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This is a page for general discussion on the highway= key and its values. The existing set of recommended core values can be seen at the map features page and any specific new proposals at the Proposed features page.

highway = motorway

highway = trunk

Resolved: Local guideline

Is a trunk route one that is shown on OS maps as Axx(T) or is it a road that is between an A-road and a Motorway?

I'm genarlly using the value of "trunk" for both those roads that are generally single or double digit A roads (eg A5, A38 etc) plus any that were designated Axx(T). Its a matter of preference though, if you feel the need for other road designations (an potentially different rendering, eg colours) the there is nothing to stop you using alternative names to represent types fitting between a motorway and a "A" (primary) road. Blackadder 15:22, 3 Apr 2006 (UTC)
OK, thanks. I am using Trunk to mean Axx(T) roads then.
Resolved: Does not imply anything physical

Does trunk imply anything else, for the sake of mapping? Dual carriageways are meant to be marked with two ways, can trunk imply anything of this sort? Or is trunk really only relevant in jurisdictions (the UK) where it has some actual meaning? (same for motorway)

Trunk is a "primary route" in the UK (trunk actually means something else). Essentially, it's just a big/important highway=primary road. Bruce89 15:38, 14 August 2007 (BST)

Highlands Trunk route with a single lane

There is a road in the Highlands of Scotland that is officially marked as a Trunk route. However, for about 50km it is, for the most part, a single track road with passing places - very scary when you have a 40 Ton lorry thundering towards you. So I'm wondering if the description of a Trunk route here is too restrictive. --Colin Angus Mackay 12:02, 22 Mar 2006 (UTC)

I would map the part thats obviously a Trunk route as such and map the single with passing places more appropriately. ie two seperate ways. Blackadder 15:24, 22 Mar 2006 (UTC)


There's also a spate of roads being "detrunked" in the UK for purely political reasons. This means that the responsibility for maintaining the road falls to local government, rather than the central government funded Department for Transport. Using the term "trunk" might be confusing. Welshie 17:31, 22 Mar 2006 (UTC)

You got a better name for something that sits between a motorway and a primary road? Blackadder 20:07, 22 Mar 2006 (UTC)
There is an offical and correct term for this, a distributor road. aaronsta 12:00 23 Mar 2016

oneway or not?

Resolved: Number of carriageways is what matters, not the tag

Should highway=trunk be one or two ways? I.e. will it automatically be defined as oneway=true or not? i.e. should I map it was 2 ways or one? Stefan8 14:10, 17 December 2007 (UTC)

If it's divided, map it as 2 ways. If not, don't. For the US, I think part of the definition of a trunk is that it be separated (and thus it's implicitly oneway=yes), and mapped as two ways. --Hawke 19:45, 18 June 2008 (UTC)
A better definition of trunk is that it is a highway with occasional grade level intersections and limited access for its entire length. Motorways are not trunks because they (with rare exceptions) do not have grade level intersections. Primary roads are not trunks because they usually do not have limited access, or only have occasional sections with limited access.

cycle, footpaths and bridleways

Resolved: Both "cycleway" and "path" are used.

What to use for paths that may be used for both cycling and walking?

This type of scenario for all modes of transport occurs a great deal. I tend to set the highest mode, so for a path where cycling is permitted by notice I set it as a cycleway. If its just a path that gets used by cyclists I set it as a footway. Blackadder 21:43, 26 Mar 2006 (UTC)
Is that be the recommended/official practice? I've been acting accordingly but it ought to be more prominently mentioned in this wiki on pages documenting highway=footway/cycleway usage. Unless someone objects I'll make the changes. Alv 13:22, 18 May 2008 (UTC)
There is a proposal to remove highway=footway,highway=cycleway,highway=bridleway out of the highway hierarchy and replace it by 'route=trail' You can append as many keys like foot=yes,cycle=yes,etc as you want and you don't have to choose on a primary use anymore.--rvanderh 23:59, 4 August 2007 (BST)

