Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Blinkers for U-Turns, Ygnacio Before Oak Grove, Unused HOV Lanes + More

November 25, 2013 14:00 pm · 19 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

TRAFFIC JAMMER: In the last column, many Claycordians enjoyed sharing stories of their first car, and the Jammer encouraged readers to send photos. Our pal ClayDen kindly obliged, sending a photo of his first car, a Mini, and the car that replaced it – a new 1967 Barracuda Formula S which ClayDen still has.



COMMUTER: If I am at a left-turn signal and planning to make a legal U-turn, should I use the left-turn blinker, since I’m not going to be turning left?

–Turn, Turn, Turn

TRAFFIC JAMMER: The Jammer knew the answer to this one was “yes,” but this is the kind of question where our Claycordian law enforcement officer really shines, so she turned him loose on it:

“The short answer is yes. First, let’s apply some common sense: as a driver approaching or following the turning driver, how do I know if you’re turning left or turning around?  I don’t. As a driver, your initial movement is the same as a left turn … arguably the most dangerous of the turns. Trivia moment: UPS plans delivery routes to minimize left turns.

The signal is a communication device to tell our fellow Claycordians of our intentions.  So, by all means please use it.

22107 CVC regulates signals, but it does not specify U-turns.  However, it has been established through the courts (through prosecution of violators) that it is applicable.

The other place that we take direction from is the Driver Handbook.  It specifically instructs us to signal before a u-turn:

COMMUTER: I drive over Ygnacio Valley Road toward Walnut Creek each morning.  Coming down the hill, there is a long right turn lane for Oak Grove Road, preceded by a line out shoulder area.  The traffic backs up beyond the entrance to the right turn lane, and then cars fill the lined shoulder, essentially extending the right turn lane.  What should one do if one wants to enter the right turn lane when you are supposed to and not join the crowd driving on the shoulder to turn right? If you don’t join, then you won’t be able to merge into the right turn lane.  I usually drive just far enough to the right so cars behind can’t block me from the lane when it opens up.

–Can’t Beat That Backup

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Initially, the Jammer suggested turning right on Wiget, but CBTB responded:

COMMUTER: I am turning right on Oak Grove to avoid the even longer back up going straight on Ygnacio.  My commute is to downtown, so I am turning right on Oak Grove, left on Shadelands, left on Via Monte, and right back into Ygnacio.

–Can’t Beat That Backup

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Beloved Claycordians, you are endlessly creative and resourceful. What would you say to CBTB?

COMMUTER: I commute between Martinez and Walnut Creek twice a day, and one thing I notice is that the HOV lanes are almost completely unused.  When I drive home in the evening that lane *might* have one car in a 3 mile stretch, while the rest of us are crammed into the remaining lanes.  As a result there are frequent collisions right before the interchange with Highway 4. It is a real problem – last week there were six or seven cars on the shoulder from multi-car collisions.

I have also observed that during off commute hours people don’t use the left lane – almost out of habit I suspect.  I have written emails to Caltrans, including to their president, but have not heard back.  I’d like those lanes to be usable by all the drivers. Any suggestions?

The collisions I see are on Interstate 680 southbound right before and at the Highway 4 interchange.  The far right exit lane that continues toward Antioch moves pretty well – the majority of the backup is from the lane that loops around to Highway 4 westbound.  If that HOV lane were open it would relieve quite a bit of congestion.

Thank you very much for your reply – I appreciate it greatly!

–Congestion Crazy

TRAFFIC JAMMER: This question is far beyond the Jammer’s ken, and her Barbie and even her Skipper. So she once again turned to our pal the Claycord law enforcement officer. Here’s his detailed response:

First, let’s establish that the HOV lane is the far left lane. Law enforcement counts lanes from left-to-right, so it’s the #1 lane.  It is marked by diamond symbols in the middle of the lane and the accompanying sign that lists required occupants and hours.

These lanes were established through funding, policies, and laws enacted to encourage carpooling and minimize emissions. It is highly unlikely that the lanes will go away or their hours adjusted due to their connections to monies allotted for the program and the expenses associated when creating these lanes. There is a great deal of research and study that goes into establishing the locations, occupancy rate and hours of the lanes.

At first glance, I didn’t see the relationship between the interchange and the HOV lane in the area.  Then, I looked left, right and left again.

Perhaps the reader is suggesting that if traffic was adjusted to the left there would be less congestion at the interchange and, therefore, fewer collisions. I like the idea, but I doubt it. People need to slow down, pay attention, and merge appropriately.

This brings me to the next thought … to the cloverleaf interchange of 680 & 4. I’m thinking the reader might be referring to left shoulder of the interchange. The left shoulder is the space between the cement divider (k-rail: and the solid white line. This area is specifically for emergencies. It’s for emergency vehicles to pass. In worst case scenarios it’s used to move broken-down vehicles out of the traffic lane.

If the reader is suggesting that it be converted to a HOV lane, then we are back to the beginning of this essay wherein the DOT and Caltrans would have to deem it appropriate to have one there.

I don’t have any contacts at Caltrans, but I recall that at one time the interchange was evaluated.  It was updated and the current configuration is what exists.

