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Are you a rat runner?

Have you ever driven down a side street that runs parallel to a congested main road, or nipped through a car park to avoid a traffic jam, traffic lights or a speed camera? Or perhaps you’ve followed Google Maps advice and taken an alternative route through a residential area to make your journey quicker? On paper these sound like fairly sensible manoeuvres, and if you can answer ‘yes’ then you’ve been rat running. While some people think it’s just a common tactic to keep moving, beat queues and possibly save on time, especially if you’re familiar with the local geography, others think it is irresponsible and possibly dangerous. The concern is that rat running increases the likelihood of accidents as motorists often drive at speeds suited to main roads not residential ones. Rat running can also create traffic congestion, noise and pollution in otherwise quiet residential areas. This situation often leads to ‘house price fears’ and safety concerns given the narrower residential streets and likely presence of children. With the exception of ‘access only’ streets, rat running is legal, but it is a divisive issue as there’s a fine line between deliberate rat running and genuinely trying to make your journey shorter. With more drivers using smart phones to navigate, why wouldn’t you select the one that gets you there faster? It’s not a failsafe method, however, as rat running can lead to tailbacks and congestion in areas not designed for that volume of traffic, and sometimes it’s better to stay on your main route. In the absence of regulation, some areas have introduced speed bumps, planters, barriers, road narrowing and low neighbourhood schemes (where only residents, deliveries and services should have access) to discourage rat running. The question is how do you feel about it? Are you a proud time saver or do you worry about additional traffic coming through an otherwise quiet street, possibly yours?