Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Police Driving Alone in the Carpool Lane, Trees Blocking Traffic Signals, Parking in Front of a Standpipe + Much More

July 14, 2014 14:00 pm · 29 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 JAMMERBehold, Claycordians all! Our pal, frequent poster Jtkatec, shared a photo of her beautiful restored 1965 Thunderbird in all its glory. By all means, each and every one of you should feel free to send photos of your beautiful vehicles as well!

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

–Linda H.

TRAFFIC JAMMERConcord’s hardworking Traffic Czar Ray Kuzbari has been pursuing this. “It turned out the subject trees belong to the Park & Shop shopping center,” Kuzbari told the Jammer. “We have contacted Code Enforcement at Concord PD and asked them to notify the shopping center to trim the trees as required.”

Linda H., or any other sharp-eyed Claycordians, could you be so kind as to let the Jammer know if those trees have been trimmed? If the signals are still blocked, it may be time to call Park & Shop.

COMMUTER: I often see police officers driving by themselves in the carpool lane.  I was under the impression that if not responding to a call that police officers had to observe the same laws as the rest of us.  I see the Vehicle Code addresses emergency vehicles using toll lanes, but I don’t see any reference to HOV lanes.  This almost creates the impression that police officers are above the law.  Not a comforting thought.


TRAFFIC JAMMERHere’s the word from California Highway Patrol Officer Daniel Hill:

When people see police vehicles on the roads, rarely do they realize that the officer is usually responding to a call. Most people assume that police vehicles are only responding to calls when they see lights and sirens on. This response, which we refer to as a “Code 3 Response”, is only justified if a call presents an imminent threat to life or property.

Police calls, on the other hand, fall mostly into the “urgent” category. Urgent calls require officers to respond without delay, as urgent calls will often escalate into an emergency if not handled promptly.

A specific example is a non-injury collision blocking traffic lanes. The officer must respond promptly because the blocked lanes could cause others to collide with the vehicles, thus potentially causing injury or death.

While your reader is correct that no specific exemption exists to permit single-occupant police vehicles to drive in HOV lanes, officers are usually responding to urgent calls which, if not attended to quickly, can lead to more property damage, injury or death.

COMMUTER:  I have a white standpipe in the corner of my yard with a blue lid on the ground nearby.  I think it is called a dry standpipe water hydrant and only the fire department can switch it on, my question is, should this pipe be treated like a regular hydrant and parking be restricted around it?  If so, how far on each side, 15 feet?  Thanks, 


TRAFFIC JAMMER: The Jammer turned to our resident Claycordian law enforcement officer, Officer Leo. Here’s his response to ASG:

Do you live in a high-rise building?  Maybe a multi-use building with stores on the bottom and apartments on top?  Or at a multi-unit residence, like a condo complex or apartments?

It is very unusual in Claycord to have the standpipe (if that is, in fact, what it is) in your yard for the typical, single-family residence.  And the buildings I inquired about are the most common application of standpipes.

If it is a standpipe, then -yes-, the fire hydrant rules apply.  Local government can make an exception to the 15-foot rule.

It would not be the homeowners’ responsibility regarding the parking or markings (red curb).  That’s a joint effort between the fire department and the city.  Enforcement is by the police department.  Your only potential responsibility is to maintain access (landscaping) to the pipe.

I would call your water service provider (probably Contra Costa Water District or East Bay MUD) to determine what the pipe is for.

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 TinFoiler July 14, 2014 at 2:05 PM

Trust Me, You DO NOT want Law enforcement driving 65mph on the freeway – It makes the rest of the skiddish chickens do 50mph.
It creates traffic issues and law enforcement will be the First to acknowledge that this is true.
As for the whole: “Hey Mann, 65 mph is the speed limit…” bla bla bla.
The Flow of Traffic is the speed limit, sorry – but that is just how it is. If you can’t stand the heat – get out of the kitchen. And if you can’t do at least 65 in your car – Get off of the freeway.

2 Cowellian July 14, 2014 at 2:26 PM

That’s a nice looking T-Bird, Jtkatec!

3 Marissa July 14, 2014 at 3:11 PM

Really nice Jtkatec! :-)

4 Ask any cop! They will tell you. July 14, 2014 at 3:43 PM

Ask any cop! They will tell you that yes they are above the law. Ask any Concord cop! I could tell you stuff that would make your skin crawl.

5 Dorothy July 14, 2014 at 4:13 PM

Trees on Fry Way towards Willow Pass could use a little trimming too. Had cause to go that way the other day and it was difficult to see signals until very close to them.

Other street signs: Why do cities and towns create green street signs near trees? Especially when apparently no one keeps the trees from overhanging the signs. Gets to be silly when you have to tell people to look for the green street sign up in the tree that says _____ Street.

6 Horse n around July 14, 2014 at 4:33 PM

Please tell us #4! I want to hear what would make my skin crawl to have them say they are above the law.

7 RunDogRun July 14, 2014 at 4:55 PM

At one time, I thought the trees
blocking the speed limit signs
on Pine Hollow Road were the
reason everyone was going
50mph. Then they trimmed the
trees and everyone is still going
50mph. Especially the commuters
who use it as a shortcut to avoid
the signal at Clayton Road and
Ygnacio. They have to go 50mph
to make it work for them.

8 Anonymous July 14, 2014 at 4:59 PM

A standpipe is not a fire hydrant. Hydrants put out water and standpipes take it in. 22514 of the vehicle code speaks only about hydrants, not stand pipes.i can find nothing in the vehicle code that references standpipes. Further it makes sense to allow an engine to get close to a hydrant because the soft suction hose is relatively short.A standpipe is connected from a pumping engine by a long hose and parked vehicles don’t usually impede hooking up to them.