Tagging different road classes

I always assign Trunk for generally roads that are single or double digit A roads. I also assign primary to any with 3 numbers or roads not marked as trunk routes. Secondary roads are always B roads, and unclassified is anything else. It seems as if other people have different criteria for which tag to assign to different roads. It seems many people don't know that trunk exists, and they just use primary. Should I alter my ways or should others use trunk for main A roads? We need a degree of consistancy here, as one part of a road I mark as trunk, someone else marks as primary. Also roads I would mark as primary (as they are A roads), others mark them as secondary. Bruce89 12:27, 12 Apr 2006 (UTC)

It would nice to be consitent, but I suspect it will never be that easy. Due to detrunking the "trunk" definition is not really there anymore. But clearly the majority of dual carriageway and major feeder roads are shown in a different colour on maps to traditional primary "A" roads. So your approach would seem appropriate on the whole (though not necessarily fitting every case). Ideally the user would refer the road number to the Higways Agency or local authority for its appropriate classification and tag appropriately. As for primary/secondary differences, I would say if you know for certain its one or the other then edit/change accordingly. If a dispute arrises then further investigation could be made. Blackadder 14:37, 12 Apr 2006 (UTC)
I realise what I'm about to say is "UK centric". I think we're probably talking about primary and non-primary A-roads in the UK. Primary routes are those with green backed signs with white and yellow lettering, and are now shown in green on OS and most road maps. Non-primary A-roads have white-backed signs with black lettering only - these are shown as red on OS and most road maps. Primary routes generally form the recommended routes between major population centres, major road junctions, airports etc. I wonder whether it's worth creating a "non-primary A route" style tag to distinguish between these two types. I personally think this is perhaps more useful than just having a single "primary" tag for all A-roads. We could reserve the "trunk" tag for genuine access-limited dual carriageways with grade-separated junctions which are above just standard primary route dual carriageways, but do not have formal motorway regulations and classification. Michelin maps do this very well. The "secondary" tag would work for B-roads. I think merely tagging all single & double digit A-roads as "trunk" gives a misleading impression as to their quality. E.g. the A30 & A56 play very much a second fiddle to the A303 and A556 respecively.
In summary, my suggestion is therefore (for the uk);
  • Motorway: roads with formal motorway classifications
  • Trunk: dual carriageways with grade-separated junctions and no side turnings/gaps in central reservation.
  • Primary: A-roads which form part of the primary route network - identified by green-backed road signs - can be dual or single
  • Non-primary: All other A-roads {we'd need to create a new tag to do this}
  • Secondary: All B-roads
In my opinion, this makes things clearer in the UK situation. Some features may be applicable in other countries. Anyone have thoughts on this? Richard B 13:38, 10 November 2006 (UTC)
This wouldn't work in Scotland, hardly any roads are dual carriageways but still are major roads with green signs. (A82, A83, A85 etc.) Bruce89 14:46, 16 August 2007 (BST)


Regarding OTHER COUNTRIES: The classification of roads outside the UK shall be distinguished by physical criteria, imho. I am from Austria and dealt a lot with military-grade maps. I suppose to tag roads lower then trunks (primary, secondary, ...) according to their width; e.g.:
(I found many secondary streets according to my proposal, which were tagged primary, because they are important routes)
- primary: >=5,5m (wider road)
- secondary >4,5m (minimal width for two lanes)
- tertiary >= 3,0m (minimal width for trucks)
Furthermore, a tag related to the importance of roads would be appreciated; e.g.:
(This is indirectely done by now; distinction is possible but uncomfortable
- E## supra-regional connection
- L## important regional connection
- L#### normal road

