Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Ticket Issued Six Months After Crash, Sloped Curbs, Lanesplitting + MORE

March 10, 2014 14:00 pm · 49 comments

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 trafficjammin@claycord.com.

COMMUTER: I was in a crash almost six months ago, but no tickets were issued at the time and the police didn’t ask me to sign anything. To my shock, I just got a $500 ticket in the mail. Is this legal? Why did it take so long for me to get the ticket?

– Puzzled

TRAFFIC JAMMER: This is a very interesting question, Puzzled, and the Jammer turned to our resident Claycordian law enforcement officer, also known as Leo, to help shed some light. The answer was surprising to the Jammer and may be surprising to others as well:

“Often tickets are not issued at the scene of a collision.  Accidents are not as black-and-white as our patrol vehicles.

The investigating officer collects all the statements (drivers, passengers, and witnesses), measurements, and photos (if any). He or she sees what matches up with his or training and experience.  Based on the evidence, a citation can be issued based on the collision.”

COMMUTER: My block, and much of the surrounding area, have sloped curbs. The streets aren’t very wide and anyone who has lived here more than five years and has seen the craziness when the school lets out, parks with their passengers side tires on the curb. 

Last week, according to a neighbor, more than one car was ticketed for parking like this.

What’s the scoop? On a curb that has a right angle edge, it’s obvious. But I can’t find anything sloped curbs. Thanks!

–Curb Your Enthusiasm

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Once again, our beloved Officer Leo came to the rescue to help us understand things from the law enforcement perspective. The Jammer initially thought Curb Your Enthusiasm was referring to disabled access ramps, but Officer Leo clarified this. Here are his insights, along with some helpful hints:

“This is a toughie without knowing the neighborhood.

First, as I understand them, sloped curbs are not the ‘ramps,’ my dear TJ, that you describe.  Rather, these are the soft or rounded curbs/ gutter combos.  I usually see these in neighborhoods that don’t have sidewalks, but do have these ‘improved’ drainage thingamajigs.

I suppose an enthusiastic parking enforcer could cite from Vehicle Code section 22500 which prohibits parking…

(f) On any portion of a sidewalk, or with the body of the vehicle extending over any portion of a sidewalk… Lights, mirrors, or devices that are required to be mounted upon a vehicle under this code may extend from the body of the vehicle over the sidewalk to a distance of not more than 10 inches.

I would only cite this if the vehicles were parked on the “high side” of the slope … and only if the violation was flagrant … like blocking passage of the sidewalk.

In my neck of Claycord, officers only issue these tickets if we are called to the neighborhood.  If we are, it’s a philosophy of “cite one; cite all.” That’s another point to remember: if this hasn’t been done before, someone probably called. It’s unlikely it will happen again, but you might just consider this the so-called ‘shot across the bow.’”

COMMUTER: I was stuck in the mother of all traffic jams one morning two weeks ago at the Richmond Bridge. It took more than an hour just to get through the backup to the toll booth. Meanwhile a motorcycle startled the daylights out of me loudly revving his engine as he cruised between the cars to the plaza. Is it really necessary to make things even more miserable for your fellow commuters in such nerve-wracking circumstances?

–Working My Last Nerve

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Yes, if not necessary, it was still probably a good idea, Working My Last Nerve. Consider this: First of all, by lanesplitting (driving in the spaces between the slow-moving cars in the backup), the motorcyclist removed one vehicle – his or hers – from the backup. And the backup is the problem, yes? So the motorcyclist was doing you a favor.

Second, lanesplitting is dangerous. If a car directly in the motorcycle’s path suddenly decided to change lanes, the motorcyclist could be badly injured or killed. Motorcycles can be difficult to see because they are so much smaller than other vehicles on the freeway. So the loud noise served as a warning to car drivers that a lanesplitting motorcycle was coming.

Your question also brings up an important point about maintaining a high visual threshold. As you drive, it’s good to keep aware of everyone immediately in front of you, further ahead of you, on your sides and behind you. Even in a situation like this, a high visual threshold is important. A safety vehicle such as an ambulance might be threading its way through the backup, for example.