When we have a paradigm shift as a driving community we will appreciate and use the carpool lane, and utilize its benefits.

From my family to yours, Happy Holidays!!!

TRAFFIC JAMMER:  The Jammer wishes our resident law enforcement officer and his entire family, which he and his wife have chosen to raise in Claycord, the happiest of holidays.

And, of course, beloved Claycordians, the same to all of you. Please drive carefully during the holiday and have a great Thanksgiving!

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 Olivia November 25, 2013 at 2:07 PM

Beautiful cars, ClayDen! Absolutely gorgeous Barracuda! and that is a really nice lawn for those tires. :-)

2 Jojo Potato November 25, 2013 at 3:13 PM

Has Clayden lived in that same house all these years? Looks like the same. Or does he still have the mini now too?

3 ClayDen November 25, 2013 at 3:22 PM

That was the house I grew up in- not in CoCo County. Those photos were taken about a year apart. I wish I still had the Mini. I almost replaced the Mini with a new 1275 Mini Cooper S, but I needed something reliable while I was in college.

4 anon November 25, 2013 at 3:40 PM

Actually CBTB – Get in line like the rest of the cars. You are going to appear as a self entitled douchebag that’s trying to take cuts. I block people like you ALL of the time. It’s one thing to not know where you’re going, but if you’re being a presumptuous idiot and cutting people off Daily (example: a right lane that comes to an end, you use in order to pass people) then I have no mercy for you.

5 AU-Turn is a Left Turn....actually Two Left Turns..... November 25, 2013 at 4:06 PM

so it is twice as important to use your turn signal……

6 anon the blocker November 25, 2013 at 4:14 PM

is a blocker with no mercy!

7 Cal Old Blue November 25, 2013 at 4:21 PM

anon #4.

Read CBTB’s post again. What he is doing is legal. He is making the right turn, not merging back into the through lanes. I wish the Walnut Creek cops would start ticketing those people again, along with the idiots who make the right turn onto Oak Grove, then flip an illegal u-turn to go back to YVR. I work in Shadelands and live just off YVR, so I see this every day.

Who you SHOULD be mad at is the City of Walnut Creek, who are preserving traffic flow for THEIR citizens at the expense of the rest of us. And don’t anybody start the ‘but it’s their tax money’ argument… unless WC never takes a dime of County, State or Federal money for street repairs.

8 Dorothy November 25, 2013 at 4:59 PM

Always a good idea to use blinkers for any turn – even at lights and marked turn lanes. I just wish more people would use them on the roads when they change lanes.

9 Ditto to Dorothy!! November 25, 2013 at 7:33 PM

It really is aggravating that so many of us don’t seem to understand the importance of signaling a turn or lane change before making it.

And I’ve been wondering for a while now where all the traffic was heading th after turning right on Oak Grove Road! Silly me. Silva

10 Schmee November 25, 2013 at 7:34 PM

I’ve been wondering for years if car makers could make a u turn indicator on cars? It becomes confusion every time I make a left turn and someone is making a right.

11 Janis Mara November 25, 2013 at 7:37 PM

@Dorothy #8, you and me both! This is one of the Jammer’s pet peeves. Can’t read your minds, people. Please give the other motorists a clue!

12 Cowellian November 25, 2013 at 8:21 PM

My car has a camera in the right mirror that activates when I signal for a right turn. I like getting that instant reward for using my blinker. I drove my wife’s car yesterday and felt a little cheated every time I used my right blinker.

13 Connie Dobbs November 25, 2013 at 10:39 PM

Just this morning- the one day of the week I drive, basically, some goof decides he’s going to make a left turn from the right lane entering Fry’s parking lot from WP Rd. I’m in the left lane, signalling a turn. He doesn’t put on his blinker or anything, just starts into his maneuver. You, sir, are no rocket scientist and I hope I made you wet yourself just a little bit when I laid on the horn.

14 Mrs. J November 25, 2013 at 10:52 PM

Cowellian, I Love the camera idea! Did you install these yourself? Do you mind if I ask where you purchased them?

15 Cowellian November 26, 2013 at 6:01 AM

Mrs. J,
No it came on my new Honda, and it’s built into the right mirror.

16 Janis Mara November 26, 2013 at 9:51 AM

@Schmee #10, how would such an indicator work? Maybe an arrow in the shape of a U in the turn signal?

17 Dear Cowellian; November 26, 2013 at 9:53 AM

Sorry, I’m a little slow on the uptake here. What exactly does the camera do for you?

18 Sacto Rob November 26, 2013 at 11:20 AM

Only a government bureaucrat would make and defend the argument that limiting access to freeway lanes is a good thing. Cars stopped in traffic go on emmitting pollution. If they got to their destinations faster, they would pollute less. Open up the freeway lanes and let people get to where they want to go.
In fact, if you really wanted to cut poolution, you’d force eletric and hybrid cars OUT of the car pool lanes, since they give off zero emissions while sitting in traffic.
See how common sense works?

19 Cowellian November 26, 2013 at 12:37 PM

When I turn on my right blinker, the camera in my right mirror shows me what’s on my right, basically eliminating that blind spot. It uses the same screen that the back-up camera uses. I wish it worked for the left blinker, too.

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