Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Parking Lot Etiquette, Trees Blocking Traffic Signals, Cell Phone Bans + MORE

June 23, 2014 14:00 pm · 36 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: The Jammer must give a shoutout to beloved Claycordians who outdid yourselves last week. Atticus Thraxx asked if corpses count as passengers in the commuter lane (short answer: No). In her response, the Jammer asked you all to identify where, “kicked the bucket, shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible,” came from.

Let’s hear it for Cowellian, who was the first to answer the question with a link to longstanding comedy troupe Monty Python! Well done, Cowellian! Killjoy was next, with a sly reference to MP, saying, “And now for something completely different, I give you Atticus Thraxx’ question.”

COMMUTER: The other day I was at the mall looking for a parking spot and had quite a fright. I was driving eastward between two rows of parked cars when a car appeared unexpectedly from between two parked vehicles, going south and crossing my path.

What is the law regarding parking lots and observing the marked passageways? I’ve also seen people driving across rows of empty spaces and wonder if this is illegal.

–Mauled in the Mall

TRAFFIC JAMMER: MM, one of the most frightening moments the Jammer has had was when a maroon SUV appeared out of nowhere in a parking lot under similar circumstances. The Jammer was backing out of a space, keeping a sharp eye in the rear-view mirror, and boom! nearly got hit by someone driving through the lot behind her.

The first thing to understand about parking lots is that they are private property. The second thing is that parking lot legalities are a bit tricky, so the Jammer gives the floor to our resident Claycordian law enforcement voice of reason, Officer Leo:

“Traffic laws in parking lots require a caveat. You have to look up and attempt to understand legal terms such as “private property/ public access” and “off street parking facility”.  In general (i.e., there’s always exceptions), the Vehicle Code does not apply.

So, in the incident described, there’s no enforceable section or law.

Typically, what people want to know is who is at fault in the event of a collision. That’s up to the insurance agent/ adjuster. From experience and common sense, the answer is obvious. The driver not following the conventional path will be at fault.

Another possibility is that security may (and has the authority) require the driver to leave the property.

Finally, certain sections do apply. DUI can be enforced in parking lots. So can certain reckless driving acts. Also, some parking lots (DVC) have exceptions wherein the Vehicle Code can be and is enforced.”

COMMUTER: The trees on westbound Willow Pass Road from Galindo to Fry Way block the sightline to see the traffic signals. Are there any plans in the future to trim them?

–Thanks, Linda H.

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Linda, thanks very much for bringing this to the Jammer’s attention, as it is a safety hazard for sure. The Jammer contacted Concord Traffic Czar and Plenipotentiary Ruler of All Things Highway, Ray Kuzbari. The Traffic Czar promised to get on it right away, and will work with Public Works to get the trees trimmed, assuming the limbs haven’t already fallen off or some renegade kamikaze public citizen hasn’t taken the law into their own hands and done it already.

COMMUTER: Is talking on cell phones banned in every state?


TRAFFIC JAMMER: This question comes up every so often, most notably when the summer arrives and people are planning their vacations. To find out about distracted driving laws across the country, visit Or here’s a thought: every time you get in the car, choose a specific passenger as the Official Keeper of the Phone, just like a sober designated driver. If this is not practical, keep your cell phone in the trunk while you’re driving. Just a suggestion.

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 Cowellian June 23, 2014 at 2:22 PM

Officer Leo didn’t mention handicap parking enforcement, so I’ll ask the question. Under what circumstances can law enforcement officers ticket handicap parking violations in private lots?

2 Killjoy June 23, 2014 at 2:27 PM

Alas, I use my cell phone as my digital music source while driving. It’s hooked up to my car. As such, the controls for answering, starting a voice dial, etc are all on the steering wheel. I never have to touch my cell phone while driving. It’s as hands free as it gets.

3 Killjoy June 23, 2014 at 2:28 PM

Excellent question Cowellian!!!!! Bonus points for you!

4 BagsFlyFree June 23, 2014 at 2:43 PM

I’d like to personally thank Mr. Kuzbari and his staff of traffic aficionados for adding the new Willow Pass redzone this last week.. You have not only helped drivers turn left onto Willow Pass, you also gave drivers a clear path to see pedestrians crossing Willow Pass which is a highway during commute hours. Hopefully BFF can return the favor soon!

BFF Out!

5 Dorothy June 23, 2014 at 3:00 PM

Trees all over don’t just block the view of lights. Green street signs hiding in tree branches are also hard to see, especially at night. Green is a lovely color but I don’t think it’s so great for people trying to find the right street. I know some towns and cities change the color of their street signs to let people know they just moved into or out of a town.

