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Public-images-osm logo.svg surface
Transportation in Tanzania Traffic problems.JPG
Describes the surface of a feature.
Group: Properties
Used on these elements
should not be used on nodes
may be used on ways
may be used on areas
use on relations unspecified
Documented values: 2
Useful combination
Status: Unspecified


See also Landcover

To provide additional information about the physical surface of roads/footpaths and some other features, particularly regarding material composition and/or structure. Primarily concerned about the surface in relation to transport and sports and more commonly used on linear features. For broader descriptions of surfaces see Landcover.

For roads for motor vehicles there there is normally an assumption that the surface is surface=paved unless otherwise stated. Paved in OpenStreetMap is non-specific and may cover sealed, metalled, tarmac, asphalt, bitumen. surface=unpaved is treated as the opposite of paved. More specific tags can used used for surfaces which are normally classified into paved or unpaved for routing purposes. Navigation software should assume that roads-that-are-not-paved will have slower driving speed (and therefore longer driving time) and may be impassable in some weather conditions.

smoothness=* is also an important surface property and refers to surface regularity/flatness, regardless of material. May be especially useful for roller blades and similar purposes.

tracktype=* is also an important surface property and refers to surface firmness, regardless of shape.

highway=* ways should ideally always be tagged with surface (and/or with tracktype=*) given that there is no default for such paths.

Rendering software convention varies, but generally roads-that-are-not-paved are shown in a different colour but same width as their paved cousins or use the same colour but are dashed.

In some cases when other tags are not sufficient to describe the road conditions good enough the use of smoothness=* and maxspeed:practical=* can be considered. maxspeed:practical=* can be useful in situations where other tags are not sufficient to describe what kind of traveling speed could be reasonably expected. If there is one good surface=unpaved road, where practical speed is 60 km/h, and a second bad road with concrete:lanes surface allowing a practical speed 10 km/h, users or routing software could be misguided to choose the second road for routing, because by default paved roads are assumed to allow much higher speeds than unpaved roads.


