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Public-images-osm logo.svg designation
Uk signage byway footpath bridleway.jpg
The legal classification of an object, usually used on highway=* features Edit this description in the wiki page. Edit this description in the data item.
Group: properties
Used on these elements
may be used on nodesmay be used on waysmay be used on areas (and multipolygon relations)may be used on relations
Documented values: 9
Useful combination
See also
Status: de factoPage for proposal

The tag designation=* is used to record the legal classification of an object.

This tag is most often used to classify the legal designation of a highway=* object. Combining highway=* and access tagging provides a worldwide approximation of how one is permitted to use a path or a road in law, but it can be helpful to specify the exact local classification too.

United Kingdom

The majority of uses of this key (80.5% as of May 2021) are found in the United Kingdom, predominantly to tag public rights of way in England and Wales.

Public Rights of Way in England and Wales

Main article: Access provisions in the United Kingdom

The four types of public rights of way (PRoW) are given below. The designation=public_right_of_way tag is used by some mappers when the PRoW type is unknown.

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Unmaintained Public Highways

In addition there are public highways ('i.e.', owned by the relevant local highway authority, which are not maintained). These are known by a variety of terms:

  • Unclassified County Road (UCR),
  • Unsealed, Unclassified County Road (UUCR),
  • or Other Routes with Public Access (ORPA).

Although these are (probably) public highways, whether motor vehicles are legally allowed is open to interpretation (and highway authorities differ on this). Even if motor vehicles are allowed, such use is often inadvisable. These highways will most usually be mapped as tracks. In some counties (Warwickshire, Lincolnshire) they are tagged designation=unclassified_county_road. In Lincolnshire some tracks are tagged designation=unmade_road: a term which is used in some access documents.

ALWAYS add known access rights for individual transport modes. It will usually be safe to assume foot=yes, horse=yes and bicycle=yes. Remember that evidence of use is not evidence of a legal right of access.

A useful overview can be found on the Trail Riders Fellowship's webpages. The background in how such highways of dubious status is covered in this document from Buckinghamshire County Council. See also [W] Green lane (road)

Permissive Paths

Also taginfo shows a significant number of uses of:

These tags should be used in combination with an appropriate highway=* tag, and appropriate access=* tags.


Land legally designated as common land can be tagged with designation=common.

Core paths in Scotland

Paths designated by local authorities as core paths can be tagged with designation=core_path.

UK Protected Areas

In the UK there are various levels of nature reserve and protected areas of countryside. It would seem natural to use the designation=* tag to record the precise type of area, in addition to a more generic tag such as leisure=nature_reserve or boundary=national_park. There are currently a handful of uses of the following tags for this purpose:

Civil parishes

Civil parish is a type of administrative district forming part of the local government structure. Tagged as designation=civil_parish.


Similar to civil parishes, but mostly in Wales. Tagged as designation=community.

Quiet lanes

Quiet lanes are legally defined roads where people should “drive slowly and carefully and be prepared to stop”. They can be tagged with designation=quiet_lane.


Road Classifications

The following tags are used to record the legal classification of public roads in the Philippines.

Administrative Entities

Previously designation=* was also used to record the legal category of administrative entities in the Philippines.

This usage is now considered deprecated and admin_type:PH=* is recommended instead.

United States

Road classifications

This key is not widely used in the United States for official road classifications, in part because a given road may have multiple different designations depending on the authority. However, several designation-like keys are in very common use:

In addition, expressway=* can sometimes correspond to a legal definition in some states, but it is primarily intended to reflect physical characteristics, potentially including specific signs.


Path classification

When not to use

There are several circumstances where using designation=* may feel natural, but where there are already other established tagging practices. Often these relate to circumstances where the designation of an object isn't an official/legal one. Examples of when not to use designation=* would include:

  • Reference numbers, e.g. for roads, bridges, etc. Use ref=* instead.
  • The name of something. Use name=* instead.
  • The ordinary, non-legal description of something. Use description=* instead.
  • The sport played on a pitch or park. Use sport=* instead.
  • The religion or denomination of a place of worship, graveyard or other religious object. Use religion=* and/or denomination=* instead.

Status and use

Established. This tag is part of the guidelines for mapping public rights of way in England and Wales. It was formally proposed and rejected back in March 2011. Despite that, the tag is in widespread use. As of January 2016, Taginfo reported over 200000 uses of this key, most of which are for public_footpath.

Use the discussion page for further comments, and consult Taginfo's list for values commonly in use.

See also