Well, no, not really

Residential streets should be blocked off to prevent smart apps turning sleepy roads into polluted rat runs, campaigners have said.

People living in the quiet areas between main roads are being increasingly plagued with jams and accidents because software like Waze, or Apple Maps which direct motorists into back streets to avoid traffic.

Already some areas of London have begun trialling ‘Mini-Holland’ schemes, in which roads are blocked off with bollards so that they can only be accessed by motorists who live there.

Road space is a scarce resource. That’s why we have congestion.

The apps make use of other road space. Space that exists already, but which is being underutilised. This is an increase in capacity utilisation, an increase in the Solow Residual, therefore it makes us all richer.

Far from wanting to stop this we want to encourage people to use them.

44 comments on “Well, no, not really

  1. I’m far from a nimby and I use rat runs whenever I need to. My satnav will even take me down them if its faster than staying on the planned route. But hypocrite that I am, I dislike our narrow road being used as a short cut, particularly by those who seem to want to save more time by doing 60, swerving around the parked cars in what is a 30 limit.
    Not really sure what the answer is.

  2. I’m not in the habit of making New Year Resolution, but if I did, it’d be to immediately rule out anything where the headline ends ‘say campaigners’…

  3. I don’t understand why this is even a problem. I paid for those roads. So did every other driver in the UK. Therefore they have a right to drive on them.

    If local residents do not want other people driving on their roads, while still retaining the right to drive on other roads in other people’s neighbourhoods, there is a simple solution: they should pay for them.

    I suggest the obvious solution – when an entire neighbourhood votes to incorporate their roads, they get the roads plus some debt. They then put bollards at all the intersections to the rest of the world. One solution would be to ban all but locals and pay an annual fee every year. Tough on guests and delivery men. Another would be that everyone has to pay £20 to pass. Locals can get a special deal.

    Either way the revenue raised can pay for the roads and once they are not taking my money they can decide if I am allowed in or not. But they cannot force me to pay for their roads and then refuse to let me drive on them.

  4. Daedalus: I hope you enjoy me revving the piss out of my engine as I approach speed humps put in to discourage people using a perfectly good road, then.

  5. SMFS – “when an entire neighbourhood votes to incorporate their roads, they get the roads plus some debt. They then put bollards at all the intersections to the rest of the world.”

    yes agree, not that it should be done, but that should be the choice. And then watch as the properties go up in price and they become the dreaded “Gated Communities”.

  6. Daedalus – “I’m far from a nimby …. But hypocrite that I am, I dislike our narrow road being used as a short cut”

    Can I just say that I am not unsympathetic? Especially as a few years ago changes to road use meant that lorries starting using the road outside my house as a short cut.

    However you can’t really exclude people from something they have paid for. Take it out of the public sphere and the issue becomes something else.

    It would be interesting to know what people would pay to avoid congestion. I guess in part towns like Fergusson in the US have discovered this as they got a large part of their revenue from fining drivers who were passing by. Much better to charge a known fee.

  7. This is nothing new. Fred Housego used to give rat run advice on LBC many years ago, and I’m sure there were similar experts on radio stations up and down the country

  8. I’ve had houses on main roads (by duration, the normal condition) and in cul-de-sacs. The worst, though, was the flat I owned just outside (then) Edinburgh’s controlled parking zones. Although, thankfully, I didn’t own a car, then.

  9. Just musing… Knowledge of back doubles, as with so many things, was once a valuable part of your intellectual capital – specialist knowledge that put you ahead of the crowd. Apps appear to have levelled the playing field somewhat and made it more difficult to stand out and get ahead? Do apps allow the ‘also rans’ to keep up with you, or do they allow you to concentrate your effort on more important skills?

  10. People like to claim some assumed ownership of what is the Queen’s Highway i.e. it is ours. They particularly like to claim exclusive parking rights. They can just fuck off.

  11. Those of us who live on noisy busy roads get screwed over while those on quieter back roads get this nice quiet lifestyle subsidised by everyone else, including me.

    My view is that they didn’t pay for their road, the taxpayers did, so I’m entitled to use their road just as much as everyone is entitled to use my road.

    How about we swap it around? For six months of the year my road gets blocked off and is nice and quiet, and their road is the busy one?

    The other issue with this proposal is that if you block off rat runs you make the other roads even more congested, causing gridlock. Rat runs help keep traffic flowing.

  12. ‘I paid for those roads. So did every other driver in the UK. Therefore they have a right to drive on them.’

    Bullshit. You paid your taxes. That gets you fvck.
    Paying taxes is not a purchase agreement.

  13. I live in a quiet road, lots of off-road parking. I guess about 600m from the nearest railway station. They have a pay car park but of course people park in nearby streets and save money. So the council put lots of those wanky Mon to Friday parking restrictions in place. Up to around 500m from the station. Now everyone parks outside my house.

