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Public-images-osm logo.svg highway = motorway
Morgendlicher Berufsverkehr auf der BAB A8 beim Kreuz Stuttgart - panoramio.jpg
High capacity highways designed to safely carry fast motor traffic. Show/edit corresponding data item.
Rendering in OSM Carto
Rendering-highway motorway carto.png
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 (except multipolygon relations)
Useful combination
Status: de facto

The tag highway=motorway is used to identify the highest-performance roads within a territory.

Typically highway=motorway should be used only on roads with control of access, or selected roads with limited access depending on the local context and prevailing convention.

In some countries, roads with control of access are proclaimed in government documents, and have an official status as a controlled access road, sometimes this can include the term motorway, freeway or expressway among others in the road name. These kinds of roads usually have a special designation by the law, with a set of laws specifically applied on them. Generally some restrictions are placed on the kind of vehicles or traffic which can be on roads which should be classed as highway=motorway, such as no pedestrians, bicycles, livestock, horses and so on.

Selected limited access roads which can be classed as motorways include those that:

  • Generally resemble a controlled access road and must be free from intersection controls (such as traffic-signals, rotaries and roundabouts, and stop signs or stop markings);
  • Typically have at least two lanes in each traffic direction with some degree of separation;
  • Have access roads only for servicing purposes, such as a limited number of driveways serving non-residential property, service roads to infrastructure, or rest-area roads or bays, which may be more typical in regional or rural settings

For roads which do not meet the above requirements consider using highway=trunk (high-importance non-motorway roads) and/or motorroad=yes (motorway-like access restrictions), subject to local tagging conventions in your country. See Highway:International equivalence for guidance on the use of the highway=motorway tag in different countries.

The tag highway=motorway_link should be used for the link roads, sliproads or ramps which lead to and from a motorway. Where one motorway terminates or begins on another the highway=motorway_link can be used to separate and identify the different motorway roads and the continuing route; that is, generally two diverging or converging highway=motorway ways should not meet or join in OpenStreetMap, but rather be separated by highway=motorway_link ways.

Implied values

While the box on the right lists some implied tags, they have been changed several times, they are often country-specific and the community does not agree about the implications. It is suggested to include implied tags when mapping motorways regardless.

Most motorways have  shoulders along each carriageway, but you may use shoulder=no to indicate missing shoulder. If a motorway uses emergency bays or emergency refuge areas instead of a shoulder then highway=emergency_bay can be added to nodes where they exist.

In some places areas some highway=motorway allow cyclists and pedestrians (on a shoulder). It means that explicit foot=no, bicycle=no, shoulder=yes may be useful even if seemingly obvious[1].

How to map

highway=motorway, lanes=4, oneway=yes, int_ref=E 451, ref=A 5, destination:Darmstadt

A motorway is normally represented by a series two parallel ways, one for each carriageway tagged with highway=motorway. These ways should all point direction of travel and be tagged with oneway=yes. In the less usual case of a motorway where traffic travels in both directions along the same carriageway use a single way and tag it with oneway=no. When drawing parallel ways, place the nodes for each direction next to each other, which results in a better representation on most maps. The following tags may be applicable:

Tagging scheme for highway=motorway
Tag Description Example
name=* Name of the motorway. Autostrada dei Fiori
ref=* Highway code in the national highway network. A 3
int_ref=* Highway code in the international highway network. E 30
oneway=yes See section #How to map
lanes=* Number of lanes. 3
maxspeed=* The maximum speed which is allowed (in km/h). 130
minspeed=* Minimum driving speed on the motorway (in km/h). 50
destination=* Name of town for the direction of the motorway. Normally the town written on the sign which belongs to the motorway-link. Frankfurt
carriageway_ref=* In the UK, the reference number for the carriageway, as displayed on Highway Agency signing B
toll=yes On paid motorways
winter_service=* if winter service is provided

Use highway=motorway_junction at each point along a motorway with numbered exits to identify the exit number.

Toll gates

example of toll gates

At a toll plaza, do not fork the motorway into multiple parallel highway=* ways to represent the lanes approaching the tollbooths.

You may draw parallel ways around the sides of the tollbooths, but only in the immediate vicinity of the physical separation. For example, in the photo at right, the motorway would fork where the concrete barriers begin. Use change:lanes=* to indicate a lane change restriction extending much farther back from the tollbooth.

It is 100% fine to have single highway=motorway line even if there are tollbooths physically splitting it on a short distance, like with other very short physical barriers.

International equivalence

Country Roadsign Description More
Australia Motorways, freeways, and freeway-like roads. Australian Tagging Guidelines/Roads
Austria Autobahn WikiProject Austria/Autobahnen
Belarus Дорога для автомобилей.png Дарога для аўтамабіляў RU:Map Features:highway
Belgium Autosnelweg/Autoroute/Autobahn NL: Autostrade/autosnelweg, FR: Autoroute, DE: Autobahn WikiProject Belgium/Motorways

