Rat running

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"Cut-through" redirects here. For the computer networking method, see Cut-through switching.
Despite the traffic calming curb extensions, heavy traffic means that the narrow residential street is still appealing to motorists desiring a shortcut.

Rat running, cut-through driving or shortcut, is using secondary roads, cemetery roads, or residential side streets instead of the intended main roads in urban or suburban areas. People do it to avoid heavy traffic, long delays at traffic signals or other obstacles, even where there are traffic calming measures to discourage them, or laws against taking certain routes. Rat runs are frequently taken by motorists familiar with the local geography.[citation needed] They will often take such short cuts to avoid busy main roads and intersections.

Rat running is controversial. It is sometimes opposed by homeowners on the affected streets, as some people regard it as a disturbance of their peace.[citation needed] Sometimes, it affects house prices. Authorities often try to prevent it, but enforcement is difficult. Rat running is sometimes fought by installing traffic calming devices, such as all-way stops, speed humps, traffic circles, and rumble strips, by making some streets one-way, or by blocking off certain intersections. Some places, including Montgomery County, Maryland, Maryland Heights, Missouri, and parts of Minneapolis, have banned turning on certain streets during rush hours to prevent rat running.[1]

Common strategies[edit]

Side street usage[edit]

Motorists familiar with an area sometimes use side streets or other smaller roads that run parallel in the same direction as the main road. They are generally local people who know these streets and the pros and cons of using them as alternatives to the main road.

Red light avoidance[edit]

In some places, motorists avoid stopping at a red light by turning on to a side street or into a parking lot to bypass it.

In some countries, red lights can be avoided by turning right on red (or left in drive-on-the-left countries), making a U-turn, and then turning right (or left) again back on to the street on which the motorist was traveling. This may require less time than waiting for the light to turn green.

Traffic jam avoidance[edit]

Some motorists exit and then re-enter a freeway or motorway at the same junction, or use lanes designated for exiting and merging, to pass stationary traffic.

Some large streets are separated from parallel small residential streets only by a small strip where homeowners park their vehicles. These streets can be used to bypass traffic jams.

Prevention and minimization[edit]

During rush hour, right turns onto the side street shown here are prohibited in order to prevent rat running[citation needed]

Many communities combat rat running by installing traffic calming features such as chicanes, speed tables, speed cushions, curb extensions, cobbled sections, hidden law enforcement and various other measures. Other communities install physical barriers that completely block through-traffic along routes prone to rat running. One of the most extensive uses of this strategy is found in Berkeley, California, where dozens of concrete barriers throughout the city block shortcuts, while still allowing cycling.[2] In Northern Virginia, shortcuts are discouraged by the construction of dead end streets, communities with no outlet, and winding roads designed to confuse, making navigation through the neighborhoods more difficult and time-consuming.[1]

Since the 2000s, a number of U.S. states, including Georgia and Maryland,[1] some smaller U.S. jurisdictions, and some parts of the United Kingdom have passed or tried to pass laws restricting rat-running in certain communities to maintain peace and privacy for residents.[3][4] Even where signs clearly mark places where rat-running is prohibited, however, enforcement is difficult and prosecutions are rare.

When a major event draws a large volume of traffic, local police sometimes monitor or block secondary roads to prevent motorists from the event crowd from using such streets to avoid the traffic.[5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]