    Just makes my road look untidy. Especially that tosser with the highway maintenance van who lives way down the road in the parking restriction area who has taken to parking his ugly van right outside my house. I can even see the gaudy orange top of it over the fence when I’m in the garden. Even now sat on my sofa it’s annoying me because I know it’s there.

    Did we really fight two world wars, Iran and Afghanistan just so I could be slightly annoyed by an ugly van? The widows and children who lost their fathers must be wondering if their sacrifice was worth it.

    If this doesn’t prove the country is going to the dogs, I don’t know what does.

  14. Gamecock used to have a nifty shortcut through a light industrial area. Used to. One fine Tuesday I went through and there were two more cars. Thursday I went thru, and the line was literally a MILE LONG.

    Dumbass Gamecock should have turned off Google Maps before taking the shortcut. Google Maps saw what I did, and sent everyone else there.

  15. Bernie G,

    > Apps appear to have levelled the playing field

    Not just road knowledge. The internet can tell you where the best schools are, where the best jobs are, what to study to get those jobs, where best to retire, etc. Knowing the best roads is just a small subset of internet-spread knowledge.

    For people in the third world, the internet tells emigrants where to move.

  16. “The apps make use of other road space. Space that exists already, but which is being underutilised.”

    Piffle.

    Residential streets are made for the access benefit of residents. If the streets are used as general through routes by non-residents, they are being misused – to the detriment of the residents. Whose lives are made poorer by the misuse.

    “Rat runs” are nothing new, and councils are well used to blocking off certain points so that there is free residential access to both sides of the blockage but no useful through route. If networked navigation aids lead to increased misuse of residential streets, expect more restrictions.

  17. “I don’t understand why this is even a problem. I paid for those roads. So did every other driver in the UK. Therefore they have a right to drive on them.”

    Local authorities (i.e. local taxes) fully pay for unclassified roads (i.e. residential streets). National government (via the general fund, not specifically driving taxes) pays 100% of Trunk roads, 50% of A roads and 30% of B roads (the remainder is from local taxes).

    There are very few publicly funded “bollarded communities” (where only approved vehicles can access). Most route restrictions just prevent through traffic, with free access to either side of the restriction.

    Nearly all the roads and streets in the country are freely accessible to all road users.

  18. Computer-devised shortcuts do maximize global utility. But abutters want to maimize local utility. Long ago, Reason Magazine documented a trend to erect large bollocks or whatever in a high-crime area of East St. Louis. Residents not only prevented short-cutters but built gates and got control of exactly who was in their yards. Yes, technically, this converted the street into private property, perhaps paved and paid for by a condominium of the abutters. This has always been the best solution to such tragedies-of-the-commons.

  19. There are very few publicly funded “bollarded communities” (where only approved vehicles can access).

    Actually … “Access Only” signage is exactly that – a moving traffic offence with 3 points if you push your luck – in the case that pigs fly and plod actually enforces the signage….

    Andrew C – got pretty much an identical issue – apart from having “Access Only” which is routinely flouted by twats who insist on parking on the pavements and blocking residents gates so you can’t even get a pushbike out the gate.

  20. tomo – indeed. Though I was thinking about physical restrictions rather than (theoretical) legal ones.

  21. PJF I think there’s now some tens of thousands of motorists who’ve been mugged by London boroughs – who’d quibble about “theoretical legal restrictions” dependent on (deliberately) half arsed signage.

  22. When I lived in France, if silly drivers parked across a private gate or entry, they were liable to find their winscreen wipers had been wrenched off.
    Amazing how many silly drivers wised u to tis, and removed their wipers when thus parking! I never found out what the next “deterrent” was.

  23. Round where I live people are desperate for their roads to be adopted, but don’t want to pay the costs of bringing them up to adoptable standard. Going the other way, in my local councillor days on quite a few occasions I told people that if they really did want to stop people using “”their”” road they could very well go off and raise the money and buy the road from the council and take over all its statutory obligations. Odd how they all wanted beneficial ownership of the road for but the council to keep the liabilities.

  24. The road I live on is a single-track country lane (with passing places) with very little traffic apart from people who live here. But a few times a year, a huge artic (semi for our US-speaking friends) will try to force its way through, because its satnav has decided it’s 200m shorter or 2 minutes quicker. They usually end up trying to reverse their way out.

    It would be really nice if TomTom or Google could incorporate road widths into their maps, so wide vehicles could program to avoid routes that are too narrow. We’ve been telling the council that they should erect “Unsuitable for wide vehicles” signs, but since no-one has died and there are no councillors living on our road, nothing is likely to happen.

  25. Used to usea shortcut that covered going through industrial area, past the docks road and a prison many years ago, during a period when I was working late most evenings had a letter from the local police saying my car had been seen repeatedly in a known area of prostitution and drugs

  26. When I was a non-politician of no significance whatsoever (except a theoretical ability to demand access to data under RIPA), we tried to get our regional council to put in a traffic light on the usually speeded through road between the housing estates to the north and the small shopping area to the south. “But nobody has died yet” was the response.

