It apparently is a growing pastime of more than a few Manteca motorists.
The driving maneuver of cutting through parking lots of commercial businesses on the corner of intersections to avoid waiting at a red light to turn right was brought to the attention of the Manteca City Council at their meeting last week.
It was by a frustrated merchant in a small retail center on the southeast corner of Union Road and Yosemite Avenue.
The owner of the property apparently didn’t feel inclined to do anything.
But then about the only thing that could be done is place speed bumps.
And that likely won’t deter the corner cutters.
It isn’t illegal, by the way.
The California Vehicle Code has no prohibition against such driving habits to avoid a red light or backed up traffic.
The only proviso is that the parking lot be open to the public and that driving through the parking lot be done in a safe manner.
“Safe” — of course — is the big catch. More about that in a moment.
The merchant’s suggestion that the red light timing needed to be adjusted caught the attention of one council member who said staff should look into the possibility pf changing the signal’s timing.
Here’s a better idea. Don’t waste the staff’s time.
There are a thousand in one operational issues out there involving traffic signals in Manteca that have multiplied faster than rabbits in recent years.
Most can be effectively addressed if Manteca ever gets off the dime and actually synchronize signals throughout the city sometime this century with federal funding they have received.
There are a lot of good reasons given for it taking so long but here are the basics.
The city was awarded $2.8 million in federal pass through funds by Caltrans to optimize signals in 2017.
You read that right, six years ago.
Manteca issued a contract to TJKM that was amended in 2019 to include a fiber optic master plan for the city.
The contract was extended in October 2022 to allow more research of Manteca traffic movements which, one must assume, doesn’t include corner cutting though parking lots at intersections.
As it stands now TJKM has until December 31, 2025 to get the job done.
The upgrades will allow signals throughout Manteca to adjust to real time traffic conditions.
It should be noted when elected council members were threatening to spend $1 million or so to transform Main Street through downtown to four lanes to ease congestion, city hall types worried that their dreams of al fresco noontime dining at high noon in August along the corridor would be killed off moved quickly to synchronize five traffic signals on Main between Moffat and Alameda.
The change in traffic flow has been significant.
And the grant wasn’t just about reducing traffic backups.
Because it reduces congestion it also reduces air quality issues from idling vehicles that produce more emissions than those that are moving.
The bottom line is even if every traffic signal was synchronized, it still wouldn’t eliminate corner cutting.
That’s because the problem isn’t the traffic lights.
It’s the drivers.
These are people who are about as patient as someone who has been given three minutes to grab everything they can in a supermarket as the winner of a shopping spree.
If you doubt people are that impatient, ask yourself if you ever get antsy waiting for a copy machine to work.
Then assuming you were around before flip phones were cutting edge technology, recall how long it used to get a copier to print copies.
We all have an exaggerated perspective of how long we have to wait for things.
Those that cut corners clearly fear moss is going to grow under their tires if they opt to stay on the designated public street and wait for the light to turn green in order to turn right.
The real problem is that half of the corner cutters are impatient as well when they cross through parking lots.
They tend to drive faster than someone looking for a space to pull into.
As such they create a problem for those backing out of spaces that aren’t expecting someone to be going 25 mph in the parking lot.
I used to think the problem was limited to 7-Elevens on corners — think Yosemite and Powers avenues — or wherever there are gas stations.
But after the Bulletin moved to the Hensley Building at Union Road and Center Street a year ago, I’m convinced there are people who can’t wait to stop driving and texting so they can get home 10 seconds sooner to text while playing video games.
The parking lot on the northwest corner is odd, to say the least.
That’s because it wraps around the building with the driveway on Center Street on a curve.
To “take a right” from southbound Union to westbound Center via corner cutting it requires making a right, then a left, then a right, and then a left and then a right. The last two turns are awkward angles on top of having trees and bushes to block your view.
No less than six times I have encountered people whipping through the parking lot.
I say “whipping” because by the time I get to the office it is well after 5 p.m. The other tenants have long gone. That means the parking lot — save for about seven or so City of Manteca vehicles — is empty.
Apparently that gives people the idea it is OK to fantasize about being in “Fast & Furious 13: Manteca Parking Lot Drift”.
Given I enter the lot from Center Street — the opposite direction of the corner cutters — there is a blind left turn to reach the front parking area.
The worst encounter I had was when I was already turning into a stall when a driver came off Union Road and came around a corner and had to slam on his brakes to avoid broadsiding me.
He rolled down his window.
I didn’t think this was going to go well.
As I stepped out of my car, he asked me in a somewhat annoyed and stern tone what I was doing.
I replied in the best monotone I could manage, “I was parking so I could go to work.”
He then looked a tad sheepish and said, “Oh.”
Yes, that is what parking lots are designed for — parking.
This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org