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Public-images-osm logo.svg direction
Kompas Sofia.JPG
Specifies the direction of a feature. Edit
Group: Properties
Used on these elements
may be used on nodesmay be used on waysmay be used on areasuse on relations unspecified
Status: approvedPage for proposal

The key direction is used in a variety of situations to specify the direction of a feature.

Angles and cardinal directions

Angles and cardinal directions can be used for features which are mapped as either an independent node or an area. It allows to specify directions that are not related to any existing way. For nodes, examples are the direction of a cave entrance, cliff, view, bench, or hunting stand. For areas, examples are the direction of planting in a vineyard or planted forests.

Value Element Description
<number> nodearea The given number specifies the degrees from 0 to 359 in which the feature faces, where 0 is equal to northward, using clockwise rotation.
<cardinal> nodearea One of the cardinal directions, specified using uppercase characters [NWSE], e.g. NE means north-east. See the image below for all possible values and their meaning.

This image shows all possible values for cardinal directions together with the corresponding degrees.



The values direction=north/south/east/west are used as synonyms for direction=N/S/E/W and should be treated the same way. Combinations like e.g. north-east should however not be specified in that form.


Bench facing east:

 direction=E (or direction=90)

Cave entrance facing north-north-west:


Note that traffic signs traffic_sign=* are tagged the way the sign faces, i.e., against the direction of travel. For example, when traveling west, signs are facing east, so you tag them with direction=90 or direction=E.

Field of view of a tourism viewpoint

For a viewpoint, it may be appropriate to tag the field of view with the following pattern:

  <number>-<number> // e.g. 90-270
  <cardinal>-<cardinal> //e.g. E-W

Please note that the sense of rotation is always clockwise. 90-270 or E-W means, for instance, the field of view reaches from East via South to West.

360° Panorama view

There is a discussion at the german Forum and at the tagging mailinglist, how the 360° panorama view should be tagged. Tendency would be "0-360".

Simple value

It is the responsibility of the application or rather renderer, how it parse and draw simple values (e.g. 270 or S).



Some printed maps for tourists (not based on OSM data) show direction of viewpoint, it gives some info what is visible from a given place (sometimes view is restricted, in mountains typically by forest). direction tag allows doing the same with OSM data.

Clockwise and anticlockwise

On highway=mini_roundabout nodes, a different variant of the direction key is used.

Value Element Description
anticlockwise node The mini-roundabout runs anti-clockwise.
clockwise node The mini-roundabout runs clockwise.

Note that the default value for roundabouts and mini-roundabouts is anti-clockwise in most countries (or territories) driving on the right side of bidirectional highways, and clockwise in other countries (or territories) driving on the left side (e.g. United Kingdom or Hong Kong SAR).

Roundabouts and mini-roundabouts are themselves not bidirectional so their direction is almost always implicit (given the applicable national or territorial default rules), and cases where the effective direction is reversed (needing this tag explictly) are extremely rare everywhere (they exist only when a small roundaround, for example in a service/industrial/harbour way, is just aside another major bidirectional street and its normal rotation direction would require vehicules to go in opposite direction of the major street without enough space left for another lane separation: collisions would be unavoidable).


Mini-roundabout running clockwise:


Forward and backward

The directions forward and backward can be used to specify the direction of a feature relative to an existing way. This only applies to features which are tagged on a node that is part of a way. Examples may include directed traffic signs.

Key Value Element Description
direction forward node (part of way) The direction is forward, relative to how the associated way was drawn in the editor.
direction backward node (part of way) The direction is backward, relative to how the associated way was drawn in the editor.

Note that this tagging is ambiguous in case the node belongs to more than one way! For this reason, use the forward and backward directions only on nodes which are part of exactly one way (or, depending on context, highway=*). Avoid junction nodes and nodes between two ways as well (where they have been split, but are connected by a node). If in doubt, better simply insert a new node into the way which can be freshly tagged.

Warning: Some editors don't recognise this tag. When reversing the direction of the way, the direction on the nodes of that way might not be changed, and you won't be notified of possible mistakes. So be careful when changing the direction of a way. JOSM is one editor which is able to detect and reverse the direction.

Obsolete uses


The tags direction=up and direction=down have been used on highway=steps to specify if the stairs lead up or down in the direction of the way. This has since been obsoleted by incline=up and incline=down.

See also