A Chronic Problem.
Despite the plethora of wonderful things that there are about the City of Good Living — the schools, the downtown, the weather, the location, etc.. — San Carlos has a dirty little problem that it hasn’t been able to solve for decades: Speeding…as in vehicles speeding through its residential streets. If you live on Brittan, or Melendy, or Saint Francis, or Eaton, or Howard, or Cedar, or countless other streets in San Carlos, then you know exactly what I’m talking about — drivers blazing down your street in blatant disregard of the posted speed limit. And it’s not just limited to passenger vehicles, either. Delivery trucks are some of the worst offenders.
Why do people think it’s perfectly OK to speed through their neighbor’s front yards? I don’t get it.
A Design Flaw.
The most significant cause of all the congestion and subsequent speeding in San Carlos is the actual layout of the city itself. San Carlos was not a “planned community” where things like ingress and egress were taken into account up front. The city basically evolved westward from the bay on its own timeframe in the mid-1900’s, so it ended up being interconnected by a whole network of narrow, crowded streets. In planned communities like Redwood Shores, or places across the bay like Danville, you’ll see dedicated access roads with the neighborhoods then branching off of those roads. These access roads are generally multi-lane to handle the density, and most important, there are no residential properties that have frontages on these access roads.
Consequently, drivers in San Carlos are forced to navigate their way through narrow residential streets to get wherever they’re going — downtown, or from their homes to work (or vice versa). And for whatever reason, patience is not a virtue that many drivers possess when they navigate the streets of San Carlos.
Happy New Year to Me.
I live on a street where speeding is a constant problem. On the morning of December 30 2011, that fact hit home in a personal way. This is what I awoke to that morning:
At about 6:00 that morning, a speeding 21-year old driver lost control of his car and plowed into both my and my neighbor’s car. According to the police report, the driver was traveling well in excess of the posted speed limit in foggy and wet conditions. Since he did not apply the brakes before the accident, the impact slammed my car (front) into the car behind it and pushed both cars completely onto the sidewalk, narrowly missing a woman who was taking her dog for a morning walk. Both cars in this picture are likely total losses.
In the 20+ years that I have lived on this street, this is second time that I’ve had a car mangled by a speeding driver. Both accidents were completely avoidable.
Enough is enough.
It’s Time to Fix the Problem.
Speeding isn’t a new problem in San Carlos. I can distinctly remember those days back in the 1970’s when there was still a San Carlos High School and a particular San Carlos Police motorcycle officer (who will rename nameless, but will live on in infamy for many San Carlos residents) used to sit at the bottom of Melendy Drive and write tickets as fast as he could to the unsuspecting high school students bombing down the steep grade.
But you can’t blame the San Carlos Police Department for the chronic speeding problem. They are generally very responsive when citizens have complaints about residential speeding. But speeding is ubiquitous in San Carlos, and there are only a finite number of officers on duty at any time. They can’t be everywhere at one time. It’s akin to killing a swarm of bees with a flyswatter — the numbers just don’t work.
But the brute force techniques that were used to control speeding back then are still in place now: namely a patrol officer with radar. It’s time for the City of San Carlos follow the lead of neighboring communities and start solving an age-old problem with modern solutions.
New Solutions to an Old Problem.
For whatever reason, San Carlos has always been reluctant to take innovative measures to curb its speeding problem. It took a full-blown community meeting on our street that resulted not in the 4-way stop sign that we requested, but a roundabout that ultimately did absolutely nothing to slow traffic. Note to City: Roundabouts don’t work.
Hats off to our neighbors in Belmont and Redwood City, who are far more forward thinking in their approach to solving their respective speeding problems. Speed bumps are not viewed as a curse in those cities like they are in San Carlos. And Menlo Park has used attractive “gateways” as calming mechanisms at the entry point of some of their busier streets. The only street modifications that I can see in place in San Carlos are the tw0 roundabouts (one on Howard Avenue and the other on Elm Street), the chokers on Cordilleras, and a couple of speed bumps on Beverly Drive. Otherwise, the streets are virtually unchanged from when the they were built.
Time for a Poll.
Are you in favor of the City installing speed bumps on its biggest problem streets? What about calming devices like gateways, chokers and roundabouts? Or, should the City just leave the streets as they are and let the police handle the problem? Register your vote in the poll at the top of the blog.
Do yo have a story about speeding on your street? Tell us about it in the comments below.
In the meantime, I need to get back to searching for a new car….
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