Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Gas Prices, New Guidelines + Much More

February 25, 2013 14:00 pm · 24 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:  I commute daily from Concord to Corte Madera. I use the Richmond Parkway to get over to the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge. I notice that the street lights have multiple long stretches (a half-mile in four different places) where they are not working.

Who manages/maintains this road? It is not a highway and it spans multiple cities.

–Blinded by the (non)light

TRAFFIC JAMMER: The Jammer contacted Yader Bermudez, public works director for the City of Richmond. He explained that the problem with the lights is one experienced not only on the Richmond Parkway, but in the Bay Area, the state and nationally, because the price of copper is high and thieves keep stealing copper wire from traffic lights and other mechanized devices.

The Parkway is an ideal location for thieves because it’s isolated with little foot traffic and few homes nearby. “It’s not just putting the wire back, but they come back and do it again,” Bermudez said of the copper wire thieves. At this point the damage is close to $1.5 million. The city is trying to raise the money to repair the lights, but it looks like it will take a while, BBTNL.

COMMUTER: Can anyone tell me why gas prices are soaring in February? Drove by World Gas today, regular gas is now $3.79. Prices have increased 40 cents a gallon in less than two weeks.

–Fuel Prices Sky High

TRAFFIC JAMMER: You bet, FPSH! An excellent source of intelligence on gas prices is AAA. The company has a site dedicated to reporting on them. To learn the average price of gas in Claycord, go to their Fuel Gauge Report, and scroll down to Oakland (we are classified by them as being in the Oakland metro area).

Here’s what AAA spokeswoman Cynthia Harris had to say about why gas prices shot up so quickly:

“Gas prices in California have been rising due to a refinery issue in Southern California, which caused an unscheduled shutdown. Other scheduled maintenance shutdowns throughout the state also have an impact on the climbing prices. Crude oil is on the rise, which translates to higher prices at the pump for consumers.

Prices in California have jumped 32 cents in the past months and over 17 cents in one week. These increases are due to higher regional crude prices and the production concerns as refineries prepare to make the conversion to summer blend- gasoline.

 The violence in Northern Africa and the Middle East, most notably in Libya, sent oil and gasoline prices dramatically higher on fears of supply disruption. The most expensive gasoline in the continental U.S. is still found in California in the Northeast.”

COMMUTER: Da’Jammer, well, the California Highway Patrol finally issued official guidelines for motorcycle lane-splitting.


COMMUTER:  (Lane-splitting rules) have finally been clarified. Police can and will at their discretion ticket if guidelines abused, but by setting some they have something to work with.


TRAFFIC JAMMER:  This is indeed a momentous occasion. The CHP and other statewide traffic safety groups have created a set of written guidelines on lane-splitting. (As J, TOB and many Claycord readers already know, that’s when motorcycle riders pass vehicles in adjacent lanes by driving between them.) Thanks, J and TOB!

California is the only state in the country in which lane-splitting is not illegal. The new guidelines explain how to do it safely:

Motorcyclists can ride between two cars if there is room, but only at speeds no more than 10 mph faster than the vehicles they are passing. The rules also say motorcyclists shouldn’t lane-split at full freeway speeds or in any traffic going faster than 30 mph.

These rules were set by the CHP, the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Office of Traffic Safety. It’s worth noting that more than 9,600 people in California were hurt in motorcycle crashes in 2010. The rules also say inexperienced riders shouldn’t lane-split … and the Jammer still finds the practice worrisome regardless.

Here’s the full guide:

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

1 Howard K. Mullins III February 25, 2013 at 2:05 PM

deja vu all over again.

2 Patty February 25, 2013 at 2:09 PM

There is a recycling place on Richmond Parkway. Do they accept copper wires? I think that the law should be changed and only government run operations (or contracted) should be allowed to recycle copper. Maybe then the thefts will stop.