If you are constantly scanning the area around you, the motorcycle won’t come as such a shock, because you’ll likely see it before you hear it.

Lanesplitting is not against the law in California. Some tips on how to handle it:

When you see a motorcycle coming up on you or passing you splitting the lane, check your mirrors. If it’s safe, ease over and give them some more room to pass safely. You’re more likely to see them in the carpool lane, as they are legally allowed to ride there. To learn more about lane-splitting, check out www.laneshare.org.

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 trafficjammin@claycord.com

{ 49 comments }

1 Anon777 March 10, 2014 at 2:07 PM

When I was young, my grandma lived in a neighborhood with sloped curbs and no sidewalks. It was standard to pull up and park on the sloped curb (not blocking any driveway) because the streets were not very wide. I still do this today when I see a sloped curb/no sidewalk and am shocked that you can get a ticket for it???? Makes no sense at all!

2 Concord motorcyclist March 10, 2014 at 2:21 PM

Thank you, Janis, for helping to educate the public about lane splitting (or lane sharing, as we like to call it). Your information was accurate and well-preserved.

3 Motorcycle engine revving is generally unnecessary March 10, 2014 at 2:35 PM

However, it does provide a certain degree of stimulation to the riders genitalia, an area which is usually under-developed.

4 Diablo March 10, 2014 at 2:40 PM

When I was a teenager I had a minor fender bender with another vehicle, it was clearly the other persons fault as expressed by witnesses. I was issued no ticket at the time and a little more than six months later I received a ticket saying it was my fault. Even better was when I found out the person that hit me was the son of a Concord police officer. I went to court numerous times and finally had it thrown out but I always knew they were trying to screw me.

5 Teacher Wannabe March 10, 2014 at 2:45 PM

As far as I’m concerned lane splitters, with a few exceptions, are selfish, “me first” drivers. 1 little motorcycle won’t change much when everyone else is at a standstill, but they zip right through just because they can.

6 ClayDen March 10, 2014 at 3:09 PM

@Teacher Wannabe

It sounds like it bothers you that they can do it; you are free to get a motorcycle and lane split. I don’t own, nor have I ever owned a motorcycle, as I think they are far too dangerous, primarily from drivers in cars. I’ve thought about it though……….

7 RANDOM TASK March 10, 2014 at 3:27 PM

so basically a motorcyclist can indeed be on his last dime and lane split causing himself harm and bike destroyed and then sue with no recourse ……wow those dems really like the motorcyclist don’t they. Beware of the cyclist looking to cash in this lotto ticket

8 Connie Dobbs March 10, 2014 at 3:29 PM

People who are annoyed by lane splitters are selfish, “me first” drivers. The revving is to startle the cagers into looking up from their phones. I think that’s what they’re doing; there might be another reason they’re looking at their laps and smiling.

9 Julio March 10, 2014 at 3:35 PM

Lane splitting is not a problem so long as Teacher Wannabe is not in the lane a head of you.

10 Definition of selfish March 10, 2014 at 3:40 PM

“I can’t, so nobody should be allowed to.”

11 Shelly March 10, 2014 at 3:41 PM

Diablo (#4); Maybe the other guy lied to his dad about how it really happened.

Teacher Wannabe (#5); It’s one of the few perks of driving a motorcycle, and it’s the law. Don’t take it personally.

12 @Not blind #45 March 10, 2014 at 3:45 PM

” First of all, by lanesplitting (driving in the spaces between the slow-moving cars in the backup), the motorcyclist removed one vehicle – his or hers – from the backup. And the backup is the problem, yes? So the motorcyclist was doing you a favor.”

The lanesplitter isn’t doing the driver a favor! The lanesplitter is moving ahead of the driver in line.

I’m not anti-lanesplitting, but your logic in this case is very faulty.

13 skrab March 10, 2014 at 3:47 PM

@Teacher Wannabe

Good thing you are only a wannabe. Wouldn’t want you in the classroom.

@ Random Task

There is usually no recourse for suing. Not sure what you are getting at.

