Roads in the United Kingdom

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Generally we follow the standard global guidelines for mapping UK roads in OpenStreetMap. This page provides supplementary guidance specific to the UK.

Also see Road signs in the United Kingdom.

UK tagging

Please use the following table when deciding which highway=* tag to use.

Description Tag
Motorways highway=motorway
A-roads with primary status (signed yellow on green) highway=trunk
A-roads with non-primary (secondary) status (signed black on white) highway=primary
B-roads highway=secondary
Busy unclassified through roads
(Generally used only on roads wide enough to allow two cars to pass safely where adequate road markings are in place; may have unsigned categories such as C, D or U: see Tagging Road Numbers, below)
Other (i.e., not in the above classes) non-residential roads in towns. Examples include; minor shopping streets, roads in commericial districts, and public roads in industrial areas. highway=unclassified
Country lanes highway=unclassified
Residential roads
(Used only on roads that have no other function other than for residential purposes)
Service roads
(driveways, carpark entrance roads, private roads, bus-only roads, etc). Please remember access=* and service=* where applicable
Private roads highway=* access=private
Track (Larger than a path; generally big enough to fit a vehicle down).
Use in conjunction with tracktype=*.
Byway deprecated as of 2010-08.

Reference: List of deprecated features.


Tagging road numbers

The ref=* tag should only be used on roads which are signposted with a national official number. These are Motorways, A-roads, B-roads and, in a very small number of special cases, some roads signposted by the local authority with a C-prefix.

In all other cases, such as use of road numbers from highway authorities statutory lists, use official_ref=*. If you do want to use this latter information, please ensure that your source is free of copyright or otherwise compatible with our licence.

Unpaved country roads

Ford on Red Lodge Road, Marefield

In a number of places there exist designated public highways which are unpaved and not regularly unmaintained by the local highway authority. They usually look like tracks, and only detailed local knowledge is likely to uncover that their status is different. Known examples include Red Lodge Road way 198802841 & Blackspinney Lane way 195159159 in Leicestershire. It is recommended that these be mapped as highway=track even though the highway authority may record them as unclassified roads. Additional tags which should be added are access=yes, surface=*, tracktype=* and, possibly, designation=public_highway. In many areas such roads & tracks have been formally designated as byways or restricted byways and the tagging is then straightfoward.


Historically the UK OpenStreetMap community tracked our progress as we mapped UK roads. This information is no longer kept up to date but you can still see the pages here: