Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Monument Blvd. Offramp, Panhandlers on the Highway, Motorcyclists Cutting in Line + MORE

July 17, 2017 14:00 pm · 25 comments

Traffic Jammin’ with Janis Mara – Every first and third Monday at 2 p.m. on

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Greetings, all! This column is for everyone who negotiates the highways and public transit of the Bay Area. It runs every first and third Monday of the month at 2pm and answers your commuting and transportation questions.

Email your questions to

COMMUTER: This concerns the northbound Interstate offramp at Monument Boulevard. At the end of the ramp, there are three lanes. The left lane turns left onto Monument.

The middle lane is supposed to turn right into the far left lane on Monument. The right lane has a choice to turn into the middle or right lane.

This is what the lane markings and Botts Dots indicate, but the markings are difficult to see because they are old and faded and the Botts Dots have mostly disappeared.

I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I’ve almost been side-swiped by cars in the middle lane turning into the middle lane on Monument. I’ve witnessed hundreds more  near-accidents … one almost every time I use that off-ramp. The lane markings must be repainted ASAP before someone gets injured there!

–Frustrated Driver

TRAFFIC JAMMER: Frustrated Driver, the Jammer appreciates your concern very much. I shared your note with Shannon Brinias, the public information officer for Caltrans District Four. Claycord falls within District Four.

Brinias said she would look into it, and she also asked if you would report it yourself. Here’s how to do it – something that could come in handy for you and other beloved Claycordians if you see dangerous or bothersome conditions.

Go to You’ll see a banner, “Online services.” Hover your cursor over the banner and you’ll see a choice, “Report a pothole/customer service request.” Click on this and follow the prompts.

By doing so, “that way, it gets identified, tagged and tracked as it works its way through the system and we can dispatch the proper teams and it doesn’t get lost in the mess of going through the phone system,” Brinias said. She added that the person who files the customer service request will be notified if the problem is fixed, or if it is best reported to a different agency.

This is what to do if you see something that is under Caltrans’ jurisdiction. Generally, this means the freeways, offramps and bridges of the Bay Area other than the Golden Gate Bridge.

COMMUTER: Why do motorcyclists think they have the right to cut in line at intersections? I’m referring to the ones that drive between cars stopped at a red light until they are in front of all the other vehicles, often sticking into the intersection.


TRAFFIC JAMMER:  If you don’t ride a motorcycle, it might seem as though those folks are trying to jump the line, Annoyed. But that’s not what’s going on. Motorcyclists don’t have lots of metal and a car chassis protecting them, and they’re easily missed by drivers because of their small size. With that in mind, they must keep a cushion of space around them to help in avoiding getting hit by cars or trucks.

Here’s the word from the California Drivers’ Handbook motorcycle section: “The best protection you can have is distance – a ‘cushion of space’ – all around your motorcycle. If someone else makes a mistake, distance gives you time to react and space to maneuver.”

By riding to the head of the line, the motorcyclist avoids being surrounded by cars and can get ahead of the other vehicles when the light changes, maintaining that cushion of space.

COMMUTER:  I saw a street sign (discouraging panhandling) on Somersville Road in Antioch, and found a related article in “The Press”, a publication for east Contra Costa County.

I have seen panhandlers in what I consider risky locations, like standing on the narrow median between lanes that enter and exit 242 at Willow Pass and Market, for example.

It is distracting to be approaching their narrow spot at freeway exit speeds, especially when we seem to be reading about pedestrians being hit by autos much more frequently.  I believe that they wouldn’t be there if they weren’t successful at getting handouts, and would like to see these signs in places all over Concord.  What is your opinion, and do you know if the city has considered these signs? 

–Pedestrian Panhandler Paranoid

TRAFFIC JAMMER:  The Jammer is glad you raised this issue, PPP. This does fall within the purview of the Traffic Jammer, since it concerns the median. Experts say it’s not wise to give money to panhandlers. The panhandlers might not spend the money on food or lodging, but might make unwise choices.

Those of you who followed the link probably saw that the sign suggests giving to local charities. Another approach would be to donate to local homeless programs.

