S.F. vacation, part 1: How to get through toll booths for free

I have to tell you an automobile story today.

Our recent San Francisco vacation went great until we were trying to leave town, got stuck in traffic trying to get on the Bay Bridge and then got a violation for not having the cash to pay a $6 toll somewhere way out past Berkeley on the way to Sacramento.

I had no idea there was a toll out there.

It’s funny. Sharrow often teases me for always asking, “Do they take debit cards there?” whenever we are going out to eat or something. I know, who doesn’t take debit cards anymore? Well, I’ll tell you: The California Department of Highway Tolls — or whatever they call it — does not take debit cards.

As I tell the toll booth guy I don’t have any cash, he hands me a yellow slip of paper.

“It’s a $40 violation — failure to pay a toll,” he says.

“Is there anything I can do. Somebody to talk to?” I ask.

“There’s a number on there you can call …” the toll guy says, pointing at the yellow slip of paper.

… to complain?” I say.

“If you want,” he says, in a way that makes me think it won’t do much good.

Then he says: “There’s a camera that’s going to take a picture of your license plate as you drive away. And they’ll mail you the citation.”

So I drive away.

Hey, did I tell you we took the bikes to San Francisco? And I don’t have to tell you how great bikes are, right. They’re healthy. They’re good for the environment. They won’t leave you stuck in a traffic jam on the Bay Bridge. Blah, blah, blah … you’ve heard all that before.

But the best thing about bikes is that if you hang them on a bike rack on the back of your Toyota Previa, the California Department of Highway Tolls definitely cannot take a legible photograph of your license plate.

Yes, we’ve been home for a few weeks now, and no citation so far from the good state of California.

Go buy a bike: Reason No. 468.

9 thoughts on “S.F. vacation, part 1: How to get through toll booths for free

  1. They don’t take debit cards at toll booths? WTF? One time a state representative who shall remain unnamed but who used to work at Burley was tracked down and given a ticket for speeding on the Autobahn. The one in Germany.

  2. And I see you carry your Xtracycle upside down? Interesting. I angle mine at about a 40 degrees…. but 180 degrees- that’s bold. Reason?

  3. Ha! Incredible. Thanks for sharing this “tip”, although I don’t want to get too excited about it online in case they hear us and have some sort of “Failure to properly display your license plate because you’re a damn cyclist” violation.

  4. I personally saw a cop in New Jersey give a cyclist a ticket for doing what you described. He had a bike rack on the back and the pedals were blocking the license plate, so the cop wrote him a ticket for having an obscured license plate.

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