The end

9 Atticus Thraxx July 14, 2014 at 5:55 PM

It’s beautiful jkatec. Thanks for sharing that. I ever see ya driving around I’ll be the guy waving like an idiot.

10 Killjoy July 14, 2014 at 6:04 PM

There is a tree on Concord Blvd at Clayton Way that is in need of a trim.
In the direction of going from. Clayton towards downtown Concord. The trees block the sign until you are right on top of it.

11 Eliza3307 July 14, 2014 at 7:08 PM

i see them driving in the carpool lane all the time i dont have a problem with it. there always going 10x faster then you are. It just something they do if they have to get somehwere fast they can get there. ive been on ride alongs and actually the last one that i went on we actually didnt go in the fast lane. There was traffic.Ive been on ride alongs with concord. i just dont understand why you would say “I could tell you stuff that would make your skin crawl’. could you tell why?

12 LE July 14, 2014 at 7:19 PM

why are they taking down the trees at Park n Shop by Burger King?

13 Anonymous July 14, 2014 at 9:38 PM

The CHP cars in the HOV lanes have small Officers in the trunk ,kinda like trunk monkeys. This allows them to legally drive in the HOV lns. This is a little known fact.

14 Greg Merritt July 14, 2014 at 10:06 PM

TinFoiler — Oh! I thought the speed limit signs were a maximum. Apparently they’re a minimum?

15 anon July 14, 2014 at 11:19 PM

am i the only person that goes the speed limit on Moraga road? why are there never cops catching speeders on the 25 mph strip when people are going 35 to 40 regularly?

16 anon July 15, 2014 at 12:33 AM

Interesting. Speeders are always on Pine Hollow Road.

17 Just Me July 15, 2014 at 8:42 AM

While the answer about the police in the HIV lanes was a sure hearted feel good piece I’m calling BS. Most police are on patrol. While some may be responding to a call the majority are not. The ones on an “urgent” call are generally on a code 2 meaning lights only. Code 1 is not classified as urgent and requires no lights or siren. Frankly. The majority of officers drive there because they can. Let’s not dance around the bush on it.

Furthermore. I’m sure everyone has seen the officer sitting at the stoplight who decided to turn on their lights so they can run the red. Then lights come off as soon as they’re through the intersection. On a whim I decided to follow one officer who did that. The individual ended up running 3 red lights to go to La Salsa by park n shop for lunch.

18 Michelle July 15, 2014 at 8:53 AM

anon, speeders are all over Concord.

Just me, probably a late lunch from a busy day, glad to know you’re paying attention.

19 Sacto Rob July 15, 2014 at 9:00 AM

That whole line about cops “responding to a call” is just so much BS. It’s the standard response from every law enforcement spokesperson everywhere anytime someone calls out cops for driving faster than the speed limit, rolling through stop signs or cruising along in the car pool lanes. Cops pull these stunts all the time for one simple reason: they can get away with it and they know it. Now just go about your business citizens, and don’t forget to pay those taxes!

20 Anon777 July 15, 2014 at 9:11 AM

Of course they are above the law, some legit, some not, but who you gonna call? They don’t care,

21 just a concordian July 15, 2014 at 9:37 AM

I recall a much earlier Traffic Jammin’ poster asking about why police drive around using their cell phones. The answer was “They’re talking to dispatch, and they are trained to drive while talking on the phone”

is it just me? or does something stink?

22 superdump July 15, 2014 at 11:12 AM

Honestly, its not the cops or CHP driving in the carpool lanes that drive me nuts. Its the PRIUS drivers, who drive in the fast lane doing 60 mph and don’t move over when a car comes up behind them doing 65-70. That’s what gets my blood boiling. In other states, its called the “passing lane” and you can actually get a ticket for not merging over to let the traffic pass you. Id love to see one of those selfish, oblivious, drivers get pulled over for driving too slow in the fast lane.

23 Horse n around July 15, 2014 at 1:55 PM

Just a concordian, no it’s just you :)

24 jtkatec July 15, 2014 at 2:22 PM

Atticus, you made me laugh about the waving, because it’s so much better than throwing gang signs, which is what happened one day on the freeway when a low-rider pulled up next to me with four occupants. Never knew what they communicated, but I just smiled sheepishly and decreased my speed so they could go on ahead.

25 Local Guy July 15, 2014 at 4:51 PM

Radio, Police dispatch radio, cell phone, nextel, computer. They are trained to use all of these while driving. The training is called “We do whatever the @#$%^ we want”. Most police have had this training.

26 SpankyFortuna July 15, 2014 at 6:25 PM

Grow up, folks. Do you want to have police officers in cars or not?

27 Atticus Thraxx July 15, 2014 at 7:18 PM

jkatec, since there’s a chance I might accidentally throw a gang sign waving like an idiot and my warranty doesn’t cover damage from gunfire maybe I’ll just nod as you go by. Beautiful car.

28 Concord July 15, 2014 at 9:40 PM

I’m trying to drive on Highway 4 last weekend with 60 plus motorcycles out on a ride all lane splitting at the same time at the Highway 4 bypass, i.e., two narrow lanes. What morons. I could see a motorcycle or two, but an entire motorcycle club all doing it at the same time? Errrrrr, so unsafe.

29 Lindoda July 17, 2014 at 5:14 PM

Hi Janis, Regarding the trees on Willow Pass, nothing has been done. They are as bad as ever and my husband chimed in with the light at Landana is just as bad inbound to Concord! They are starting roadwork on Willow Pass Rd. tomorrow, they might as well do the trees since traffic is going to be messed up anyway! Thanks for keeping tabs. Linda H.

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