THEY ARE the quiet backwaters in urban and rural areas that should be safe, havens for pedestrians and cyclists. But they are also the roads every motorist thinks they alone know as a sly short cut to reduce journey times or dodge congestion.
Today, for the first time, the nation's worst rat runs are named in an attempt to highlight what road safety campaigners say is a growing menace to the quality of life for many.
Wykeham Street in Scarborough has the dubious honour of being the winner of Britain's worst rat run competition, with Dukes Avenue in Muswell Hill, north London, a close second. They topped a shortlist of 20 compiled by the pressure group Transport 2000, Sustrans, which campaigns for sustainable transport, and The Big Issue magazine. Ranking was decided by issues such as traffic levels, proximity of schools and other public places and the views of local people.
Julia Samson of Transport 2000, organiser of the "competition", said people in Wykeham Street risked being struck by cars that speed by at 40 to 50mph.
"We were horrified when we went there," she said of the terraced side street where houses open on the pavement. "It seems to be used by motorists to avoid the main road because of traffic light rephasing and supermarket development. But we found sometimes the main road is empty and Wykeham Street is full of cars." Residents in the street have put signs in their windows imploring drivers to slow to 20mph. …