Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Unmarked Lane, Illegal U-Turns, Crosswalks + Much More

July 15, 2013 14:00 pm · 10 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: After the vigorous discussion about an unmarked lane in Concord being used as a right turn lane from Clayton Road onto Claycord Avenue, there now is no question as to the purpose of said lane. The lane now has three right turn arrows painted on the pavement, so those who objected to an unmarked “bike lane” being used to speed up traffic flow are now free to find something else to complain about.


TRAFFIC JAMMER: Interesting things often happen after something is discussed in the Traffic Jammin’ column! Problem traffic areas get attention, safety violations are addressed … and, in this case, arrows appeared on the pavement. It’s not at all unlikely that the action was taken as a result of the discussion about this street that ran in this column.

Thanks for sharing the news, AnotherAnon. That was really thoughtful of you.

COMMUTER: I have a question: is it legal to make a u U-turn on Ygnacio Valley Road coming up the hill from Walnut Creek toward Concord? I was driving on Ygnacio today behind a pick up. The driver slowed and made a U-turn. I was unsure what the driver was doing until the truck turned.

If I needed to turn around, I would have found the safest place to do so. In this case, I would have continued on Ygnacio and made my U-turn at the light for Cowell Road. Visibility of oncoming traffic is better at a controlled intersection than on a hill and a curve.


TRAFFIC JAMMER: Bluebird, as you know, the Traffic Jammer is lucky enough to have a couple of law enforcement officers who share their expertise with us. Both of them were kind enough to respond to your question.

The first answer is from our Claycordian officer on active duty. He prefaced the response with an excerpt from the California Vehicle Code on the subject:

Illegal U-Turns

Never make a U-turn:

  • On a divided highway by crossing a dividing section, curb, strip of land, or two sets of double yellow lines.
  • Where you cannot see clearly 200 feet in each direction because of a curve, hill, rain, fog, or other reason.
  • When other vehicles may hit you.

I think these three sections cover the answer.  It’s an illegal U-turn AND the driver had to cross a median, which is another violation. There are supposed to be double yellow lines on each side of the median, but these may have been in disrepair due to the perpetual construction.

TRAFFIC JAMMER: And now, WuzzFuzz weighs in:

There is no legal place to make a U turn on Ygnacio between Oak Grove and Cowell. There is an opening for canal access about a half-mile mile east of Oak Grove, but it is clearly posted, “No U-turn.” Anywhere else would be driving across a median, violation of VC 21651(a).

COMMUTER: Pulling into crosswalks is often the only way for drivers to see oncoming traffic in my neighborhood in Concord. Old pre-code signage is on many of our streets and mixed with horribly placed vehicle spots = a disaster waiting to happen.

When public safety is a concern with any advertisement piece, the city should have the power to have it modified or removed completely if it threatens the overall safety of drivers.

–Bags Fly Free

TRAFFIC JAMMER: BFF, thanks for sharing your concern. To cut to the chase, when I told Ray Kuzbari, Concord’s transportation manager, he suggested that you call him directly and tell him exactly which signs you’re concerned about, “so we can look at them and determine if they are a hazard and see if there is anything we can do.”

Kuzbari said the city may not be able to get the signs down, but will definitely look into it.

For those Claycordians who, unlike BFF, aren’t aware of the background, Kuzbari explained, “These signs are known as ‘monument signs’ – signs like a MacDonald’s sign on the corner in front of their building. When cars make a turn from a side street onto a major street they have to inch out into a crosswalk area to see.”

Kuzbari added, “We do have a side distance regulation in the development code and any time there is a proposal to put up a sign, the planning division reviews the proposal to ensure it meets the distance guidelines.” However, as BFF noted, 20- or 30-year-old signs predate this regulation. BFF, email me at and I’ll get you Kuzbari’s contact info.

COMMUTER:  The right turn from North Civic   Drive onto Ygnacio Valley Road (in Walnut Creek) going north seems like it should be prohibited on a red light. Maybe you can see far enough down Ygnacio if you are in a very tall vehicle, but in most cars you can’t. Then if you are at the light with a tall vehicle behind you, they get upset that you are not turning. This is exacerbated by people driving above the speed limit traveling east on Ygnacio.

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Here’s the answer from Simin Timuri, associate traffic engineer with the City of Walnut Creek.

The Jammer knows how much Claycordians like detail, so here’s the answer in its entirety, as she emailed it to me:

This intersection was modified in the mid-1980s to correct the line of sight issues and the level of service for the northbound right turn traffic from North Civic Drive onto eastbound Ygnacio.

As is, the right turn can move on a green arrow in a protected phase of the signal when all conflicting traffic stops on the red light and the right turn has a green arrow to turn. The right turn also can be made on a circular green light.

The existing line of sight provides clear visibility of the oncoming traffic from the east (traffic released from the Broadway signal at Ygnacio), allowing motorists to turn right on the circular red after a full stop and when there is a gap in traffic to safely turn onto eastbound Ygnacio.

Prohibition of right turns on red is not warranted at this location and would contribute to a poor level of service and congestion on northbound North Civic.

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 anon July 15, 2013 at 3:23 PM

Intersection of Detroit & Monument, Please paint arrows on pavement that are gone from wear and tear. Really tired of people using right turn only lanes to go straight. This is northbound / southbound Detroit Ave.

