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Public-images-osm logo.svg area:highway
Street Area iD.jpg
The shape of a highway area. Edit this description in the wiki page. Edit this description in the data item.
Group: Area:highway
Used on these elements
should not be used on nodesshould not be used on waysmay be used on areasmay be used on relations
Useful combination
Status: de facto

area:highway=* describes the shape, i.e. the two-dimensional outline of the area of a highway, or parts of it. It is used as a form of Micromapping in addition to the routable, linear way tagged as highway=*.


The tag is applied to a way closed as a polygon or to a multipolygon.

History of the tag

The tag was target of the following proposals. Although they were not approved by voting, the tag is widely used, despite remaining inconsistencies.


Pedestrian and bicycle areas:

Street areas:

area:highway=*, when used on roads, should cover traffic lanes, bus lanes, and cycle lanes (any detail added to the way corresponding to the area:highway), and should not cover shoulders, parking spaces, and sidewalks.

Differentiation area:highway vs. area=yes on a highway

area:highway=* had been proposed to describe the non-routable, detailed shape of a (typically linear) highway. The tag requires the linear, routable direction of the highway mapped in addition as lines with highway=*.

area=yes on a highway=* describes a routable highway area on which the dedicated traffic can route omnidirectionally, i.e. from any point along the edge to any other. This is typical for pedestrian areas, or service areas where vehicles drive without prescribed lanes. There are strong voices that argue that routing engines should consider those omnidirectional objects in addition to nodes+edges in classical graph theory; thus no linear highway lines would be required within.


The area:highway tag, stemming from two different proposals, has unresolved inconsistencies:

  • It remains unclear if the tag should be used for the full shape of the built highway, or split into functional sub-areas.
  • For road segments with constant width mapping a polygon representation of linear road can be considered unnecessarily redundant to the linear highway mapping and a width=* tag and in violation of One feature, one OSM element.
  • Some mappers use area:highway=emergency, where they mean to describe road areas that are painted with white hatching that should be avoided in normal traffic flow, but have nothing to do with emergencies.