Proposal:Snow chains

From OpenStreetMap Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Snow chains
Proposal status: Proposed (under way)
Proposed by: Trapicki
Tagging: snow_chains=*;

snow_chains:conditional=*; snow_chains:variable=*; amenity=chain_change_area

Applies to: way
Definition: Requirements (possibly with conditions and variable) to put snow chains on your vehicle when driving on this highway, with places reserved for changing snow chains.
Draft started: 2021-11-09
RFC start: 2021-11-11, 2022-12-04








Tags related to snow chains:

  • Restrictions on roads regarding snow chains, with optional applying conditions and if they are variable (not active throughout the whole year)
  • Places to put on and/or put off snow chains (which are dedicated and maybe parking restrictions apply)
  • Vehicle properties "snow_chains" and "winter_tyres" for conditional tags


What is not part of this proposal:

  • Local Legislation: See Don't map local legislation if not bound to specific objects. In some countries (e.g. Austria), some vehicles (vehicles > 3.5 t) under certain conditions (always at ice or snow) are required to use snow chains. In some regions of France it's compulsory to fit snow chains or have winter tires during winter. This legal requirements shall not be tagged with tags from this proposal. We collect all that information on the separate page Additional Information.
  • Winter equipment: Winter tyres, studded tyres, lugs and the like are related to snow chains, but not scope in this proposal, except for the vehicle property "winter_tyres" used in conditionals.
  • Traffic signs: Traffic Signs announcing restrictions related to snow chains are not part of this proposal, because this would be part of a different aspect with a much wider scope. The aspect that the restriction may be variable is covered in the proposal.


White tyre covered in chains on blue circle
"Snow chains required" sign in Austria, similar exist elsewhere
Black snowflake on white rectangle
"when ice or snow" additional sign used in Austria, the same type of sign exists also in other places

In regions where roads are covered in snow and ice during winter, on sufficiently steep roads motorized vehicles may be required to have snow chains (tyre chains, tire chains, wheel chains) attached. Sometimes, snow chains need to be carried on the vehicle but not (yet) actively put on. Snow chains may also be recommended by traffic signage, without one being fined if snow chains are not used - still important to know. On some road sections like tunnels snow chains may be prohibited.

Special areas may be reserved for putting on (laying chains/fitting chains/chaining up) and/or putting off (removing/chaining off): chain change areas (chain-up/off area, chain bay, chain fitting bay, chain bay). They are reasonable flat, allow rolling the vehicle to facilitate putting the chains on and off, and allow to accelerate safely also in heavy snowfall. One will find them ahead of and after the road section that has possible snow chain restrictons. Most probably these areas will have parking restrictions to ensure that in case they are needed space is available, and vehicles leave as fast as possible.

Often, the requirement to use snow chains is issued variable (on demand) by road authorities during the season or just during severe weather situations, indicated by special road signs that can be covered, flipped open/close, turned sideways, unmounted, or operated from remote electrically/electronically.[note 1] Tagging variable restrictions is important to let mappers and users understand that the road sign may be presented differently in different conditions and times of year. This prevents accidental removal of tags and allows to understand that an invisible or unreadable road sign may be active at some other time of year. This may also apply to to conditional snow chain requirements.

Usually the requirement for snow chains is conditional, most commonly restricted to conditions of ice or snow, but also certain types of vehicles (e.g. trucks, all wheel drive, weight), directions (e.g. downhill), or vehicle equipment (e.g. winter tyres, "winter equipment"); this may also apply to to variable snow chain requirements.

Even though this is quite common in the European Alps and other parts of Europe and the world, we do not yet have any tagging scheme for these things. But they are useful for several reasons:

  • It's part of everyday life of drivers/law enforcement/fire brigades etc. in significant parts of the world.
  • For routing, it is important to know about existing or possible limitations or equipment that may be necessary, which is especially true for snow chains. As snow chains are only necessary and/or required under certain conditions this may change depending on the time one travels the route, it may even change on short notice during the journey. Knowing the possible limitations beforehand allows to adjust the route or equipment and consider the implications accordingly. Routers could also filter to not require winter equipment. In case snow chains are required, the affected route sections and chain change areas may be shown/listed to help travelers.
  • There should be a map that shows or highlights these things. Map needs data.


The decision to put on chains is usually understood to be judged by the driver evaluating the road condition; because (metal) snow chains may damage or excessively wear a road, chains should be removed whenever they are not required any more. Please keep in mind that a (conditional) requirement for putting on chains may be shown on roads may also be shown when there is actually no snow, ice, snowfall or general winter conditions in the region. Use common sense.