2 Random Task July 15, 2013 at 4:12 PM

yeah so accident last week and several this year actually at corner of Cowell and Y.V. Vehicles traveling west bound and wanting to turn onto Cowell on a red ….DO NOT STOP they fly right through the red and tend to also follow each other through so 3-4 vehicles run the red making the right and impede vehicles making a legal left off of Y.V. and or Vehicles going straight on green light from Montecito community entrance. there is some kind of bubble camera I guess mounted on the pole at the right turn ….is that even working / what is it for……… if not giving tickets to those running the light ……..and this happens all the time why is there no police on motorcycles grabbing quotas there ….they sit at the bottom of the hill at crystal ranch rd and grab speeders …..that must be a bigger ticket and better revenue …….obviously

3 Anon July 15, 2013 at 4:52 PM

Recently they removed a traffic light facing Systron Dr. Now, on the right there is only the crosswalk light. The remaining traffic light is on the left. If you’re the first car in line to make a left turn onto Monument from Systron, you can’t see it due to traffic signs.

4 mayflower July 15, 2013 at 5:10 PM

Hello Janis;
Yesterday I was driving along on Contra Costa Blvd., headed from P.Hill towards the new Safeway. I was in the center/right hand lane, because I wanted to turn into Safeway after I crossed the intersection at SV Mall. So anyway here I am driving along, and all of a sudden I see a blue car almost side swipe me, almost took off my wing mirror, and take off. I instinctively slowed down and pulled to the right, thankfully there was no car in that lane. I got a good look at the car, it was a 2 door light blue Lincoln Mark VIII or similar about 10 years old, driven by a really short old lady, she was so close to the steering wheel, she could’ve used her breast to blow her horn, if needed, and with her was an equally elderly companion in the passenger seat. She was flooring it, but just could not stay in her lane. I don’t think she was aware of her driving because I could see them chatting away as she flew down the road. I decided to stay well back and hope a cop materialized so I could point her out to him, but by then I had reached Safeway. I think she made a left onto Golf Course Road. I hope anyone reading this who just happens to know off an old lady with a 2 door light blue Lincoln, that she could be endangering herself or other drivers.
What’s your best advice for this kind of situation ? Should I have called 911 or the non-emergency number ? Thank you

5 Janis Mara July 15, 2013 at 5:34 PM

Wow, @mayflower #4, I am so glad you are OK! What a scary encounter! Right off the bat I’m almost inclined to think 911, because of your comments, “She was flooring it, just could not stay in her lane. I don’t think she was aware of her driving….” Seems like a wake-up call is in order for this lady!

6 Larry July 15, 2013 at 6:44 PM

Next time I spend $46,000.00 on a new car I will make sure it has working turn signals.

7 Johann Gambolputty de von Ausfern- schplenden- schlitter- crasscrenbon- fried- digger- dingle- dangle- dongle- dungle- burstein- von- knacker- thrasher- apple- banger- horowitz- ticolensic- grander- knotty- spelltinkle- grandlich- grumblemeyer- spelterwas July 16, 2013 at 12:19 AM

i dont think whoever designed the osh/clayton-ygnacio valley rd. shopping center could have made it more dangerous entering and exiting if they tried.
if you exit onto ygnacio the first lane, when looking to the left for oncoming traffic looks like it is a turn lane into the center, but its not. also if you pull out when you dont see cars coming because of the low visibility they come flying down on top of you.
the 2nd entrance/exit that is a mess is the one on clayton rd. theres too much going on in that area as soon as you pull in with the bank right there and the way parking is set up. then if someone wants to wait after pulling in for a spot to open traffic gets backed up on clayton and from which ever way the traffic was coming.
those areas really need to be redone.

8 WuzzFuzz July 16, 2013 at 11:54 AM


Miss Timuri is wrong on two counts: The intersection wasn’t changed in the mid 80′s but rather the early 90s, it used to be only 1 right turn only lane with a “pork chop” median. Civic used to back up all the way into downtown during the pm commute. It was revamped to allow two lanes to turn right from NB Civic to EB YVR, which did alleviate the congestion quite a bit.

More importantly, there is NO clear line of sight for NB Civic motorists to turn right onto EB YVR. Civic basically runs along the spine of a small rise at that location–you can see across the intersection and possibly 50′ further. EB traffic from Broadway goes into a slight downgrade then an upgrade approaching the intersection. Because of this, most motorists don’t turn right on red anyway, because of the safety factor, they just can’t see if an EB car is coming at them out of the “valley”. If the sun is low in the western sky during the evening, it makes it even tougher for motorists to see. I bet if the WC traffic engineers studied it, 90 or 95% of motorists turning right onto EB YVR do it on either the green right turn arrow or the green circular signal, NOT the right on red. Her assertion that prohibiting right turns on red would cause traffic congestion is not warranted by the facts. Just because she holds the title of Assoc. Traffic Engineer doesn’t make her assertions true. If there was any single intersection in WC that warranted a no right turn on red, this is it.

9 Anonymous July 16, 2013 at 12:47 PM

The light at the intersection of Salvio and East streets seems to have been reset recently. When travelling (generally) east or west on Salvio, if you catch the red light at East street, you’ll wind up waiting a good 2 minutes for the light to change. I know, this isn’t a huge amount of time but the light used to be triggered by the sensors under the pavement. When I come home late at night after work, seems ridiculous to sit there for that long when there’s NO OTHER TRAFFIC. To whom do we report/complain? Freely admit, I’ve already run it several times as there’s no sensible reason to wait.

10 Janis Mara July 16, 2013 at 10:35 PM

@WuzzFuzz #8, thanks very much for sharing your perspective. We are so lucky here at to have you and our other Claycordian law enforcement officer to contribute your expertise. I will email your comment to Simin Timuri in hopes of getting a reaction from her.

@Anonymous #9, I assume you mean Salvio and East streets in Concord near Realty World, yes? Will check in with our pal Ray Kuzbari, the transportation manager, and see if he’ll help us out here.

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