6 A Disaster waiting to happen June 23, 2014 at 3:05 PM

Traffic speed on Willow Pass Road in the Todos Santos Park area during farmer’s market concerts and numerous other people-friendly functions is DANGEROUS. Many pedestrians with and without children waiting to cross (at corner of the park heading toward and away from Starbucks as well as the corner that crosses towards and away from Wells Fargo Bank) are risking their lives due to the speed (and closeness) of traffic. This area should IMMEDIATELY be evaluated for safety purposes. Perhaps there should be a reduced speed limit in the area at all times, or flashing REDUCE SPEED TO-(fill in number) signs that can be turned on and off during times of heavy park usage? Whatever the speed limit now.. it is too fast for the safety of countless pedestrians standing on those corners. Concord City Council– please check it out.

7 I'm The Urban Spaceman June 23, 2014 at 4:22 PM

Cowellian, while we wait for an official answer, I believe the police must be called (not sure if you this can be done by a civilian, or only by the property management. The police don’t patrol private lots looking to hand out these tickets.

8 BagsFlyFree June 23, 2014 at 4:42 PM

@ 6 “ADWTH” – the Concord downtown plan has WP becoming more of a one way street for this area to direct commuter traffic around Todos Santos. With that lane reduction (2 to 1) the speed limit would be lowered from 30 to 25 me thinks..

9 AnotherAnon-----Famous grave marker: I had the right-of-way June 23, 2014 at 5:04 PM

Drive accordingly. Do you want to fight with your insurance company about damage repairs? Or with the other person’s insurance company? Or maybe they are not insured. If ANY question exists, yield the right-of-way and forget being a cowboy; you’ll live longer

10 anon June 23, 2014 at 5:17 PM

“Under what circumstances can law enforcement officers ticket handicap parking violations in private lots?”

Anytime 24/7

” I believe the police must be called (not sure if you this can be done by a civilian, or only by the property management. The police don’t patrol private lots looking to hand out these tickets.”

Anyone can call & yes cops patrol private lots I did & wrote dozens

11 down and out June 23, 2014 at 5:21 PM

cowellian and killjoy: handicapped parking is enforced by the police in shopping centers and also private complexes like apartment lots. in fact handicapped parking is one of the few traffic infractions that can be enforced in totally private lots, like apartments

12 Cowellian June 23, 2014 at 5:26 PM

Spaceman, when my son was in college, he worked as an intern with the Sheriff’s Department, and he spent a lot of time writing parking tickets. Sometimes, he would eat his lunch in a 7-11 parking lot and write tickets to people who parked in the handicap spot “for just one minute” to run into the 7-11. He also wrote a lot of tickets in shopping centers in unincorporated Alamo, but he never worked outside County jurisdiction. I don’t know how enforcement works within the cities.

13 down and out June 23, 2014 at 5:38 PM

cowellian: per state law, police agencies can cite handicapped parking violators anywhere in california. the jurisdiction doesn’t matter. they can cite on public, semi-private (like shopping centers), and private property (like apartment parking).

btw, why aren’t your post moderated?

14 Atticus Thraxx June 23, 2014 at 5:53 PM

Your overstating it #6. I go down there all the time and haven’t had or seen any issues. Though the number of dogs in the park is surprising. A visible police presence during heavy usage to keep drivers and pedestrians on their toes shouldn’t be too much to ask of CPD. Let’s not go all ape-s**t and throttle traffic anymore than it is.

15 Cowellian June 23, 2014 at 6:11 PM

down and out,
I assumed as much about the parking. I also assume my posts are moderated based on the number that have disappeared.

16 @ Atticus June 23, 2014 at 8:27 PM

Ever think about being proactive for safety’s sake?

Yours truly,
Big Foot

17 Sue June 23, 2014 at 8:29 PM

I parked in the garage behind The Cheesecake Factory in Walnut Creek in a metered spot on the first floor. I hung my handicap placard and was ticketed. Since it is a private lot, I couldn’t use my placard and not pay. Of course I had assumed it was like other metered spots.

18 Gimli June 23, 2014 at 8:54 PM

I agree on that area of willow pass passing todos santos. Too many speeders. Some cars traveling 40mph and up to beat the lights.

19 down and out June 23, 2014 at 9:01 PM

thanks cowellian. it was strange: your post 12 appeared before my post 11, which said it was still being moderated. so that is why i thought you weren’t moderated.

20 Antler June 23, 2014 at 9:28 PM

#6….. I agree with Atticus. Pedestrians need to stay back OUT of the crosswalk until the light actually changes……take responsibility.

21 Killjoy June 23, 2014 at 10:49 PM

@down and out
On occasion, the Mayor approves posts from his phone while he’s out and about. Sometimes, they don’t all get approved due to a glitch in the Matrix.
When he gets home and sees the issue, he makes sure they get through.
It’s happened to some of my posts. I sent him an e-mail about it, and I’m paraphrasing his reply to me. Hope that helps explain it.

22 Safety First June 23, 2014 at 11:02 PM

I don’t see anything that says pedestrians are in the crosswalk before the light changes. That would be awfully risky and not smart for anyone with common sense to do. I think the point was clear: At times the speed limit may be too fast for crowded pedestrian conditions.