Key snow_chains=*

way way

Applies to highway=* that apply to motorized vehicles.

Value Description Traffic sign
snow_chains=required Snow chains always required to be put on. traffic sign symbol: tyre with snow chains on blue circle.
snow_chains=carrying_required Snow chains have to be carried on the vehicle, but not necessarily put on. The obligation to fit them immediately would have to be announced by a separate snow_chains=required. textual traffic sign
snow_chains=recommended Snow chains are recommended to be put on. This does not include the obligation to put them on or carry them on the vehicle. While this may first not seem worthy of tagging, there are valid traffic signs for that, and it is valuable information for mapping and routing. textual traffic sign, e.g. USA, Idaho W 8-1301 [1] [2]
snow_chains=carrying_recommended Snow chains are recommended to be carried on the vehicle, but not necessarily put on. This state any binding requirement, but helps planing a route and to have an idea what conidtions to expect. For example recomended to carry for 4WD/AWD vehicles on certain roads in Australia.
snow_chains=default Only with snow_chains:conditional=*. Expresses that no special requirement is active, and general local legislation regulations apply. Necessary because
  1. Conditional restrictions#Default restrictions requires a value in case the conditional statement does not apply, and
  2. to express exceptions

[note 2]

See local legislation
snow_chains=prohibited Snow chains never allowed, e.g. in tunnels[note 3]. textual traffic sign, traffic sign symbol unknown

In most cases (at least in Central Europe), snow chains will be required conditionally (fixed rule, additional traffic signs) and/or variable (issued by local authorities depending on the actual situation).

Related tags


Subkey snow_chains:conditional=*

Standard Conditional restrictions. Use separate snow_chains=* for default value, probably default.

Examples of values:

Can be combined with snow_chains:variable=*: A restriction may be both conditional (e.g. specific type of vehicle) and variable (e.g. only shown at specific weather conditions).

Subkey snow_chains:variable=*

Indicates if snow chain requirements are stated on traffic signs in a variable way or permanent/non-variable, and the reason when it would be shown. Possible ways how signs may be shown/hidden include: covered, flipped open/close, turned sideways, unmounted, operated from remote electrically/electronically, etc[note 6].

This is derived from maxspeed:variable=* and should be handled consistent with that, but only values weather and no are sensible here. Please do not use value yes, this adds no information.

Value Explanation
snow_chains:variable=weather Snow chains variable/non-permanent required as announced on site, on weather dependent decision of road authorities.

This may be on very short notice only during acute snow fall or ice, or when snowfall is expected, or rather for a long time like "the cold season". There may be times when the sign is not visible or recognizable as such, so please do not remove the tagging if you just can't find or identify the road sign.

snow_chains:variable=no Traffic sign is known to be permanent throughout the year.

Do not set this value if it is not determined if the restriction is variable or not.

snow_chains:variable=yes Please do not use, adds no specific information!

Use instead snow_chains:variable=weather

Can be combined with snow_chains:conditional=*: A restriction may be both variable (e.g. only shown at specific weather conditions) and conditional (e.g. specific type of vehicle).

Value amenity=chain_change_area

information sign

The name of this tag was discussed intensively and controversially several times, in the Wiki Discussion Talk:Proposed_features/Snow_chains#Object_type_to_use, Talk:Proposed_features/Snow_chains#Chain_down_area and the Community Forum [3]. There is not a single term that describes it perfectly. If you have the impression that the current name is awkward in any way, please keep in mind that already a lot of thought was put into this, think if we can live with it, and if it's worth proposing a n-th variant of what was already brought up.

area area (for provisional tagging, node node)

For areas that are primarily dedicate to putting on/putting off snow chains. On purpose, no distinction is made to differentiage between 'chain-up areas' and 'chain-off' areas[note 7]. The areas are by nature usually located at the driving side of the road (no crossing of slippery road) and you put on chains before driving uphill, and put off chains after driving downhill. name=* may reflect the actual intended purpose.


Type Width Tags Extension of area
Wider shoulder, chain bay single lane, with space to safely change chains area area amenity=chain_change_area From the highway=* it belongs to (center line) to the outer edge of the chain change area, for the full length of the area.

Nodes from the highway=* should be used.

Separated area Lane to drive plus extra space to change chains area area amenity=chain_change_area, including roads tagged as highway=service if they are intended to be driven on.