3 Dragon February 25, 2013 at 2:16 PM

Glad you’re back, TJ – we missed you the last couple of weeks while you were gone!

4 Dorothy February 25, 2013 at 2:58 PM

I would like legislation to pass a state law that says anyone trying to sell more than a pound of metal, such as copper, to have proper ID, have a picture taken give a fingerprint. I know recyclers already ask for ID (most of the time) and the fingerprint can be part of the paperwork sent to the state.

In which case, all the stolen metals would have to go out of state to be sold and that might stop some of the thives.

5 Bob H. February 25, 2013 at 3:07 PM

No pie today?

6 Antler February 25, 2013 at 3:15 PM

…..noticed that the guidelines say that motorcycles are not supposed to “ride on the lines”. Actually, they are riding on lines of white BLIPS, and they do waggle back and forth over the blips. I surely wish California would join the other states and ban this unsafe practice entirely.

7 jtkatec February 25, 2013 at 3:42 PM

Bob H, wrong columnist. Pie is Housewife.

8 @Antler February 25, 2013 at 3:44 PM

Just because you don’t like lane splitting, that doesn’t make it dangerous. Statistically, a motorcyclist is 14 times more likely to be rearended in stop and go traffic than involved in a collision while lane splitting.

BTW, pay more attention next time and you’ll notice that most riders stay in one lane the majority of the time. The bumps between the lines are slippery and, well, bumpy, and riders would prefer to avoid them when possible.

9 Scooter February 25, 2013 at 3:45 PM

Once again, to clarify, the lane splitting clarifications are GUIDELINES, not rules. There is however, a RULE that makes it illegal for cars to block lane splitting motorcycles. One would think that as long as lane splitting has been done in California, drivers would not be quite so ignorant about this safe and legal practice.

10 Kirkwood February 25, 2013 at 3:50 PM

Re: Richmond Pkwy
Does your car have headlights?

11 J. February 25, 2013 at 4:05 PM

Another lane-splitting RULE: Motorcycles may not lane-split with a motor-home or truck.

12 D February 25, 2013 at 4:15 PM

The Concord Recycling actually puts a 3 day hold on any payments for recycled ferrous metals – you not only have to show id when you deliver it , you need to when you pick it up. And they have cameras everywhere – some at shoulder height even, some not as obvious, and all over not just cashiering, but the delivery and sort areas too..
Section 21606 sets forth the current reporting requirements for all
recyclers as follows:
Requires the recycler to provide a written record for each purchase of ferrous and non-ferrous material the following:
One of the following methods of identification:
a. Driver’s License No. or California or United States Identification Card No.
b. Passport w/Name, Identification No. and Country of issue and an additional item of identification that also bears the seller’s name
c. Name and Identification No. from a Matricula Consular and the address from an additional item of identification that also bears the seller’s name
2. Vehicle License No. w/State of Issuance
3. Name of Seller
4. Address of Seller
5. Description of Material Type and Quantity.
6. Statement indicating either that the seller of the material is the owner or has obtained permission from the owner to sell the material to the recycler.

Section 21606(c) sets forth the Reporting Requirements

Requires all recyclers to provide a daily report of the information required under B&P Code Section 21606(a) to law enforcement. A statewide electronic reporting system is being designed by the Attorney General’s office for all recyclers. I anticipate this program will be in place for the recyclers towards the end of 2013.

13 Shuley February 25, 2013 at 5:15 PM

Traffic Jammer left out the #1 reason gas prices are up. Oil speculators. the same companies that raped America in 2008 are still at it. Thanks George Bush! Oh wait. I’m not supposed to mention him. I am supposed to blame it on Obama even though Bush was truly responsible.. Ok. It’s Obama’s fault now!

14 Scooter February 25, 2013 at 6:04 PM

@ J. Please check the facts before you go spouting off. There are no rules about trucks or motorhomes just as there are no rules about lane splitting, only guidelines. I am not sure why this is such a hard concept for folks to understand.

