Proposed features/cycleway:separation

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Separation of cycleways
Status: Draft (under way)
Proposed by: Supaplex030
Tagging: cycleway:separation=*
Applies to: way
Definition: Specifies the separation/demarcation/protection of a cycleway to neighboring road users, e.g. to map Protected Bike Lanes.

Drafted on: 2020-10-27


Example: Protected Bike Lane (cycleway:separation=bollard)

The key cycleway:separation describes how a cycleway is separated from the adjacent traffic of other road lanes and users (e.g. car lanes, sidewalks). This tagging allows the extended specification of different types of cycle lanes, especially Separated and Protected Bike Lanes (increasingly built in many cities), where cycle lanes are separated from moving traffic with bollards or other physical structures. In other cases, cycleways may be demarcated by grass verges, parking lanes or simply by road markings. An interpretation of which values correspond to a "high" and which to a "low" protection status is left to the users. For example, road markings represent a rather missing protection; parking cars are associated with the danger of "dooring" (opening of car doors).

However, this tagging can also be used on classic cycle lanes to describe the type of line marking. The differentiation between different types of separation and marking (especially solid and dashed lines) can be used in conjunction with the country and its traffic laws to imply legal rules such as compulsory use or accessibility for other vehicles.

An other quality of separation and protection is determined by buffer widths (cycleway:buffer=* – consider to use this key together with cycleway:separation.

Since on the left and right side of a cycleway there are usually spaces for different types of traffic (motor vehicles, pedestrians...) and these are often structured in different ways, a separation value can be indicated for the left and right side of the way respectively. If no side is given, the side towards the strongest traffic user is meant by default (usually towards a road with motor vehicles – in countries with right-hand traffic usually on the left-hand side of the cycle path).

The separation key could also be used on paths other than cycleways, such as sidewalks, path (with mixed traffics) or the road itself (for example, to mark sections of roads with guard rails/crash barriers).


Until now there are no documented or common tags for this, so it is not possible to map e.g. Protected Bike Lanes in OSM.

The separation/demarcation of cycleways from other road users is – besides factors such as width or road surface – an important indicator for assessing the quality of a cycleway. Whether a cyclist has to expect that cars can drive onto the cycle lane or that pedestrians suddenly swerve onto the path not only has a great influence on the feeling of safety, but can also help determine what speed is appropriate on the cycle path.

It can be argued that objects that are separating, protecting or demarcating different ways and lanes should be recorded separately and therefore do not have to be recorded on the way. But in order to differentiate a Protected Bike Line, for example, from other types of cycleways it doesn't make sense to trust that these objects (e.g. bollards along a cycleway) can be evaluated sensibly and without errors. In addition, OSM data rarely reveals exactly where other road users are moving in the street cross-section. A separately mapped grass verge next to a road with a cycleway is therefore initially not evaluable information, since the cycleway could be on the left or right side of the green. The separation-scheme offers a simple way of mapping such information precisely and easily evaluable.


Simple variant (one side)

Use cycleway:separation on road ways (with cycleway=*) or just separation on separate cycleways (highway=cycleway) and one of the values below to specify the type of separation.

Detailed variant (two sides)


  • cycleway:separation:left and cycleway:separation:right on road ways (with cycleway=* or
  • separation:left and separation:right on separate cycleways (highway=cycleway) specify the kind of separation/protection status of a cycleway on both sides of the way.

Note: If cycleways are mapped on the street object (e.g. cycleway=lane), the side of the street on which they are located should be indicated (cycleway:right=*, cycleway:left=* or cycleway:both=*).

The separation tagging then contains two side indications: e.g. cycleway:right:separation:left. The first refers to the side of the road on which the cycleway is located, the second refers to the side of the cycle lane for which separation is specified.

Typical values

(Several values can be tagged separately with semicolons, whereby different structures should be tagged from the inside (closer to the cycleway) to the outside (further away). E.g. separation:left=kerb;parking_lane means, that there is a curb on the left of the cycleway, and behind there is a parking lane on the carriageway.)

Forms of physical separation

Forms of markings and symbolic separation

The key can be used to distinguish between different types of (mandatory or advisory, depending on local legislation) cycle lanes (without physical separation). cycleway:lane=* is sometimes used for this distinction, but the following values can be used for a clear representation of the type of markings and lines instead of there interpretation.

No adjacent traffic areas – separation not_required

If there are no other traffic areas adjacent to one side (or both sides) of a way, there can be no separation from other ways or lanes there. Separation for protection or demarcation from other traffic participants is therefore not required there, but this should still be tagged. Some examples:

Other values

  • cone – separation by (movable, possibly temporary) traffic cones.
  • bus_lane – there is an exclusive lane for buses or psv=* vehicles between the cycleway and other traffic users (but don't use this for shared busways).
  • yes – unspecified; should be specified more precisely if possible.
  • no – no physical/structural or symbolic separation from other road users.

Directions of left and right

Left and right refer to the direction in which a cycleway is used.

On a separate way (highway=cycleway) left and right refers to the direction of the cycleway object.

When used on a road way (cycleway=*, where there may be cycleways on both sides of the road), left and right assumes that the cycleways are used in the same direction as the adjacent traffic lanes. In countries with right-hand traffic, on the left side of cycleways there is usually the lane with car traffic, while on the right side there is often a sidewalk. In countries with left-hand traffic it is the other way round (forward and backward are not suitable for use with cycleway:separation because they don't describe sides). On a road with a cycleway on the left and right side, a total of four information of the protection status can be given, because the cycleways on both sides have there own left and right side.

Even if a cycleway on one side of the road can be used in both directions (and is not mapped separately; tagged with cycleway:left:oneway=no or cycleway:right:oneway=no), left and right refer to the direction of travel on the adjacent traffic lane. In rare cases, a cycleway on one side of a street can lead in the opposite direction – in this case, left and right exceptional refer to the actual direction of travel on this cycleway and not to the direction of travel on the adjacent traffic lane.


Protected Bike Lane
Separated cycle track

Note: The examples show the simplest tagging variant with only one value for separation.

Protected Bike Lanes could also be mapped with a separate line, as in a broader sense there is a physical separation between the bike lane and the road.

Examples for different separation values

separation[:left] separation:right
Pop-up bike lane Kottbusser Damm Berlin.jpg
Separation kerb cycleway protection.jpg
534c Radfstreifen HB Wachmannstr.jpg
Radweg Eschersheimer Straße Neukölln.jpg
Auf der Schlossbrücke, nach W gesehen.JPG

External discussions

This proposal was created after discussions and deliberations in parts of the Berlin OSM community on the mapping of Protected Bike Lanes and detailed cycleway information. The key has been tested and improved on different cycleways there since 2019. A detailed page in German on this topic can be found here. An overpass query for cycleways with this key is available here.


Please comment on the discussion page.