14 Gargoyle Socks March 10, 2014 at 3:48 PM

How does a lane-splitting motorcycle do her a favor? She was in line at the toll booth. The motorcycle was somewhere behind her. Then he split lanes and is now in front of her so she has to wait for one more person to go thru the toll than she did before he split lanes.

I’ve heard all the arguments and I’m convinced that lane splitting is dangerous, unnecessary and should be outlawed like it is in most every other state in the country.

15 Gargoyle Socks March 10, 2014 at 3:53 PM

Lane splitting is not the law. It is not addressed at all. That’s why it is allowed. Which means, by the way, that I, in my car, can split lanes if there’s enough room to do it safely. That is the absurdity of it all. There are lines on the road for a reason…to keep order and safety on the road. Why should some vehicles be allowed to ignore the order and do what they want?

16 Connie Dobbs March 10, 2014 at 4:07 PM

#15 Why is there no leash law for cats? Mystery abounds.

17 dk March 10, 2014 at 4:15 PM

@Teacher Wannabe
@Gargoyle Socks

Quit your sniveling. It’s legal, you don’t like, it too bad !!!
If you think that you can change it then write your own bill to make it illegal.
Highway patrol says it’s legal, the Amber Alert signs on the highway say it’s legal so get over it !!!

18 laughing March 10, 2014 at 4:16 PM

along time ago the rule for lane splitting was , it was allowed at traffic speeds below 25 mph and that the motorcycle could not exceed the speed of traffic by more that 5 mph. this was mainly do to bikes being air cooled and would over heat. At present these morons are splitting lanes with traffic moving at close to 60mph and doing so at high speeds. I have also witnessed lane splitting in the Caldecott tunnels. simple fact of law the car in its lane has control of that lane and any accident that happens will be the cause of the motorcyclist.

19 rider March 10, 2014 at 4:29 PM

Bikers go ahead and be smug here and think it is all cool what you are forgetting is that when you go down it will always be your fault Yes your fault the car has control of that section of lane and no matter how it happens it is your fault for causing the condition that caused the accident. Also if you are wearing a helmet that is not DOT approved your insurance may not back you fully.

20 Sacto Rob March 10, 2014 at 4:29 PM

A ticket issued six months after a collision? Sounds like the supervision came through and “suggested” all the officers go back through their accident reports and find excuses to write revenue-generating tickets. The last ticket I got was about four years ago on the freeway for going 78 in a 65 zone at mid-day under clear blue skies when traffic conditions were light. The CHP officer didn’t even bother to look at my insurance card. He wrote out that ticket in record time then zipped back out to catch someone else. It was clearly just a revenue ticket.

21 @12 and 14 March 10, 2014 at 4:38 PM

The lanesplitters who are doing her a favor are the countless ones ahead of her that she never saw. All she sees is a shorter line. BTW, most motorcyclists use FasTrak, so they’re not holding you up at the toll booth, either.

And, as dangerous as you might think lanesplitting is, the statistics disagree with you. It’s at least as safe as riding a motorcycle in a “normal” fashion and sometimes it can even be safer because it keeps motorcyclists from getting rear-ended.

22 John Sykes March 10, 2014 at 5:28 PM

Motorcycles, like guns, are polarizing. Either hate ‘em or love them. I ride and like to lane split, but cautiously. I have blipped the throttle at the iPhone using,make-up applying distracted driving types. I would prefer a train air horn, but it would not fit on the bike. I do see crotch rocket types(I own one also..so pfft), split lanes at speeds and conditions I would not be comfortable with, when I see them come up I try to give them extra room when in a car.

23 Craig March 10, 2014 at 5:45 PM

I don’t mind sharing the road, but if you’re lane splitting, just do it safely. It’s your life you’re risking.

24 Bradford March 10, 2014 at 5:55 PM

LOL @ lanesplitters…yet another reason I’m happy to be an Ex-Californian.

BTW, you guys wouldn’t BELIEVE all the overheated motorcycles I see on the side of the road here in Texas! OMG epidemic proportions! LMAO!

Reminds me of all the stoners trying to convince people they use for “medicinal” purposes. Please…don’t insult my intelligence with your BS reasoning.