Finally, as to whether the sign would be helpful: Beloved Claycordians, what do you think? If many of you think it would be helpful, that will carry weight with city officials.

TRAFFIC JAMMER: That’s it for this week. Be sure to cruise by at 2pm on the first and third Mondays of the month for more traffic intelligence. Remember, whether you drive, walk, bike or hop Amtrak, BART, County Connection or AC Transit, Traffic Jammer Janis Mara is here to answer your questions.

Send your questions to

Jojo Potato July 17, 2017 at 2:25 PM

NB 680 Willow pass offramp, right now panhandler working the left lane. Anyone caee?

Star Lord July 17, 2017 at 2:28 PM

Regarding motorcycles splitting up to the front. That is 100% legal in CA when done in a safe manner.

Amy July 17, 2017 at 2:37 PM

There must be a reason panhandlers are at freeway on-ramps and exits. Is it because those areas are not part of the City limits? If not, why aren’t the police making them move? If that is County then the sheriff dept. can run them off. They are a distraction and a traffic hazard.

WC July 17, 2017 at 2:38 PM

Seriously if you’re all excited about some guy on a motorcycle going to the front at an intersection you need to get a life. In over 47 years of driving I’ve yet to see one hold anybody up,

lincolnlog July 17, 2017 at 2:52 PM

I know motorcycles have a problems with other vehicles not seeing them. Traffic Jammer said they go to the front of the queue because of that. They go to the front because they can, that’s all. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen motorcycles breaking the law, passing on the shoulder, passing on double yellow, speeding between lanes(not just lane splitting), tailgating in a blind spot, Yes cars do a bunch of bad stuff too. Be careful out there.

TIFOKCIS July 17, 2017 at 2:54 PM

Re: annoyed.

Thank you Janis.

ClayDen July 17, 2017 at 2:54 PM

Several years ago when I was driving to and from San Diego frequently, I noticed that there was a stretch of I-5 southbound about 100 miles from Clayton that was much higher (75-100′?) than the northbound lanes and there was no guardrail or anything to prevent a driver from going airborne and likely into the northbound lanes. In any case, significant injury or death was likely to result. It wouldn’t take much, such as a distraction, mechanical failure or simply starting to doze off. I reported the problem to CalTrans and noticed that it wasn’t too long before there was a concrete barrier in place. I’m not sure if my call had anything to do with the barrier, but it may have.

Regarding panhandling, I saw a panhandler in Monterey not too long ago that I have to give credit to for being creative: his sign read “my wife had a better lawyer”

dinkydau July 17, 2017 at 3:14 PM

Reason for panhandlers standing at certain spots, is that motorists have given them money at that spot so they think its a good spot to get money. Instead of money, why not a gift certificate at Mickey D’s? Then they wont have the money to spend on alcohol cigarettes. I saw one person with their dog to get sympathy. I wont give them anything if they have a dog. Now I got to give him more money so he can buy food for the dog. Nope. I will give him a gift certificate or a bottle of water and thats it. Hell sometimes they go to Mickey D’s to get coffee. Why dont they ask for employment there. You dont see high chool kids anymore behind the counter. Its older people now.

Irish Hooligan July 17, 2017 at 3:35 PM

My dad owned a construction business for years. He loved to offer work to any panhandler with a sign. In all his years he never had someone actually want work, they just wanted handouts. Give to charities, not to the people at the bottom of the offramps.

These people need to be cleared off the intersections. They look sketchy, They give the city a bad image and they probably aren’t using the money for food. I think it was KTVU that did an espose a few years ago on roadside panhandlers. Spoiler alert: many have homes and this is just how they make their money. Or it’s how an addict gets money for drugs.

Fred July 17, 2017 at 4:12 PM

“cutting in line” is part of the frustration that people have with traffic. Everyone wants to be first even tho they aren’t making any faster projress than anyone else. Slow down, relax, don’t let it bother you. Or do like me and move away.

Just saying July 17, 2017 at 4:40 PM

Many MC riders use the loophole as an excuse to get ahead. They don’t call them HOGS for nothing.

