord for 53 years, and I PROMISE you that I never realized that in Pittsburg, Bailey Road makes a T intersection into Willow Pass Road! (…..knew it made a “T” into some street, but had never looked at the sign….so thanks!)

21 @Clayden January 21, 2013 at 10:08 PM

You keep talking about the cost of replacing the battery. Most times, the batteries will last the life of the car. I have a hybrid that has 160,000 miles and the batteries are just fine. Plenty of life left.

22 Mimi (original) January 21, 2013 at 11:05 PM

I have seen SO MANY pedestrians step off the curb and NEVER even GLANCING towards traffic! Is everyone so stupid as to believe they are invincible and won’t end up on the DEAD side if they step into a crosswalk with someone barreling down on them?!? OMG! How can so many ppl be SI STUPID? The car will WIN! Look both ways and calculate how fast they’re coming because they’ll mow u over before u can flip them off!

23 Steve January 22, 2013 at 12:14 AM

I drive a sports car that gets just ok mileage (19mpg combined), but I’m thankful for all of the other hybrid people out there. The less gas Americans consume, the lower the prices for everyone. Also, iirc, the emissions on those cars are lower too, so our air is marginally better. The Prius isn’t the car for someone like me, but I’m certainly glad that others buy em.

24 tis what it tis January 22, 2013 at 8:16 AM

RE: Pedestrians who don’t look first—-

Here lies the body of Sam McTay
Who died, defending his “right-of-way”
He was right, dead right, as he walked along
But he’s just as dead as if he’d been wrong!

25 Starfish January 22, 2013 at 8:16 AM

A Prius is a nice car-but I prefer my intrepid. It will take many years before you see a return on a Prius–but with my car, you would see a return right away. Busy day–so later chat.

26 Sunfish January 22, 2013 at 8:17 AM

Nice to see you Starfish.

27 DoReMi January 22, 2013 at 8:47 AM

I give way to pedestrians and even autos turning into busy streets. But, if a pedestrian is 3-5 steps away from the curb and I am two car lengths from the crosswalk traveling 25-30 mph. I slow a little but rely on the pedestrians good sense to stop. I will wave apologetically but I don’t see how cramming on the brakes and skidding into the crosswalk is helpful.

28 DoReMi January 22, 2013 at 8:52 AM

@ #23 Steve said ” The less gas Americans consume, the lower the prices for everyone. ”

No. It doesn’t work that way. If the company makes less money for whatever reason (taxes, fees, shortage, pay raises or conservation), the prices will rise.

The only way to force prices down is to open up ANWR and mine for more. This is wise for several reasons. Not relying on our enemies for oil being a blaring numero uno on the list.

29 Fuzz January 22, 2013 at 9:31 AM

Sgt. McDermott is correct. If you’re legally in the intersection you have the right of way. VC 21950(b) says the ped can’t suddenly jump into the street and claim right of way (not to mention being stupid). However, VC 21950(d) says that drivers must excercide due care for peds who violate (b). It’s the “you can’t run over a pedestrian just because s/he is dumb rule” –you still have to try to stop. Of course this is just common sense.

VC 21950(a), yielding to peds in a xwalk is probably one of the laws I get asked most about by citizens. Usually it is along the lines of “If the ped is all the way on the other side of the street on a 4 lane roadway, and just entered the crosswalk, do I still have to yield, or can I go through because I’m so far away (and therefore no danger to the ped)?” Well the law is pretty vague here. The law says simply ‘vehicles must yield to a ped w/in a crosswalk”. It doesn’t say anything about distance relationships, or direction of travel of the ped. In my view, the driver is okay to proceed if the ped is some distance away. I would not pull over or cite for that. I only enforce it when the ped is very close, say within 15-20 feet, but if it is a child or a parent with a child, I get a little more strict than that even. Really it’s up to how the individual officer interprets and enforces the law.


30 Paul (formerly) in South Concord January 22, 2013 at 10:12 AM

No follow-up on my Safeway gas station incident from New Years Eve. This was when a dumb woman in an SUV tried to hit my car and ultimately cut in the line for gas, in front of me.

I tried to follow up with PHPD. The gal searched and searched, but found no record of my call. Sucks, too… as the call taker was also a patrol officer, seemed like a great guy, had a nice “good old boy” chat with him and he said he’d talk the the store manager, himself, as they were already acquainted. Bummer, that nothing seemed to get done.

Actually had better back-and-forth with Sunvalley Security. Gave them all the details, answered their questions, they checked through the spotty camera footage and weren’t able to see the incident. Oh well, at least they tried and seemed genuinely concerned.

The best advice I got, was to go ahead and call such an incident in immediately, to dispatch, so they can try to get an officer there fast enough to actually witness it.

31 Really Paul? January 22, 2013 at 10:32 AM

You called the police because someone “cut you in line” on private property? I’m surprised the dispatcher even gave you the time of day. That is not what emergency services are for in the least. Just take a deep breath, count to ten and get over it. People like that will have their own karma get them in the end so don’t worry. But to call the police? Ridiculous.