highway = unclassified

Classifying Roads in Africa

Does anyone have suggestions for road classifications in Africa? I recently moved to Rwanda from Canada and have been actively contributing to OSM (lots of areas yet to be mapped!). Once the traveler moves off of the Trunk roads (well maintained paved two way roads), almost all remaining roads are simple dirt roads of varying degrees of roughness.
There is clearly a Western bias in the road classification system. My issue is that it is based on the size of communities connected by roads rather than the roads themselves. For example, if I mark a dirt road with a Primary Road, those who read the map will assume it is of a better size and quality than a Tertiary road. But here in Rwanda that is simply not the case. A more meaningful classification would be smoothness (but this does not show up on the map). Downgrading a road to unclassified, or a track is a better strategy for communicating the road conditions.
My solution is to use Tertiary roads as the designation for major routes between villages and towns, and unclassified or track for other roads. Does anyone have any comments on this strategy? Thanks.

highway = minor

Resolved: Any highway minor have been retagged since this discussion

Just spotted this on the Map Features page. I'm guess it probably shouldn't be there, as it seems pretty much the same as unclassified, and this page seems somewhat more imposing and probably overrules Map Features. Anyone mind if I remove it? Sandothegrate 22:59, 1 Sep 2006 (BST)

There's quite a lot of data out there tagged with highway=minor. There's also quite a difference between a road that's almost good enough to be secondary, and a tiny 1 track road. I think we do need something between highway=secondary and highway=unclassified, so people can see from the map (rather than looking at width tags, if present) which smaller country roads are a decent size.
Dean has suggested we have highway=tertiary, and I think we should put that in, with a note that highway=minor is equivalent to this, and shouldn't be used for new tagging. That way, new ways can be given a sensible value, but we can still know how to render / route the existing ways. --Gagravarr 08:42, 5 September 2006 (BST)

highway = track

adding single lane and track

Disregard: Ancient. Just about any highway can be single lane; track is a separate class

I would like to officially add single lane and track. I think I read another person's description of track as two tire tracks with some weeds growing between them. I would probably also use track for a poorly maintained single lane gravel road and a previously paved road with extremely broken pavement. I would like to use single lane for the narrow roads, both paved and well maintained gravel, that are used for linking farm plots and rural houses here in Korea. --Korea 12:25, 16 August 2007 (BST)

  • why don't you use the existing lane=1 for marking roads as single lane --spaetz 13:14, 16 August 2007 (BST) p.S. highway=track exists anyway, even if not listed on this page. It's in wide use.
See Proposed_features/Passing_places Bruce89 14:45, 16 August 2007 (BST)
I knew I had seen track somewhere before I saw it on the Australian page. I think we have a lot of good mappers but not many good wiki editors. I'm going to try to clean up the wiki a bit before any further discussion. --Korea 13:50, 17 August 2007 (BST)


Resolved: Since about 2009, highway=motorway has been thought to imply oneway=yes.

It is currently being discussed if the motorway should by default imply "oneway"="yes" or "oneway"="no". Both will required a lot of currently existing motorways to be updated with missing oneway-tags.

oneway vs. "Do Not Enter" sign

Resolved: Short section of oneway=yes (some use restriction=no_entry)

Currently OSM has a tag for a stop sign, but what about the important sign "Do Not Enter" (or does it exists and I missed it?). Most of the streets I know that have that sign at it's entry are some variant of a one-way street, therefore should I tag such streets as one-way streets? Alternatively if we would have "Do Not Enter" sign and it would be a key on a node, how do you specify which street it applies to if only one street is affected of e.g. four on a crossing?

I think you'd have to treat it just as you would a stop sign. That is, it can't really be applied to a node shared by several streets, since there's no way to indicate which street(s) it applies to. If the streets that have do not enter signs are one-way streets, then they should be tagged as one way streets. --Hawke 19:43, 18 June 2008 (UTC)
Usually these are modelled as a short oneway section on the affected road, leading to the intersection. Vehicles are not one-dimensional, so there is at least a small section where the driver may not turn around, i.e. traffic can only move in one direction. The oneway tag is not purely for signposted oneway roads, most dual carriageway roads do not have oneway traffic signs, but the sections depicted by the osm ways functionally oneway. Some mappers are, however, supposedly using a restriction relation to model the do not enter signs, see Talk:Relation:restriction#no_straight_on for a more detailed discussion. Alv (talk) 10:19, 27 October 2015 (UTC)

highway and other countries / languages

Resolved: Word "highway" has a broader meaning.