25 Dorothy March 10, 2014 at 6:03 PM

I don’t actually like the idea of lane splitting but since it’s allowed I want to hear them before I see them. Motorcycles don’t seem to be as noisy as they used to be and when they rev up some they let the car people know they are there.

26 Killjoy March 10, 2014 at 6:06 PM

I was riding to work in San Francisco one morning. Traffic was at a dead stop. I was splitting the lanes driving less than 5MPH. There was a jackass in a pickup truck who jumped out his window and yelled “Gotcha!” at the top of his lungs just as I got to his door.
Scared the crap out of me.
So I stopped my bike, and lifted the front of my helmet (I was wearing a BMW System 1 Helmet), spat on his windshield, and said “Gotcha!” and rode off.
My helmet looked similar to this one. http://micapeak.com/bmw/gs/syst3.html
You could push the buttons on the side and lift the chin guard.

That being said, I always watch for motorcycles. I pull over and give them room when and where I can. The funny thing is, it’s always the guys on the Harley’s who wave and thank me. The guys on the crotch rockets think I owe it to them.

I don’t own a bike any longer, but I ride occasionally as a buddy of mine has more than he can ride at the same time.

Let me ask one more thing. When you guys insist that it’s “lane sharing” when you split the lane and come up the the light when it’s red, why don’t you have the same “sharing” attitude when you were at the light first, and I try to edge my car in there? Hmm?

27 I WROTE ABOUT THE TICKET March 10, 2014 at 6:08 PM

It was not a major accident but very upsetting to say the least. Within two weeks, the police and the insurance company had determined that the accident was my fault, therefore, I don’t understand why it took almost another five months to receive the Courtesy Notice. If a ticket was issued after the fact, should I have received a copy of it in the mail?

28 Matt March 10, 2014 at 6:42 PM

Keep it classy Killjoy. You spat on his windshield? I hope it was worth it.

29 RIII March 10, 2014 at 7:03 PM

Think about this, you are driving on a crowded freeway and stuck in heavy traffic Your lane is stopped and you elect to change lanes and someone splitting lanes at 20 to 30 mph faster that prevailing traffic runes into you. Who is at fault? It is certainly unnerving when this person comes by at this speed and flies “the bird!” at you.

30 qwerty March 10, 2014 at 7:59 PM

Take note: HOV violation, first offense, in CA is $549 + court costs, total $649. In Georgia, it’s $75+ court costs. Someone mentioned revenue generating tickets. This a good example.

Go to http://www.transparentcalifornia.com to look up public employee salaries and pensions, fyi. The police total cost of employment figures are so high. Something like 17 of top 22 compensation packages are police, in regards to ALL Concord city employees! Thank you city officials for signing such contracts.

31 Anon 0808 March 10, 2014 at 8:25 PM

“Thank you, Janis, for helping to educate the public about lane splitting (or lane sharing, as we like to call it). Your information was accurate and well-preserved.”

95% of the way lanesplitters do it is illegal & they know it. When they crash & burn–trust me– no one cares…it is one less on the road

32 Theyellowranger March 10, 2014 at 9:01 PM

@laughing, et all who are misrepresenting the facts.

A lot of people perport to understand lane sharing law, or. Lack thereof, but most explanations of the genesis of the practice, i.e. Overheating, etc are not factual and in some cases, like the speed requirements you stated are totally untrue. In reality there is no mention of the practice in the California vehicle code (CVC). The CHP has releaed guidelines for lane sharing, which should not be confused as law:

http://www.chp.ca.gov/programs/lanesplitguide.html

And in case you are bored, a detailed discussion on the facts of lane sharing:

http://nowheelieshere.blogspot.com/2011/02/lane-splitting-pt-1-whats-deal.html

33 @8 March 10, 2014 at 9:42 PM

Or they don’t want someone hitting their car, falling over, and getting run over.

34 Atticus Thraxx March 10, 2014 at 9:49 PM

I have no problem with lane splitting. I just ask you remember the laws of physics are immutable and physical therapy is painful and not particularly cheap.

35 Janis Mara March 10, 2014 at 10:08 PM

Good job, @theyellowranger #32!

