Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Every Monday at 2pm on Claycord.com.
TRAFFIC JAMMER: Greetings, all! This Claycord.com 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 email@example.com.
COMMUTER: I’m trying to be a good driver and follow the new law where cars must “maintain a 3-foot buffer between themselves and bicyclists when they pass cyclists traveling in the same direction. If not enough space is available, the motorist must slow down and pass ‘when no danger is present to the bicyclist.’”
The law doesn’t actually take effect until September 16th but I thought I’d give it a try.
So far, in order to keep three feet away, I have to move over the line which separates my lane from the next lane, taking up my lane and part of the next lane. No problem if no one is in the next lane but when there is, then the only solution is to slow down and pass “when no danger is present to the bicyclist”, whatever that means.
I can see tons more problems with this law: 1. We have to guesstimate three feet; 2. We have to guesstimate “when no danger is present to the bicyclist;” 3. What criteria do I use to know if there is danger to the bicyclist and what speed is legally allowed to pass the cyclist in order to avoid getting a ticket?
Also, good drivers will be slowing the traffic flow down trying to follow the law, God only knows how the impatient drivers behind them will react, but I foresee them taking chances trying to speed past the drivers trying to follow the law and creating dangerous situations.
Our own infamous David Rosen comes to mind, who sped down Treat Boulevard, changed lanes to avoid hitting a car and then killed a father and his daughter who were on a SIDEWALK.
Lastly, another issue is those bicyclists who weave in and out, paying no attention to any laws. How is it possible for cars to stay three feet from them? I can see people who were three feet from a cyclist getting a ticket because the cyclist moved closer to the car just to be antagonistic (there are car drivers that hate cyclists and cyclists that hate car drivers).
TRAFFIC JAMMER: Concerned, it’s good that you have brought this up, especially because it doesn’t kick in until September, so we all have a chance to adjust to it and practice new habits.
It’s the Jammer’s impression that everyone on Claycord remembers the terrible incident Concerned mentioned in his post. Just to be sure, then-17-year-old David Rosen on Sept. 26, 2012 pleaded guilty to charges of felony gross vehicular manslaughter for driving recklessly and killing Solaiman Nuri, and his 9-year-old daughter Hadessa, both of Concord, as they rode bicycles on a sidewalk on April 7.
The Jammer turned to our resident Claycord law enforcement officer to give us some guidance on this new law. Here’s what he had to say:
It’s a new year and there’s new laws with caveats. Change brings trepidation out in the most stalwart commuters. Believe me, I’ve closed down enough lanes in my career to see the impact. Change the rules? Fuggettaboutit!
Let’s glance back just a little ways….remember these:
Lights On When Raining
What is rain? What if my wipers are on intermittent? Do Daylight Running Lights count?
Move Over Law
It’s unfortunate that this only applies on the freeway. It’s a great law.
And this year it’s the bicycle passing law. The short answer is that there is a learning curve for all of us. Let me explain with some background:
The badge we wear is a symbol of public trust. The public trusts us to keep them safe and enforce laws without bias. So, we will use our training and experience (i.e. “spirit of the law”) to enforce this law.
We try to observe the whole situation in real time – not a vacuum. So if the bicyclist is in the bike lane or right hand part of the lane, maintaining a relatively straight line, and there is space to move around the rider, then do so.
We keep in mind the bicyclist is supposed to act like he/ she is driving a car: almost all the same rules apply. So the darting in-and-out bicyclist is just as responsible for his/ her own safety as the passing car is. The bicyclist cannot create a situation wherein the conscientious driver breaks the law.
As far as passing when safe… well, you do that around cars all day… why is the judgment or thought process different around bicyclists? Most officers use a reasonable standard. What should you reasonably be aware of as a driver?
Will this slow people down around bicyclists? Most likely. And I think that is the point of the law.
How will we learn more? Officers will write tickets. After hearing about the descriptions of the situation in court (from the officer and the vehicle driver), a judge decides if the violation occurs. And we adjust our enforcement accordingly.
As I always say, “please slow down.”
COMMUTER: I was driving along Interstate 580 this week when I noticed a truck in front of me with two huge cardboard boxes, each easily four feet tall, in the truck bed, along with lots of other stuff. The flaps of the cardboard boxes had come loose and were bouncing up and down wildly in the wind.
I was afraid something would come flying out of the boxes, so I put the hammer down, passed the truck and then settled back into the right-hand lane. Having seen a California Highway Patrol officer risking his life to pick up a bunch of cardboard from the highway just a couple of days before that, here’s my question: Should I have called 911 to report the truck? Was it actually doing anything illegal?
–Blowing in the Wind
TRAFFIC JAMMER: Excellent question, BITW. Getting stuck behind someone like this is one of the most annoying things that can happen on the freeway. While we all know the best policy is not to drive behind a truck or similarly loaded vehicle, getting away before any debris falling from the truck can ding your car or worse is not always easy.
As to the other parts of your question, the Jammer asked CHP Officer Daniel Hill to weigh in. Here’s what he had to say:
Your reader is correct. One of the CHP’s main tasks is to ensure the safe transit of people and goods throughout California. It is extremely hazardous to our officers’ lives when they have to remove hazards from the roads. The officer has to bring all freeway traffic to a stop, exit his or her patrol vehicle, and remove the debris by hand.
Also, many motorists are confused when CHP officers run “traffic breaks,” which is the method we use to bring freeway traffic to a halt. A CHP officer will perform a traffic break by activating the patrol vehicle’s emergency lights and driving in a snake-like pattern from the fast lane to the slow lane and back several times. The majority of drivers recognize this as being odd behavior and typically slow down. Unfortunately on occasion, a driver will elect to try and pass the patrol vehicle, which usually earns them a traffic stop and stern talking to, and sometimes a citation!
Roadway hazards in general come from vehicles that are either improperly secured or covered loads. In fact, transporting an improperly secured load is illegal, and the CHP can stop and cite drivers when they notice this problem. The specific law that these drivers are violating is section 23114 of the Vehicle Code, and the fine for said violation is at least $240 in Contra Costa County. Repeated offenders may be charged with a misdemeanor.
Motorists can help us detect these improperly loaded vehicles before they cause potentially fatal collisions by calling 911. If a CHP officer is available in the area, they will attempt to stop the reported vehicle and take appropriate action.
COMMUTER: Do those cameras on the side of the freeway record activity 24/7? Why do I feel like Big Brother is watching me?
–Uncomfy With The Nanny State
TRAFFIC JAMMER: UWTNS, you feel like Big Brother is watching you because he is, but these cameras are probably the least of your worries, considering what the NSA is up to and of course the fact that your movements can be tracked by your FasTrak tag.
The cameras on the freeway – more than 1,000 of which are scattered throughout the state – do not record what is happening. At least, that’s what Caltrans says, and it makes sense if you think about it, considering the bandwidth that would be required to store the tapes.
Caltrans tells us these cameras are used for traffic management purposes only, not for law enforcement. The pictures are transmitted to the agency’s Regional Transportation Management Centers across the state, where the images are used to verify reported incidents and to dispatch the appropriate response. You can see what is being filmed at http://video.dot.ca.gov.
TRAFFIC JAMMER: That’s it for this week – see you next Monday. Be sure to cruise by Claycord.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org