For a basic understanding: what does highway actually mean? My expectation was that a highway is something which is tagged here as highway=primary or highway=secondary. It's difficult for a (non-native?) beginner to grasp the basic idea that a non-highway must be tagged as highway. What was the logic behind to tag any way as highway, instead of way, street, road, ...? --traut 15:15, 31 January 2008 (UTC)

Highway can also mean any road or path. The word is often used this way in legal documents. --Korea 22:21, 20 April 2008 (UTC)

Polish road classification

Disregard: Local practice for Poland is at Pl:Znakowanie_dróg_w_Polsce

I don't think, that average human will see the difference between a GP road designed for 60km/h and G road designed for 60km/h. On the other hand most road maps of Poland I have seen distinguish between droga krajowa (one or two digit number) and droga wojewódzka (three digit number). And if a road is droga krajowa it is at least G, and usually GP. And droga wojewódzka is at least Z but usually G. So I have changed road classification for Poland a bit. unsigned comment added by Slimak 18:48, 10 February 2008

usage guide

Disregard: Ancient wiki organization

I'm moving the usage guide back to a separate page. --Korea 22:25, 20 April 2008 (UTC)

I will if no one objects. --Korea 10:17, 22 April 2008 (UTC)


Resolved: Links generally use the higher classification of the connected roads

I want to know what should I use for linking a trunk to primary? highway=trunk_link or highway=primary_link? what about linking any secondary to a trunk (yes there is)? because in the definition for highway=trunk_link said "The link roads (sliproads / ramps) leading to and from a trunk road" and in the defenition for highway=primary_link said "The link roads (sliproads / ramps) leading to and from a primary road". --Messi 13:56, 19 July 2008 (UTC)

For slip roads, we generally use the higher value. A free-flowing interchange between a motorway and a trunk should be motorway_link, and one between a trunk and a primary should be trunk_link. Where there is something else in the way, things work differently. If there is a roundabout, the highest road directly on the roundabout gets it - so a roundabout with primary and trunk_link is primary. If you have a roundabout stack, with primary_link and trunk_link, but nothing directly meeting the roundabout, anything goes. Chriscf 15:15, 15 September 2008 (UTC)
Wouldn't it be better to have the opposite, where roads linking a way to another get classification of that road - like a primary attaching to a trunk gets all links tagged as primary_link ? links tend to have restrictions of the lower classification way - and it also looks better when rendered (okok, we shouldn't map to a renderer, but anyway :) ). --Richlv 11:50, 3 May 2009 (UTC)
I agree (except for motorway links). If you use the higher of the two classifications, then the renderer can only make sense of it by putting links under everything (which is what Mapnik does), which then means that anything else that happens to connect to the link needs to be a link as well. Imagine a slip road coming off a trunk leading to a secondary road. You want the trunk_link drawn underneath the secondary road. But then there's a service road that comes out onto the trunk_link. That has to be drawn underneath - so that needs to be a service_link. Then there's a footway joining it too. That needs to be a footway_link. Madness. Much better to make the original link a secondary_link, and to render that on top of lower classifications. Motorway_link is an exception. Because they are specially built, they don't get service roads and footpaths coming out onto them. So motorway_link should be rendered underneath everything.--RichardMann 10:24, 17 June 2010 (UTC)
I'd rather have few rendering artefacts, than change all ways drawn to date; and at least around here the link roads mostly do have the restrictions of the higher road - as there's nowhere else anyone could go once they're on the link road. As mappers we don't want "a service road ... drawn underneath", we want to describe it as it is - a service road, up to the point where it connects to a _link. And at least around here we have bus stops along motorways that are, at least for a short part, service roads which connect to the link roads for all traffic leaving/entering the motorway. Rest areas with parking lanes and other internal connections, are, too, connected to motorway_links. Alv 08:02, 23 June 2010 (UTC)

