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Public-images-osm logo.svg designation
Uk signage byway footpath bridleway.jpg
The official classification of a road or path Edit
Group: Highways
Used on these elements
should not be used on nodesmay be used on waysshould not be used on areasshould not be used on relations
Useful combination
Status: in use

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.

Current usage

Rights of way in England and Wales

Main article: United Kingdom Tagging Guidelines
  • designation=public_footpath
  • designation=public_bridleway
  • designation=restricted_byway (note: in many cases this has replaced the former descriptor 'road used as a public path' or 'RUPP')
  • designation=byway_open_to_all_traffic (note: often signposted as "Public Byway" or just "Byway") (there also exist designation=byway which is a synonym.

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 Association'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.

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:

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 supported by Potlatch 2, and 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. In January 2012, usage had grown to nearly 75000 objects likely caused by Potlatch 2 including the entry of this tag in the simple interface for most object types.

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

See also