  27. “therefore it makes us all richer”

    On average maybe, but there’s an externality, so it makes some people poorer.

  28. The question you have to ask when dealing with Rat-running is “Why aren’t people using the obvious route?”

    In most cases I know of the reason is that the rat-run gets you around a badly designed junction, or a junction that used to work fine, but was “improved” by having the signal timings re-arranged to help whatever road user was in fashion that week (pedestrians/cyclists/whoever).

    Fix the junctions and the rat-running stops.

  29. “I don’t understand why this is even a problem. I paid for those roads. So did every other driver in the UK. Therefore they have a right to drive on them.”

    Even the pedestrianised ones?

  30. “I paid for those roads. So did every other driver in the UK. Therefore they have a right to drive on them.”

    That really is the stupidest comment. Maybe he thinks that vehicle excise duty (the pollution tax) is used to purchase or maintain roads.

    And the article is not disputing anyone’s current right to drive on them, but maybe your future ability to get anywhere by driving on them.

  31. Hector Drummond : Those of us who live on noisy busy roads get screwed over while those on quieter back roads get this nice quiet lifestyle subsidised by everyone else, including me.

    I imagine that people on nice quiet roads paid more for their houses because of the nice quietness than did poor Hector and the council tax in Cosy Nook Lane might be more costly than on the Slaughterhouse Intersection Dual Carriageway Bypass Relief Road.

    I hope as the juggernauts make the dentures rattle in his sour old head he can enjoy the notion that others are subsidising the cost of his bin collection!

  32. @Alan Scott

    I had that happen sometime in the mid-late eighties. The works car park was closed off for a couple of days, so everyone parked on the residential street outside. A loooong terrace, so no gates/entries to block.

    It shouldn’t have been a problem as most of the denizens of that particular street were themselves at work. Wouldn’tcha know it? Some massive, red faced chav came boiling out from the adjacent house and demanded I move from ‘his’ space.

    He didn’t fancy walking the thirty yards or so to get into his own car (in someone else’s space). I said it was a free country and it did him no harm for me to park there. His face took on a darker, menacing hue, and he replied he hoped it would be there when I got back; car fires start so easily these days.

    I replied that as it was insured, I didn’t care. And besides, I didn’t sleep in it.

  33. Theophrastus – “Even the pedestrianised ones?”

    Well some people in the UK think they have a right to drive on those. The sort of people Rusty likes and wants more of. Not people like me.

    Dave C – “That really is the stupidest comment. Maybe he thinks that vehicle excise duty (the pollution tax) is used to purchase or maintain roads.”

    Hi Dave. How are you doing? If you are going to hang around here, I think that you might want to re-think your communications strategy. Needlessly insulting random people on the internet is unlikely to end well.

    And as it happens I remember how the fuel tax was sold in Britain – as a way of paying for roads. Even I am not quite old enough to remember how the vehicle excise tax was originally used to pay for the Road Fund. But no matter. Because whether it is by high prices at the pump or by VAT we are all paying for those roads. So we ought to have a reasonable expectation of driving on them. If you think that is stupid, you are not going to enjoy your stay here.

    “And the article is not disputing anyone’s current right to drive on them, but maybe your future ability to get anywhere by driving on them.”

    Well that makes all the difference then. Now you have made that puerile distinction clear.

  34. “I imagine that people on nice quiet roads paid more for their houses because of the nice quietness than did poor Hector”

    Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t, but paying more for your house doesn’t in any way protect you from people using your road.

    “the council tax in Cosy Nook Lane might be more costly than on the Slaughterhouse Intersection Dual Carriageway Bypass Relief Road.”

    Living on a busy road doesn’t mean I don’t have high council tax. Plenty of big houses on main roads.

    “I hope as the juggernauts make the dentures rattle in his sour old head he can enjoy the notion that others are subsidising the cost of his bin collection!”

    They’re not, and even if they are, it hardly entitles them to low traffic forever. I’d gladly pay more council tax if that could be guaranteed.

    I’ll drive to where I need to get to on any road that’s a public road, especially if it enables me to avoid clogged roads and traffic jams, and any NIMBY who thinks he has his own little private fiefdom can sod off, and he can stop driving on my road while he’s at it.

  35. The NZ solution to this is to put speed limited on the offending streets. Chicanes, raised sections etc. Then everyone can traverse them, but there’s no speed advantage to doing so.

    Another solution is to have a one-way system that prevents quick transit.

    Actually blocking public streets is an exceptionally awful solution. The only place I know that regularly does that are the highly religious areas of Israel on the Sabbath. And they accept that if your house catches fire then it burns down.

  36. Not really apropos now that i’ve seen it’s not quite the same name as our regular poster but still shows Busybodies are nothing new.

    pompei graffitti : III.5.3 (on the wall in the street); 8898: Theophilus, don’t perform oral sex on girls against the city wall like a dog

  37. “I never found out what the next “deterrent” was.”

    I’d snip off a tire air stem. Quick and easy with snips or other tools.

    If they show up again, snip two.

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