23 Safety First June 23, 2014 at 11:10 PM

(my comment was for Antler #20)

24 Antler June 24, 2014 at 8:07 AM

Safety First above:
It makes no difference how MANY people are walking around in a downtown area anywhere. Unless they are standing in the street, they will not be hit by a vehicle traveling at ANY speed. 30-35mph is surely a logical speed through all of downtown, especially during commute hours, when Clayton Road/Concord Boulevard and Willow Pass Road all must function as extensions of the interstate system.

Vehicles are NOT more likely to go rampaging out of control just because there are happy crowds of people in the park during a festival or farmers market day! Pedestrians need to take responsibility for staying out of the edges of the crosswalks until the light changes in their favor (and the vehicles really have come to a stop …… hear that, drivers?). And parents, please teach your children not to play shoving, play-pushing games near a street!

25 Thank You Expert Antler June 24, 2014 at 9:19 AM


Let the elected officials decide how to handle traffic safety and pedestrian issues.

There are reasons why MANY cities have reduced speed limits in their downtown areas. Pedestrian safety might just be one of them, ya think?

26 Antler June 24, 2014 at 10:55 AM

nameless and sarcastic at #25 ~ ~ ~ “Let?”
Of course the city departments (including police) will make the final decision. They usually do so after hearing a lot of civil discourse, unlike yours.

30-35 during commute hours is not an excessive rate of speed, in my opinion.

27 down and out June 24, 2014 at 11:00 AM

Thanks Killjoy #21 for that thorough explanation. I was too quick to think some posters were not moderated, when I should have realized it was a technical issue.

@Sue #17:

” I hung my handicap placard and was ticketed. Since it is a private lot,”

Did you get ticketed by private security or by WCPD? If private, it is not criminally enforceable, although there may be civil repercussions, like a civil suit or credit report.

The Trader Joe’s plaza in Emeryville has official city 2 hour parking signs for customers and employees, and it is enforced supposedly by EPD. I am not sure how the handicapped placard issue works for that. OTOH, the nearby Bay Street parking garage and lot is privately enforced.

28 Antler June 24, 2014 at 12:36 PM

Down and out at #27 …. Then there’s my own favorite faux pas of typing a comment and then hitting my “return” key and LEAVING (as in bye-bye computer). … instead of properly hitting the “Submit” tab underneath my comment and then waiting a few seconds just to make sure it was sent to “Moderation”.

Of course, it always takes a couple of days and dozens of trips to other threads before it hits me that “Wait a minute! That whole long political thing I wrote with PAINSTAKING politeness (and primary source links) to Dennis… never showed up”! Blick.

29 down and out June 24, 2014 at 1:30 PM

LOL Antler! I hate that too. That is why I always save my post with “control+C” before submitting, just in case. If it’s really important, I will paste it to a document or email draft and then save the text, in case it is lost!

Thanks for the warning too. I will make sure I click “Submit” on this blog (I think I do anyway, but I don’t want to lose a post).

30 Atticus Thraxx June 24, 2014 at 5:57 PM

Yes, Big Foot I like to think I am. I think we have the right balance of traffic calming and pedestrian safety in all but a few spots in Concord. Does anyone have evidence Willow Pass at Todos Santos is one of them? I usually back down in the face of hard data. :)
I like it when someone comes hard and stupid at Antler and she shrugs it off and lands her punches nonplussed.

31 anon June 24, 2014 at 6:01 PM

Some people are legitimately concerned about the safety of pedestrians in downtown Concord. It’s time for you to move on.

32 Atticus Thraxx June 24, 2014 at 6:54 PM

Is it possible to have illegitimate concern for pedestrians? If you are in fact heroically more concerned about safety than the rest of us, why are you in a hurry to “move on”? Actual discourse frustrate you? If I thought I was right, I’d press my point. Kinda like I’m doing now.

33 huey9k June 24, 2014 at 10:19 PM

@Sue #17

That Handicapped Placard is basically a “Free Parking” ticket. Using it, you can park any damn where EXCEPT a Red Zone. You parked behind the Cheesecake factory in WC? IIRC, that property is patrolled by Forbes security. If they ticket you, its meaningless.

34 Handicapped June 24, 2014 at 10:42 PM

I could care less about the free parking. But what is important to a handicapped person is not having to walk in pain somewhere and then have to worry about walking back in time to put money in a meter. Shoot I might never get anywhere to do anything in time!

35 still not fixed June 25, 2014 at 11:38 AM

Over 2 years ago I was told in this column that Concord would do something about the ridiculous, suspension-crunching, and dangerous dip as you are on Clayton Rd., crossing Market to enter 242 South.

Well, still there and unaddressed, just like with many other traffic dangers/annoyances that are Concord. Not surprised though, pretty much what’s expected from a third-rate town like this.

36 Borrrriiiiiing June 25, 2014 at 11:45 AM

I can sum up Antler’s long-winded sojourns down Memory Lane and senility-laced opinions with one “word”: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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