@I WROTE ABOUT THE TICKET #27:

If I understand correctly, you never got a notice to appear in court and then five months after the incident you got a courtesy notice saying you had not paid the fine. I did not understand when I first got your note that this was the problem.

Again if I understand correctly, you do not maintain that you are not at fault. Rather, you question whether you were given adequate notice.

What I suggest is that you inquire as to whether you are being charged a penalty because you did not pay on time. If you are being charged a penalty, you can ask for the penalty to be waived.

36 Janis Mara March 10, 2014 at 11:13 PM

Here’s a follow-up from Officer Leo, our resident Claycord officer:

“Yes, arguably you should’ve got a copy of the citation or some sort of communication about the investigation results. I cannot explain that.

As far as the delay: it’s not exceptional. I’m not sure how the author knows the timeline, but my experience is that it can take two weeks or more for the report to be completed, compiled and reviewed. After that, court dates are set at least one month from date of issuance. In other words, citations I am writing today have court dates in late April.”

37 @29 March 11, 2014 at 4:49 AM

That problem can be avoided by checking your mirrors before changing lanes.

38 Jay March 11, 2014 at 8:15 AM

Lane splitting is legal but modified exhaust is not (CVC 27151). Make up your mind, are you going to follow the law or not? I’ve been a member of the American Motorcyclist Association since 1969 and proud of it so I’m not against motorcycles, just loud one that rattle my house when they accelerate off the signal light near me.

39 It's everyone March 11, 2014 at 8:25 AM

The car in front of me slammed his brakes at a stop light and I was uncomfortably close to them after stopping my car. A motor cycle comes up from behind and squeezes in front of me. Not enough room to even set his motorcycle straight, he was at an angle. This is ok?

On the freeway, huge amount of traffic, I am in the “fast” lane. Three motorcycles pass me on the right and were clearly on the shoulder. I guess this is ok and is considered lane splitting?

I have no problem sharing the freeway. With those that can follow laws and are show courtesy to others. I am always looking out for motorcycles, only because I have seen too many horrific accidents and avoided accidents. It scares me. There are some that follow the rules (more and more I do not believe it is 95%). And then there are those that just have a need for speed and do not care. Especially the younger crowd that think it is cool and speed down freeways like it is their own personal road.

I would ride, but people in general, motorcyclists and others are just too rude and unaware. I have at least half a chance surrounded by metal. It may be that there is a small amount that are good drivers, do not get defensive, it is the ones that do not care and create a bad name for motorcycles.

40 ClayDen March 11, 2014 at 8:33 AM

@37

Checking your mirrors isn’t enough; you need your head on a swivel, as there are blind spots with every car.

41 James H March 11, 2014 at 9:03 AM

The writer who was so startled by the revving motorcycle passing them wouldn’t have been so startled if they were aware of their surroundings. I once saw an SUV change lanes right in front of a motorcyclist who wasn’t even lane sharing, he was in the lane by himself. I saw the guy in *my* mirror and thought for sure he was toast when the SUV pulled in front of him. Luckily, he had quick reflexes and swerved in time, but if I could see him and I wasn’t even moving into a new lane, why didn’t the SUV driver?

When I lane share on my cruiser I only do so at low speeds when traffic is very slow or stopped. otherwise, I take my place in line. I agree that the guys who split lanes at all times, speeds and conditions give the rest of us a bad name. I make sure that I am at a speed that is comfortable for me and one that allows me to stop should some distracted driver decide to pull in front of *me* next time.

To the question of why riders don’t like when a car pulls up to them at a red light…to me, it’s different because that car is putting himself there while when I share lanes I am the one putting myself in that spot. I have control over where I put my bike. At a red light, I have no control over where I am in relation to a car if they decide to snuggle up close. I have had situations like that where the light goes green and the car behind me tries to go before I’ve even put my feet up on the pegs and rolled the throttle. We’re the vulnerable ones out there so let us be the ones to decide how close we get to your car.

By the way, if the only reason people don’t like lane sharing is because “boo hoo, I can’t do it so why should you?” need to grow up. I can pee standing up and my wife can’t but you don’t see her complaining about it. Life isn’t fair, go buy a bike if you want to do it, too.