pedestrian vs footway

Stale: Depends on the location

I've seen "footway" used quite a bit for roads which are blocked off to deter joyriders and through traffic in residential streets. Most of these manifest themselves as a gate across the road, part of the road filled in with pavement, or some concrete pillars spaced close enough to prevent a car, but far enough apart to allow two lanes of free-flowing foot and bike traffic. My thoughts are that these should be marked with a highway=gate for a simple obstruction, or highway=pedestrian for anything more. Discuss. Chriscf 14:56, 15 September 2008 (UTC)

Photos of the things I mean seem to be difficult to find, so here are some aerial snaps from Google to illustrate the sort of obstructions I'm talking about [1][2][3]. Chriscf 15:09, 15 September 2008 (UTC)
Common practice was to draw a short segment as some of highway=cycleway, highway=footway or highway=pedestrian (usually but not always pedestrian is the best value), for the part where only pedestrians and/or cyclists may travel, naturally with the physical obstruction tagged on a node, too. Sometimes it might be a proper way to model it just as a gate or bollard on the uninterrupted "road class" highway. Alv (talk) 10:19, 27 October 2015 (UTC)


Disregard: See United_States_roads_tagging for current US practice/discussion

the US usage says: Trunk - Divided highway without ramps. Higher speeds (65+mph). This includes some US highways and some state highways. What does this mean for a divided highway (the roads I am thinking of are real divided highways with a wide grass median) where the speed limit is only 55 or 45? (Keep in mind that in some parts the US the speed limit on the interstates is only 55) I'm planning on going through and tagging trunk/primary/secondary for roads around indianapolis Random832 16:06, 18 September 2008 (UTC)

Don't go by just the quality. The description in the main table is "Important roads that aren't motorways". Remember that "trunk" and "motorway" render at zoom level 5, while "primary" starts at z7, "secondary" at z9. "Trunk" and "motorway" should between them show an overview of the major road network. I'd suggest that the more important long-distance routes should be "trunk" if the quality is roughly there. Here is a view of the UK at z5, and Here is z5 centred roughly on Indianapolis. Take a look at comparable views of UK, Australia and Finland - which are arguably some of the best examples of the use of "trunk" to illustrate the strategic route network between major locations. Chriscf 11:36, 19 September 2008 (UTC)


Resolved: Old wiki edit history

I am producing Google-assisted translations into English for those international entries that weren't in English before. I have done these one at a time, so if one is completely wrong it can be killed with the "undo" button without fuss. Chriscf 08:38, 25 September 2008 (UTC)

Contradicting summary

Resolved: The highway key definition was changed after this to "importance"; historic discussion

The first paragraph in the summary states that the highway tag is a "description of the physical structure of the highway". But then comes primary=administrative classification, secondary=administrative classification, unclassified=(road with) no administrative classification. A trunk (in UK) is a "green signed A road", i.e. administrative classification. The "International equivalence"-table shows that most countries use the highway tag for administrative classification. Should the summary be changed and the highway tag mean administrative classification? With the exception of the summary it seems that it already does.