And here is a tip: we all know safeway gas rewards expire at the end of every month for someone which is why that station is crammed packed towards the end if every month. You waited until the last day to get gas which was your mistake. If you choose to get gas near the end of the month or God forbid, the last day if the month, you will have encounters as you described on NYE. Just sayin’

32 Diggles January 22, 2013 at 10:51 AM

I like to walk on our public streets. I am very careful. I realize I won’t win and the car will every time. I work in downtown Martinez, which has a lot of pedestrians. What’s the deal with drivers not even bothering to check and see if a pedestrian is in the crosswalk at an intersection with stop signs? What’s the deal on Pine Street/Pacheco? There are cross walks every 50 yards. So many drivers don’t stop or even slow down (I am sure they are speeding) when I am in the cross walk? There are no lights where I can cross safely.

33 Paul (formerly) in South Concord January 22, 2013 at 11:11 AM

To Poster #31:
Oh dear… Thanks for the laugh! Completely the opposite of what I was told by the police, the Safeway staff and the security folks. I talked to all of them, to find out if it was even worth reporting and they all told me that it’s a huge & recurring safety issue, things are being documented (not sure by who, though) and… that they’re pulling their hair out trying to remedy the situation, along with the horrible traffic flow. Hundreds of complaints have been logged. Oh… the PD and Sunvalley told me that such an incident occurring in parking lot, on private property, is no different than the same thing occurring on public property. So, there ya go!

34 NautreGirl January 22, 2013 at 2:27 PM

I have a Prius, have had it for over 2 years, and use it to commute to Oakland 5 days/week, plus some driving for work. I get an average of 51-53 MPG per tank, which is better than advertised. I paid attention to how the gas consumption changed along my commute, and made note of spots where it increased (going uphill, etc.). I have adjusted my driving to accommodate it, but I travel either at the speed of traffic, or at or above the speed limit so I don’t find that I have to go super slow to get good mileage. I do not accelerate as aggressively as I would in my old car- a Prius is not made for powering up a freeway on ramp. If there are two lanes, I get to the left to let faster cars go by. When my husband drives my car, he gets around 47-48 MPG, because he drives differently and is not as aware of the gas consumption. With a little paying attention, you can get the great gas mileage who were hoping for.

35 Prius Owner January 22, 2013 at 4:35 PM

I’ve had a Prius for 9 years. I don’t drive slow and still get good mileage (~46 mpg at 65). When I’m in freeway traffic, I get 50mpg. Mileage is worse on city streets. The car has held up great and I’ve saved thousands in gas over 9 years and 160,000 miles.

36 ClayDen January 22, 2013 at 6:23 PM

Prius owners: Whatever floats your boat. I’m sure it’s a good transportation appliance, and you may have saved a lot in gas, but you may not have saved any money (see my post above). And you have suffered through many years of driving boredom. I prefer to Zoom Zoom. At least it’s a free country and we can choose what we want to drive (for now anyway).

37 ClayDen January 22, 2013 at 7:02 PM

BTW, My Mazda 3 gets ~33 mpg at 75-80. I have no idea what it gets at 65, as I would only be at that speed in the lower gears on a twisty road, so it would be worse than cruising at 75-80 on an interstate. I also have the pleasure of having three pedals to use. If I want to have even more fun, I crank the Koni’s to a bit firmer and enjoy the grip of my ultra high performance Bridgestones. Please watch your mirrors and slower traffic stay to the right. Zoom Zoom!

38 the Shi ite January 22, 2013 at 7:12 PM

Fuzzy Math. A Prius of $28,000? A lightly used 2010 3rd generation model has a street value of $18,000 – $20,000. The Battery phobia is because of the price from a DEALERSHIP, even though you can replace individual cells for much, much less. 8 year battery warranty – That’s about how long an automatic transmission lasts on an American car.
Sure, I can buy a used Pontiac G8 for More Money or an ’02 Camaro LS1 for less money and it would be more fun, but if I want to take a trip cross country, I’m not trying to see how much money I can spend on gas.
If I want to have fun I can ride a ZX10r. Toys for fun, Economy for Business.

39 ClayDen January 22, 2013 at 8:58 PM

Last May driving north on I-15 in western Utah, speed limit 80, rolling with traffic at 95. Nice. Drove over 4,000 miles n 11 days in my Mazda 3; great heated leather seats, great handling, nice Bose sound system. Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, the Tetons. Averaged over 31 mpg for the whole trip. BTW, I expect my manual transmission to last a lot longer than a Prius automatic. I got 200,000 miles on the clutch in my ’91 Mazda Protege and the transmission was still going strong at 250,000 miles. A 12 volt battery replacement is about $60.

40 frambley1 January 23, 2013 at 11:44 AM

@Do Re Mi, post #28.

Did you not know that, due in part to Our President Obama and his insistence on energy use efficiency, the US will be completely energy self sufficient by 2020 (its 2020 right? I might be wrong about the year)?

The only problem with the way we will do it is some pesky earthquakes and flammable water caused by fracking. But it isn’t by drilling for oil (19th century technology anyways) in places we are not currently drilling.

Don’t know why people are so insistent on drilling places we don’t already drill when there are so many places where the drilling rights have already been purchased or leased that are not currently in use.

41 Cowellian January 23, 2013 at 9:59 PM

I thought about getting a Prius, but I didn’t want to contribute to all the smug pollution.

42 No Excuses January 23, 2013 at 10:50 PM

You just earned your first merit badge for that banner, Cowellian!

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