May be combined with parking:both=no + parking:both:restriction=no_parking (no parking, stopping ok), parking:both=no + parking:both:restriction=no_stopping (no parking, no stopping) etc. Restrictions (parking) should go with the road, not the area!

All the chain change area, but not the area of the highway=* it belongs to.

For provisional tagging, node node amenity=chain_change_area may be used, with notes=*/fixme=* to allow/encourage full area tagging.

Chain Change Area, Chain Bay, Rest Area or Emergency Bay?

Identify your highway stopping area
Chain Change Area Chain Bay (wide shoulder) Rest Area Emergency Bay
Purpose put up chains/put off chains put up chains/put off chains resting, staying, refreshing, parking stopping at emergency
Parking, extended stay? very probably not no yes no
Changing chains possible yes yes yes yes
All year open? no, only winter no, only winter. Maybe emergency bay all year. yes yes
Expected amenities optional: lighting optional: lighting, emergency phone parking area, toilets, picnic tables, waste baskets, lighting emergency phone, optional: lighting
Separation from main road yes no yes no
Intended to regularly drive on maybe no yes no
Tagged as area area area or point way or node

A Rest Area may be used to change chains, but a Chain Change Area may not be used to rest!

Useful combinations

  • name=* Should be set only if known, as name=chain change area [known name]. The areas may get named after a near known place, while not being that very place itself. name=chain change area is wrong by Good practice: Don't use name tag to describe things If there is a dedicated chain-up and dedicated chain-down area in close proximity, and a specific name is known, the purpose can be reflected in the name: name=chain-up area [known name] and name=chain-down area [known name], in the local language and words like stated on signs.
  • ref=* Should be tagged and rendered if numbered/coded. Example: In Australia, highest elevated chain change area (chain bay) for a pass has ref=1, counting down from a higher number to that one. [note 8]
  • lit=*
  • emergency_phone=*

Related Tags



Note: This key subsumes Proposed features/amenity=chain bay. Differing to that proposal, I'd rather not call it "bay", because there exist ones that are more separated from the main road and are not bays.

Conditional vehicle properties "snow_chains" and "winter_tyres"

For Conditional restrictions, explicitly list "snow_chains" and "winter_tyres". This allows for better conditional restrictions and exceptions, both directly with snow_chains=* and other tags.



Tagging Explanation Note Image
Snow chains required when road is covered in snow or ice.
  • :conditional=* does not allow OR. Multiple conditions separated by ; can to be used (like opening_time) but need parenthesis.
  • The additional "snowflake" sign[1] requires separate conditions for both snow and ice. Other additional signs may state only snow or only ice.
  • Probably one of the most frequent conditions.
Snow chains required when road is covered in snow or ice, but not for uphill driving AWD motor vehicles.
  • Last condition to match is valid.
  • AWD here means all-wheel-drive, not limited to off-road vehicles.[note 9]
Snow chains required, except for motorcars (Class N) with winter tyres.
Sign can be rotated. When turned to face to approaching traffic: Snow chains required, except for motorcars (Class N) with winter tyres.
Sign rotated to right, facing outside of the street to let it have no effect.
Named chain change area Dedicated chain change area, not a highway=rest_area Note: image missing



Bold/coloured/dashed(for snow_chains:conditional=* snow_chains:variable=*) highlighting in a cool, blue-ish hue. In zoom levels adequate to to importance of the road, start and end should be marked with a snow chain symbol Snow chains required

Chain Change Area

Like resting area, but cooler color (light violet) and with a symbol derived from chain change area Symbol for hain-up area on maps. Can occur alongside parking sign, if parking is allowed and tagged.

Features/Pages affected

Related Topics

Informal listing for reference only, not part of the proposal.



Snow chains required:

Chain Change Areas:

Road signs

  • In Austria[2][1], Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Czeck Republic and other countries a traffic sign for "snow chains required" exists and is in common use.
  • The UN Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals[3] defines
    • a snow chain sign as D, 9 "SNOW CHAINS COMPULSORY" and E, 21 / E, 22 "CHAINS OR SNOW TYRES RECOMMENDED".
    • Annex 5 F.7. "ROAD OPEN  OR  CLOSED"  sign: Sign E, 21, "ROAD OPEN OR CLOSED", shall be used to show whether a mountain road, particularly a section leading over a pass, is open or closed; the sign shall be placed at the entry to the road or roads leading to the section in question. The name of the section of road (or pass) shall be inscribed in white. On the sign shown, the name "Furka" is given as an example. Panels 1, 2 and 3 shall be removable. If the section of road is closed, panel 1 shall be red and shall bear the inscription "CLOSED1 ; if the section is open, panel 1 shall be green and shall bear the inscription "OPEN", The inscriptions shall be in white and preferably in several languages. Panels 2 and 3 shall have a white ground with inscriptions and symbols in black. If the section of road is open, panel 3 shall remain blank and panel 2, according to the state of the road, shall either be blank, or display sign D, 9, "SNOW CHAINS COMPULSORY", or display symbol E, 22, "CHAINS OR SNOW TYRES RECOMMENDED". This symbol shall be black. If the section of road is closed, panel 3 shall show the name of the place up to which the road is open and panel 2 shall display, according to the state of the road, either the inscription "OPEN AS FAR AS", or symbol E, 22, or sign D, 9.

Local legislative requirements

By Good practice: Don't map your local legislation, if not bound to objects in reality this proposal is not concerned with regional or national regulations. Nevertheless it is important to interpret the actual road signage in context of the legal regulations.

a page similar to

could be created. A very good start would beüstung_(Straßenverkehr) which is unfortunately German only.

In the mean time we collect Additional Information.

External discussions

Snow Chains

Variable Message

Mailinglist [Tagging] Billboard or something else 2019-10/11


Version Change Discussion Topics
0 Last Draft
  • Chain up area and chain bay in relation to rest area and emergency bay
  • Values: yes/no => required/allowed/prohibited; chain-down; naming; legal requirements

Diff to Version 1


Diff to Version 2

  • Rationale and Scope improved (+Map; no Studs/Lugs)
  • Tire (AE) → Tyre (BE)
  • "on_demand" → "variable" leftovers cleaned up
  • "variable" subtyping dropped (out of scope)
  • values for snow_chains=* ordered, improved explanations
  • Chain-up areas: Better instructions for naming/chain-down
  • Examples extended, simplified
  • Rendering: added symbols, modified
  • highway=chain_up_area changed to amenity=chain_change_area

  • External references: added Variable Messages discussion
  • Lots of typos, wording, formatting

Diff to Version 3

5 (Work in Progress)
  • Wording: Consitently use put on/put off and putting on/putting off to avoid confusion and allow better searching.
  • Additional Information moved from Discussion to separate subpage
  • Value amenity=chain_change_area: typo fixed.
  • Added clarification note for Condition flashing_lights
  • Examples:
    • :motorcar=* instead of condition motorcar
    • simplified conditions like required @ snow; required @ ice to required @ (snow; ice)


Please comment on the discussion page.


  1. It turned out that differentiating all the ways traffic signals can be variable is a much bigger task than proposing snow chains. So, unfortunately out of scope here.
  2. Values like "none"' or "allowed" would implicate that there is no requirement at all for snow chains. This would possibly collide with legal requirements for the administrative area, which could state anything from "snow chains never allowed" to "required without exception on snow".
  3. Two reasons: 1) no snow in tunnels, thus only dammage to roads. 2) Speed is limited to 50 km/h, which is a hazard in a tunnel.
  4. Syntax for conditional has no "OR", these multiple conditions have to be stated separately.
  5. hazmat=* defines currently a condition with flashing_light, but that refers to flashing lights mounted ontop of the vehicle to be active flashing. Fixing this ambiguity is out of scope for this proposal.
  6. Currently, we have no consistent tagging of variable traffic signs and regulations. Ideas where sketched out in the Discussion page.
  7. This may seem in conflict with 4wd_only=*, but there seems to be no defined or in use vehicle property that expresses non-offroad AWD-ness, and adding this to the proposal would go beyond the scope here.
  8. Last chain-up area is easy to identify: If you see 1, you know it's your last chance.
  9. This may seem in conflict with 4wd_only=*, but there seems to be no defined or in use vehicle property that expresses non-offroad AWD-ness, and adding this to the proposal would go beyond the scope here.


  1. 1.0 1.1 | StVO §54 Z. 5 lit. f "Diese Zusatztafel weist darauf hin, dass das Straßenverkehrszeichen bei Schneelage oder Eisbildung auf der Fahrbahn zu beachten ist." in RIS
  2. | StVO §51 lit. b Nr. 22 Gebotszeichen "SCHNEEKETTEN VORGESCHRIEBEN" in RIS