WikiProject Belgium/Conventions/Highways

Brazil Autoestradas, >80 km/h
Bulgaria Автомагистрала Автомагистрала (Avtomagistrala) Bg:WikiProject Bulgaria/Пътна мрежа
China(Mainland) 高速公路 (Expressway)
Croatia Autocesta
Czech Republic Dálnice Dálnice Cs:WikiProjekt Česko/Značení silnic
Denmark Motorvej Motorvej Danish Map Features
Dominican Republic Autopista
France France road sign C207.svg Autoroute (A) : separated roads with at least 2 lanes per direction, plus a right shoulder (emergency lane, for cars to stop, or for emergency vehicles access during traffic jams).
  • Most autoroutes are privately operated and require passing a toll for long distance, but some sections in specific areas may be toll free.
  • Max speed is usually 130 km/h (110 km/h under raining, and reduced further under bad conditions like snow/freeze/fog) but may be reduced to 110 km/h (100 km/h under raining) or lower around large cities or autoroute junctions, and reduced to 90 km/h or lower near some construction or if traffic is temporarily rerouted to a single bidirectional carriage using a single lane per direction.
  • Access (or crossing) is strictly forbidden for pedestrians and non/light motorized vehicles (except in designated service areas with parkings where max speed is reduced). Car drivers at foot must stay behind the protection barriers (along autoroutes, on right), when waiting for emergency, or to walk to the nearest emergency phone.
Fr:Map Features
Georgia Autobahn ავტობანი (avtobani)
Germany Autobahn Autobahn WikiProject Germany/Autobahn
Greece Αυτοκινητόδρομος Αυτοκινητόδρομος WikiProject Greece/Motorways
Hong Kong SAR Hong Kong expressway sign.svg Designated expressways, road tunnels and tunnel areas. Zh-hant:Hong Kong tagging
Hungary Autópálya Autópálya WikiProject Hungary/Gyorsforgalmi út
Indonesia Indonesia road sign (Guide) 4a.svg Jalan Tol
Freeway in Iran.png
The Freeways according to the definition of Iranian National Standardization Organization.
Israel Dálnice Kwish Mahir
Italy Autostrada Autostrada, compresi i raccordi autostradali come le tangenziali di Milano e il Grande Raccordo Anulare di Roma. It:Italian Roads Tagging
Japan Japan road sign 325.svg Expressways or motor roads. Normally divided with 2 or more lanes in each direction.


Korean Highway 3.svg Divided, grade-separated highway with 2 or more lanes in each direction designated by a red and blue shield (toll roads). Also, some National Routes (blue oval) which have been upgraded to Motorway status (toll-free). Ko:Map Features
Korea Motorways
Malaysia Expressway logo.png Lebuhraya: usually tolled. Expressway section of the Malaysian_Roads_Tagging page
Netherlands Autosnelweg NL:The Netherlands roads tagging
New Zealand Motorway begins nz -vector.svg
Expressway begins nz -vector.svg
Motorways and expressways
Divided highway with 2 or more lanes in each direction. Grade-separated interchanges (no at-grade intersections, traffic lights or roundabouts). Generally 100 or 110 km/h speed limit.
Norway NO road sign 502.svg Motorvei No:Map_Features#Road_classes
Philippines Expressways (mostly tolled).
Examples include the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), South Luzon Expressway (SLEX), Metro Manila Skyway, Subic - Clark - Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX), Tarlac - Pangasinan - La Union Expressway (TPLEX), Manila - Cavite Expressway (CAVITEX/Coastal Road), etc.
Philippines/Mapping conventions#Roads
Poland Autostrada Autostrada WikiProject Poland/Klasyfikacja dróg
Portugal Autostrada Auto-estrada – all the motorways with "A" reference. For example: A 25. Portugal's highways standardization
Romania Romania road sign G6.svg [W] Autostradă
Russia RU road sign 5.1.svg автомагистраль (avtomagistral'), которая уже имеет статус trunk. RU:Map Features:highway
Slovakia DiaľnicaRýchlostná cesta Diaľnica & Rýchlostná cesta
Slovenia Avtocesta WikiProject_Slovenia/Ceste#AC, HC - Avtoceste in Hitre ceste
Spain Autopista/Autovía WikiProject Spain/Autopista Normalización
Sweden Motorväg Sv:Map Features#Vägar
Switzerland Autobahn Autobahn / autoroute
Taiwan (Rep. of China) 國道 (Freeway) WikiProject Taiwan/Taiwan tagging
Turkey OtoyolLevhaGenis.png Otoyol Vikipedi(turkish) Motorway network in Turkey. Highways in use, under construction and projected Tr:Turkey roads tagging
UK UK traffic sign 2901.svg motorway
United States See: US Highway Classification Guide for motorway.
Venezuela Only some freeways (called "Autopista"): Dual carriageway highways divided by a physical divider with 2 or more lanes in each direction, directly connected to national roads, strictly limited access by ramps that allow speed reduction outside the main carriageway. Must not have same-level crossroads, traffic lights, roundabouts, or u-turn ramps that merge on the left-lane (usually called "Retorno").[2]

There should be no streets or roads that connect directly to the highway if it is not through a well-defined ramp. There should also be no buildings or properties adjacent to the highway or any of its access ramps.

Legally 90 km/h speed limit.[2]

Quality tool

See also


  1. https://lists.openstreetmap.org/pipermail/tagging/2021-January/thread.html#58857 - about pedestrian access on major roads, includes discussion of feasibility, legality and sanity of pedestrian traffic on roads, up to and including motorways and revealed that explicit tagging of pedestrian access may be useful even on motorways
  2. 2.0 2.1 Reglamento de la Ley de Tránsito Terrestre (Road-transit Law Regulation), Venezuela, 1998-06-26.