Ricardoh July 17, 2017 at 4:40 PM

# 10 California should have learned that the more you do for the homeless the more homeless you will have. Same as welfare. When you give they will come.

JazzMan July 17, 2017 at 4:41 PM

I’ve seen beggars use their kids to gain the sympathy of drivers. Sad.

Mika July 17, 2017 at 5:40 PM

Why CAN’T cities run off the panhandlers at freeway on/off ramps. It dangerous and i hate when I am stopped at a red light right next to them, I roll up, lock up, don’t feel safe. They might get mad cuz I ain’t giving them anything.

America July 17, 2017 at 6:21 PM

America….Our streets are lined with gold, right?

Shoulda Coulda July 17, 2017 at 6:24 PM

My wife knew a CHP motor officer that tried to
remove a panhandler from a freeway off ramp.
The officer discovered that the so called needy
person was parking their car down the street
and owned a home in Richmond. After ticketing
this person several times the officer was told to
stop doing this by higher ups in the department
and leave him alone. Needless to say the officer
was very frustrated.

Bob Foo July 17, 2017 at 6:39 PM

Instead of whining about motorcyclists splitting lanes (which is completely legal), why don’t you all give motorcyclists for not contributing to the huge traffic problems we have in the area?

Motorcyclists are allowed to split lanes and keep moving because back in the day, motorcycles were prone to overheating if they sat still for too long in hot weather. Modern bikes don’t have that problem, but allowing bikers to split lanes and move to the front undoubtedly eases up the traffic.

Chicken Little July 17, 2017 at 6:42 PM

@Just saying,
It’s not a “loophole”. It’s the law. They’re allowed to do that. It makes no difference why.

Scoob July 17, 2017 at 6:43 PM

Thank you Janis for your reasonable response to the motorcycle question. You are correct that we just want to get away from other vehicles. And if done safely, this is totally legal. We also appreciate it if car drivers give us a little room to get past their side-view mirrors. To the commenters, please don’t mix illegal driving behavior with legal maneuvers – two totally separate things. Most motorcycle riders want to LIVE, and therefore don’t ride like idiots. Share the road.

Mel July 17, 2017 at 6:48 PM

Do not even give them water. You are reinforcing them being there. If everyone would stop giving them stuff at on and off ramps, then there wouldn’t be this problem. Do not fed the bears, as they become dependant on people.

anonnnnaannoonn July 17, 2017 at 7:18 PM

RE: Frustrated Driver, and Ms Mara
I completely agree with this problem at this off-ramp! However, right now they are redoing that stretch of road, and there are almost NO lane stripes at all! Guess that gives drivers free choice as to which lane they want to turn into. VERY SCARY!!!!!!!!!

Pac islander July 17, 2017 at 10:27 PM

Don’t feed the bears

Coach Stan July 18, 2017 at 9:20 AM

It is 100% illegal to panhandle in the medians of Emeryville!

I witnessed a beggar standing in the median by Little Caesars. He said he was hoping to get enough money to buy a pizza for dinner since the dumpster was empty. Then a police car came along and announced on the loudspeaker: “Sir, standing in the median is not allowed in Emeryville”.

Racquel SantaBarbara July 18, 2017 at 1:58 PM

I don’t give panhandlers a dime. Anyone that helps them is enabling them. They are not interested in a cup of coffee or a job. They only want cash for drugs/alcohol. The only ones that make me sad are the dogs. These dogs deserve a better life. If everyone stops enabling them, the hobos will move/go away.

ClaytonBabs July 19, 2017 at 2:11 AM

Several weeks ago I was getting off of 680S at Monument making a left turn (from the middle lane that turns left), and briefly looked to my left at some commotion- The cars in the far left turn lane were stopped. There was a young man lying in the street, looking as if he had been struck by a car. Does anyone know anything about that accident? (Could swear I saw a Good Samaritan go into the intersection and retrieve what looked like a flip flop- from my lane). Wondered if the young guy was panhandling & got hit?!
(Also wondering if he was ok)

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