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Drivers unleash road rage
January 27, 2009, 12:00 AM By Dana Yates

Dana Yates / Daily Journal Drivers are complaining that new lane changes in Belmont are slowing the morning commute and frustrating San Carlos residents.

Belmont’s recent elimination of a lane on Alameda de las Pulgas near the San Carlos border to make room for bike lanes has more than a few drivers unleashing their road rage at public officials.

Belmont’s Department of Public Works re-striped the road earlier this month, reducing the northbound lanes from the San Carlos border to Carlmont Shopping Center. By eliminating the lane, Belmont was able to add more parking and bike lanes along the busy thoroughfare. The change, however, frustrated dozens of San Carlos drivers who are flooding its City Hall with e-mail complaints about unbearable traffic conditions near two nearby schools.

The Belmont City Council floated the idea more than a year ago and is slated to discuss the newly implemented changes tonight, but City Manager Jack Crist said drivers should not expect a reversal in the city’s decision. It is currently monitoring traffic in the area and will consider ways to improve the situation, but will likely not return the extra lane, Crist said.

Crist said the city did not document wait times before the lane change, but estimates it to be approximately eight minutes. New wait times are between 11 and 12 minutes, Crist said.

"People are mad because the wait time has increased, but there was a wait time before. I acknowledge that it’s worse now than before,” Crist said. "[The wait time] wasn’t zero before. It’s a school zone — for those who think they have a right to get to work faster during that time, they don’t.”

The city held public meetings last year to discuss taking away a lane on Alameda de las Pulgas near Carlmont High School to allow room for additional parking and bike lanes. San Carlos and the school district objected, but Belmont decided to change the lanes anyway. The city began discussing lane reductions at the request of the bicycling community, Crist said.

Now it is stuck listening to a much larger contingent of drivers.

Hoping to get a better grip on the extent of the situation, San Carlos placed on its city Web site Thursday a link for people to e-mail their thoughts about the changes. Since then, San Carlos received approximately 50 e-mails, which were forwarded to Crist — until he asked San Carlos to stop, said Assistant San Carlos City Manager Brian Moura.

Almost every letter is from a San Carlos driver who drops his or her child off at Tierra Linda Elementary or Carlmont High schools. Most letter writers report having to add another 20 minutes to their commute time to make sure children arrive at school on time.

The city previously reduced the number of lanes on Alameda de las Pulgas headed into San Carlos from two to one and added diagonal parking last year. The changes were supposed to ease parking problems in the surrounding neighborhood, but instead caused traffic backup and complaints from people who were never informed about the changes.

The Belmont City Council meets at 7:30 p.m. this evening at City Hall, 1 Twin Pines Lane.

Dana Yates can be reached by e-mail: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.

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