Key Value Element Comment Rendering Photo
surface paved Mf way.png Mf area.png A highway feature is predominantly sealed along its length; i.e., it is covered with paving stones, concrete or bitumen. This value gives only a rough description; use a more precise value if possible.
surface asphalt Mf way.png Mf area.png This is actually short for asphalt concrete. It does not mean that the road surface is only asphalt. Most such roads are tagged as less clear surface=paved. Surface asphalt.jpg
surface cobblestone Mf way.png Mf area.png Cobblestone paving. "Cobblestone" is used in the colloquial meaning and includes the type of stones that would more precisely be called "setts". Surface cobblestones.jpg
surface cobblestone:flattened Mf way.png Mf area.png Kasseien.jpg
surface concrete Mf way.png Mf area.png Cement based Concrete, forming a large, continuous surface, typically cast in place. For pre-fabricated plates, please use surface=concrete:plates or surface=concrete:lanes if you know how the concrete is laid out and one of these tags fits. Dscf0221 600.jpg
surface concrete:lanes Mf way.png Mf area.png Long, narrow concrete plates laid out for a two-tracked vehicle (motorcars) so that the tires always hit the concrete. There might be sand, ground, grass, pavers, asphalt, etc. in between them. note that if you tag a single-tracked way you just use surface=concrete, since there are no lanes. Concrete lanes.png
surface concrete:plates Mf way.png Mf area.png Heavy duty plates chained closely together on the short side. Might have tar or sand in between the connections. Dscf0222 600.jpg
surface paving_stones Mf way.png Mf area.png Paving stones are equally sized concrete stones, with a flat top. They are comparable to flattened cobblestones (and often used in the same cases), but the gaps between the paving stones are smaller because the stones have a perfectly regular shape (rectangular, or any surface-filling shape). Paving stones are often found in low-traffic streets (like pedestrian zones) because they can't endure heavy traffic. Surface paving stones.jpgDscf1620-800.jpg
surface metal Mf way.png Mf area.png Sometimes used for bridges, or for temporary tracks over fields for normal road vehicles or site traffic. Surface-Metal.jpg
surface wood Mf way.png Mf area.png Used for bridges and plank walkways for foot traffic through swampy areas. Wooden-bridge.jpg
surface paving_stones:30 Mf way.png Mf area.png Square paving stones with 30cm sides.
surface paving_stones:20 Mf way.png Mf area.png Square paving stones with 20cm sides.
surface User defined Mf way.png Mf area.png All commonly used values according to Taginfo.
surface unpaved Mf way.png Mf area.png A highway feature is predominantly unsealed along its length; i.e., it has a loose covering ranging from compacted stone chippings to earth. Unpaved roads may, in aerial imagery, show evidence of water along their course; in such circumstances, the waterway should not be tagged as a stream, though it might appear as such. This value gives only a rough description; use a more precise value if possible.
surface compacted Mf way.png Mf area.png A mixture of larger (e.g., gravel) and smaller (e.g., sand) parts, compacted (e.g., with a roller), so the surface is more stable than loose gravel. Used, for example, for park paths, better tracks, some service ways, … Best sort of ways below paving with asphalt, concrete, paving stones. Sometimes known as water-bound macadam. Mixture and compacting leads to more grip and stability. Surface gravel.jpg
surface dirt Mf way.png Mf area.png Probably very similar to surface=ground. Like all this, it is prone to erosion and therefore often uneven. Gravel is sometimes mistakenly called dirt. Some compacted roads are sometimes called dirt too, please consider the definition of surface=compacted. Transportation in Tanzania Traffic problems.JPG
surface earth Mf way.png Mf area.png Probably a type of surface=ground. Usually natural, but may also apply to artificial preparations of soil. Duplicate of surface=dirt. Dscf1832-800.jpg
surface fine_gravel Mf way.png Mf area.png A multilayer pavement with a stone or gravel basis and a topmost surface of firm, granular grit, basalt or quartz, as invented by the Roman empire. Easy to walk, jog, cycle or ride on. In hilly areas mostly with drainage channels and concave cross-section for proper water shedding. Motorized vehicles will not move stones if the way is maintained properly, and bicycles tires will not leave any imprints at least in dry weather. If the topmost surface is heavily eroded or loose gravel aggravate going please use surface=gravel instead. DSC05537a-Feinschotterweg.jpg
surface grass Mf way.png Mf area.png Grass covered ground. Mostly nice to walk. Less prone to erosion than pure ground. Might degrade through heavy usage. Grassway.JPG
surface grass_paver Mf way.png Mf area.png A sort of permeable paving using regular cell structure, where the voids in this structure enable rainwater to drain into the ground and the structure itself increases the load bearing capability. Often used for parking lots or infrequent used ways like for emergency-vehicles. Dscf1611-800.jpgDscf1614-800.jpg
surface gravel Mf way.png Mf area.png Broken/crushed rock with sharp edges, known as ballast on railways. Usually loosely arranged. Typical size for road and surface construction range between 4 and 8 cm. Gravel can be used as a ground-layer for surface=compacted. Dscf1582-800.jpg
surface ground Mf way.png Mf area.png No special surface, the ground itself has marks of human or animal usage. This value gives only a rough description; if possible, use a more precise value such as grass, dirt, clay, sand, gravel, pebblestone or rock. Dscf1760-800.jpg
surface ice Mf way.png Mf area.png Ice roads, winter roads
surface mud Mf way.png Mf area.png Similar to surface=ground but most of the year wet which gives a soft ground with low carrying capacity. Mostly found on wetland like swamps or in tidal areas. Sometimes also found on slopes draining onto a way. Dscf1819-800.jpg
surface pebblestone Mf way.png Mf area.png Pebbles are stones rounded by waves or river flow. Typical size range from 2 to 8 cm. Describing a surface in OSM they are loosely arranged. Like gravel pebbles can be used as a building part of surface=compacted. Dscf1781-800.jpgDscf1829-800.jpgDscf1831-800.jpg
surface salt Mf way.png Mf area.png Salt lakes
surface sand Mf way.png Mf area.png Small to very small fractions (less than 2mm) of rock. Dscf0220 600.jpg
surface snow Mf way.png Mf area.png Winter roads.
surface woodchips Woodchips as a surface
surface User defined Mf way.png Mf area.png All commonly used values according to Taginfo.
Special (sports, etc.)
surface tartan Mf way.png Mf area.png A synthetic, all-weather surface typically used in running and other sport tracks. Although Tartan is a trademark, it is used as a generic term due to its widespread usage. Athletics track.jpg
surface artificial_turf Mf way.png Mf area.png An all-weather surface made from synthetic fibres to look and feel like natural grass. Often used for tracks and pitches of sports such as football, baseball, etc. Kunstgress.JPG
surface decoturf Mf area.png DecoTurf is an artificial surface used for some tennis courts.
surface clay Mf way.png Mf area.png Used for some tennis- and soccerpitch.
surface metal_grid Mf way.png Mf area.png Metal grids are often used as a surface on industrial-style bridges or stairs. When wet, the surface can become very slippery, especially for bikes. The surface can also be unsuitable for dogs, due to the sharp edges and the look-through effect. Stahlbau mit Gitterrosten.JPG

This table is a wiki template with a default description in English. Editable here.

Surface for foot- and cycleways

If a foot- or cycleway was tagged as a tag (not as a separate way) on a highway (i.e., highway=secondary + cycleway=track/lane), you can add surface by the following syntax:


Or if there is a foot- or cycleway only at one side from street, or there are different surfaces at both sides, you can use right and left (or both, to tag explicit both sides):


With this syntax you also can add other relevant tags like: smoothness, oneway, bicycle, foot, width, segregated, and more.

See also