15 ClayDen February 25, 2013 at 6:07 PM

Those little “blips” are actually Botts Dots, invented by Dr. Bott, a former San Jose State professor and Caltrans engineer.

16 Antler February 25, 2013 at 6:42 PM

ClayDen at #15 ~ ~ ~ Thanks for info. Now I am laughing at myself because I started to write the word as “bots” (which actually is the way some others have spelled it on Claycord). Then I decided that that sounded rather uncouth, so changed the description to “blips”.

Actually, #8, I have NEVER seen a biker truly sharing a lane with anyone (except with another biker); the ones I see are riding ON the blippy-botts and, yes, are slipping and waggling and creating quite the stir.

17 J. February 25, 2013 at 6:42 PM


When is it NOT OK to split?
You should NOT lane split:

– If you can’t fit.
– At a toll booth.
– If traffic is moving too fast or unpredictably.
– If dangerous road conditions exist — examples include water or grit on the road, slippery road markings, road construction, uneven pavement, metal grates, etc.
– If you cannot clearly see a way out of the space you’re going into (for example, if a van or SUV is blocking your view).
– Between trucks, buses, RVs, and other wide vehicles.
– Around or through curves.
– If you are not fully alert and aware of your surroundings.
– If you are unable to react to changing conditions instantaneously.
– If you don’t feel comfortable with the situation.

18 J. February 25, 2013 at 7:00 PM

Most of the blips that I see are of the Stimsonite design (the reflective blips).

Botts Dots are non-reflective blips (made of plastic or glass).

According to Wikipedia, Bott used to nail down his Dots. LOL

19 Janis Mara February 25, 2013 at 10:52 PM

Claycordians! You have *outdone* yourselves! @D #12, I am forever grateful to you for your awesome and thorough answer to the questions about copper thievery and sales.

@Dragon, thanks for the welcome back!

@Clayden and all, I am so jazzed that you mentioned Bott’s Dots. Hard to say what is the most amazing, the dots themselves or the fact that Dr. Botts’ students came up with the hilarious name.

@Jay, @Scooter, @Antler: Continuing the lane-splitting discussion, it is my understanding that the stripes on the asphalt dividing up the lanes are slippery while wet? I believe a motorcyclist friend of mine lost his ride out from under him when he rode over one in the rain?

20 @J #17 February 26, 2013 at 4:53 AM

Once again, those are guidelines, not rules.

21 Scooter February 26, 2013 at 6:08 AM

Once more and then I will let the old saying “you can’t fix stupid” be the guide.

From the same CHP website that J copied the above, “Motorcyclists ….. should follow these general guidelines if choosing to lane split:”

Guidelines, guidelines, guidelines, not rules. The only rules listed on that web page involve motorists trying to block a motorcycle when they are splitting lanes.

And, yes, the painted white stripes, when wet, are like riding on slick ice.

22 Anon February 26, 2013 at 7:35 AM

Failed. You clowns got all worked up about lane splitting (how in the F is your life put at risk due to lane splitting?) – That’s correct, It’s Not – You’re just a bunch of old couch potatoes that have never even rode a bicycle.
You should be more concerned about cell phone fools and also those loud Harleys disturbing everyone’s peace.

23 Teacher Wannabe February 26, 2013 at 7:51 AM

Bikers who lane split are selfish, irresponsible hillbilly Yahoos. Stay in your own @#$*ing lane. Don’t know where the 14x came from (no source cited), personal experience (and close calls where the riders clipped my mirror)lead me to believe staying in your own lane is safest.

24 anon February 26, 2013 at 9:21 AM

I like to encourage bikers and cyclists. Keep them safe and let them ride.

As to the price of crude oil: It would be wise to use ALL of our resources. Wind, Sun, Water and Oil. We need to develope USA crude deposits as well as continues exploration into alternative methods. Depending on our enemies is for fools.

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