42 jtothec March 11, 2014 at 11:30 AM

Thank you Janis for understanding how lane-spitting works in California.

I’d like to make a few additional points:

When you see a motorcyclist acting like a jerk (and no one can say that doesn’t happen) just be thankful the jerk is on a bike and can’t hurt you. He could just as easily be driving a 7000 pound lifted bro-mobile. Let him be on his way. Most motorcyclists aren’t jerks, and most car drivers aren’t either. The jerks just give the rest a bad name.

A jerk motorcyclist revving an engine might scare a few people in their cars. However, this behavior has almost no chance of injuring anyone. It might even be a normally polite rider trying to get a spaced-out driver to stay in his lane while texting.

A jerk driver revving, honking at, tailgating motorcycles (or other cars) is an entirely different thing. It’s essentially a death threat. It also happens all the time.

43 Briana March 11, 2014 at 12:31 PM

@#3
Especially for females.

44 Well... March 11, 2014 at 12:33 PM

There needs to be specific rules on lane splitting. No splitting if traffic is over 20 mph. MC rider cannot go more than 5 mph over the current speed/ flow of traffic. At 25 mph or faster, splitting should be illegal. Bikes should have headlights on at all times. No exceptions. MC riders should have to have reflective tape on shirt/jacket and helmut.

Riders are always telling drivers to look out for them. They need to make it easier for us to see them.

45 Theyellowranger March 11, 2014 at 6:01 PM

@44, daytime headlight use has been mandated for all bikes manufactured after 1978, bikes made after that time do not even have an “off” switch.

I’m not sure we need even more laws, though I personally never shared when traffic was moving faster than 30.

James and several others have a very good point about the bad apples. Unfortunately, the idiots on two wheels give the majority of safe and responsible riders a bad name. I can’t begin to tell you how many “I saw some idiot do something stupid” stories from drivers. My response is there are just as many if not more idiots on 4 wheels out there. I just try to be safe and respectful of others in all aspects on my life and hope for the best.

46 anon March 11, 2014 at 6:35 PM

“The writer who was so startled by the revving motorcycle passing them wouldn’t have been so startled if they were aware of their surroundings.”

Although I agree with the rest of what James H said, I don’t care how aware and alert you are, some of these bikes come up on you so quick you aren’t even able to move over and give them room. They do so at their Own peril, it’s obvious that if you ride – your life expectancy is lowered. Ask anyone that has lost a loved one.

47 Captain Freeway March 14, 2014 at 8:56 AM

3 CHP Officers sitting outside a Starbucks once gave me the scoop on Lane Sharing/Lane Splitting: It may be done up to 15MPH over the flow of traffic and total max speed may not exceed the posted speed limit. So if the posted speed limit is 65, and traffic is going 50MPH it is OK to go 15MPH over. Some riders choose to be safer and not do it at normal freeway speed flows – which is fine too! However, an officer can and will issue a citation to any riding practices that is deemed unsafe by the officer. There are and always will be someone who is not safe or exceeds the speed or safety limits – just like there will always be people in cars/trucks who exceed the speed limit or drive unsafely. There are good drivers and good motorcycle riders. Please always assume they are good ones until they prove they are not. Thanks, good luck and be safe out there! CF

48 @Captain Freeway March 14, 2014 at 11:14 AM

Those were guidelines the CHP officers gave you. That’s not law. In fact, those might not even be the guidelines used by the next three CHP officers you talk to (especially since they’ve recently released “official” lane splitting guidelines). If they think you’re being unsafe, they will cite you, but it will be for another VC section like 22350, because there aren’t specific laws regulating lane splitting.

49 Captain Freeway March 17, 2014 at 8:14 AM

I never said it was a “Law” I also said ” However, an officer can and will issue a citation to any riding practices that is deemed unsafe by the officer. ” I never said an officer could/would cite for unsafe lane sharing/lane splitting – it would simply be unsafe riding practices. It’s funny how so many don’t read all that people write and/or “cherry pick” what you write. It’s also funny that people can’t even use their own profile name. Whatever. CF

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