A long-time resident of the northern section of Calistoga recently shared with me the fact that she received a $300 ticket from the Calistoga Police for an infraction that truly perplexes me.
As she left Calistoga from Lincoln Avenue to drive home on Foothill Boulevard to her residence on Highway 128, she came to the intersection of Foothill and Petrified Forest Road. This was in the later afternoon, and as many of us have experienced, this intersection was 'lined up' with cars attempting to make the left turn on to Calistoga Road to return to Santa Rosa areas.
There were approximately 40 cars in front of her, the majority turning left, and since she and a few others were desiring to go straight on Highway 128 after the stop sign, she made what she considered a safe merge on to the right shoulder (not endangering anyone and barely on the shoulder) and was pulled over by the police for "crossing on to the white line."
OMG. What a horrible infraction.
This simple excuse for this misdemeanor cost her $300 and as explained by our police department, "we've been getting a lot of complaints about people doing this." Doing what? Trying to get home? Safely? Please!
Doesn't our local police department have more important enforcement issues than to give tickets for items like this to residents who have lived here over 45 years? How about the large trucks as well as school buses that go down Foothill Boulevard over 50 mph? I have never seen a truck or school bus pulled over for speeding here.
And the number of jaywalkers on Lincoln Avenue, or people making U-turns in the middle of Lincoln? What about all the people who turn left out of Cal Mart where the sign clearly says No Left Turn?
Editor's note: The Register asked Calistoga Police Chief Mitch Celaya about the violation the author discusses. He sent the following response:
"I can appreciated this resident’s frustration with receiving a citation when they are seeing other violations occurring around them and no enforcement actions being taken against them. I understand that no one likes getting a ticket but I have received numerous complaints by residents along Foothill and those who live in Rancho De Calistoga about speeding on Foothill Boulevard but specifically about individuals driving on the shoulder of the road to get around the long line of cars on Foothill stopped at the stop sign (at Petrified Forest Rd).
The complaints have specifically been about vehicles that drive on the shoulder of the road to get around the long line of cars, turn right on Cedar Street to flip a U-turn or drive into Riverlea Square parking lot to turn around and get back onto Cedar in order to proceed onto Petrified Forest Road.
The residents are concerned about the hazards that are caused by vehicles doing this as individuals crossing the intersection at times cannot see the vehicle driving on the shoulder nor vehicles driving through the intersection from Petrified Forest onto Cedar and many times the vehicle driving on the shoulder makes the right turn onto Cedar Street without stopping.
I am not saying the resident complaining did this but this happens frequently and is a concern to the residents of Rancho De Calistoga. The complaints received have stated there have been near misses with pedestrians and other vehicles in the drivers haste to circumvent the line of cars. We have been extremely lucky to not have many reported collisions and we are not waiting for collisions to occur before conducting traffic enforcement.
The PD tries to be responsive to complaints received by the community and in this case it has not been one or two complaints but several. For this reason, I requested my staff to provide some enforcement presence and traffic enforcement to address this community concern. There are a lot of important things that we do and traffic enforcement is one of them considering it has a direct impact on public safety.
We balance traffic enforcement with our other priorities but given the amount of overall traffic related complaints I receive in general, traffic enforcement is important to and a priority to the community.
The traffic issues on Foothill and specifically at Lincoln Avenue and Petrified Forest Road seem to be increasing, particularly during commute times and need to be addressed. The complication is that Foothill is a state highway and the solution needs to be worked out with the county and Caltrans. Like many issues, solutions are not usually simple or straight forward as they often have other unintended consequences.
I hope this provide some understanding to the situation and that the ticket is more than just a simple infraction."