Where we don't have an administrative division, physical description is all we have to go on. Some countries have a clearly stratified hierarchical classification (e.g. UK), some have a classification which isn't so clearly stratified (e.g. USA). In the former case, we change the classification when there is a significant disparity - e.g. a major high-quality road that doesn't have trunk status can still be marked as "trunk", and an A road that happens to pass through narrow streets in a by-passed town can be marked lower than "primary". Generally, in Great Britain (Northern Ireland does things differently) trunk routes are considered important, and are maintained centrally, so are usually kept to a better standard than other roads. It's also important to remember that "trunk" and "motorway" are the first roads to appear when you zoom in (z5 on Mapnik), so ideally there shouldn't be any "gaps" in this network. Chriscf 08:28, 7 October 2008 (UTC)
The question arises since there is a debate at the moment among the Swedish mappers. Sweden has a clear administrative division (europaväg, riksväg, primär länsväg, sekundär länsväg) with different signing even though all of them are maintained by the gorvernmental "Vägverket". Some of the mappers take heed to what it says in the summary, that the highway tag is a "description of the physical structure of the highway". It has been suggested from that group to reduce a substancial part of the current trunk roads to secondary because the maximum speed limit of 70 km/h, even if the closest other trunk road is 300 km away. Others stress that futher down the page it constantly says "administrative classification" and that physical structure can be entered with tags and shown with map rendering settings. I'd like a perspective from some "outsiders". --Cohan 19:14, 7 October 2008 (UTC)
Read the whole sentence "... sometimes vague description of the physical ...". For example, in Finnish countryside the roads we tag as trunks and primaries (decided solely on the road number/official "classification") look very much alike in the field, but a trunk is just more likely to be straighter, 100 km/h vs. 80 km/h (even in winter) and with wider embankments but that's just because they're more usable for very long distance routes and as such receive more resources from the administration. In most cases the different administrative classifications lead to a similar ordering of the physical structures of each class, even when the physical implications differ from country to country. Even if a country had only unpaved bumpy jungle tracks in three widths, the widest ones should still be tracks, or tertiaries at most. And from the few times I've driven in Sweden, I'd say not demote anything to secondary just because it's 70 km/h. The choise between trunk/primary/secondary is more about the "importance to the network" if some minimum physical qualities are met. On a very long drive (say, over 400 km) one might expect to take a shortcut on a secondary but not plan to use them for more than 10 % - 20 % of the trip - unless they wanted to. Alv 06:10, 8 October 2008 (UTC)

Bicycle lanes

Resolved: Tags linked

There is a roadway that I'm mapping that has designated bicycle lanes. I thought that I'd seen how to tag this, but I can't find it now. Is there a way to make this designation? — Val42 18:27, 13 December 2008 (UTC)

Use cycleway=lane --Cohan 11:31, 14 December 2008 (UTC)
See also cycleway:right=lane and cycleway:left=lane when the lane is on one side of the road only. Alv (talk) 10:19, 27 October 2015 (UTC)


Resolved: Ford has since then moved to ford=*.

This tag seems wrong to me, at least when used as a way. Perhaps it's ok as a node. How do I differentiate between a secondary road and a service road that goes through a ford? I want to be able to say highway=service, ford=yes or something, just like with bridges. highway=ford doesn't cut it for me. 80n 17:50, 7 February 2009 (UTC)

+1 --Skippern 18:15, 7 February 2009 (UTC)
I agree. There was some discussion of placing it under barrier=*, but that didn't go over well. --Hawke 16:37, 9 February 2009 (UTC)
Try ford=* --Gorm 12:52, 19 June 2010 (UTC)
+1 from me for ford=yes like bridge=yes Lulu-Ann

Highway tag should be based on functional classification, not cross section

"Primary" and "secondary" roads/highways have definitions in the U.S. and the UK that are not the same as the physical structure (i.e. cross section) of the road, rather they describe functional classifications for the primary and secondary methods from driving from place to place. Functional classification has implications for cross section, but it is not determined by cross section.

In the UK, the definition of a primary road is:

a route that provides the most satisfactory route for through traffic between places of traffic importance

In the US, the definition of a primary road without limited access is as follows:

A road in this major category must be hard surface, that is, concrete or asphalt, and may be divided or undivided and have multi-lane or single lane characteristics. This road has intersections with other roads, usually controlled with traffic lights. This major category includes nationally and regionally important highways that do not have limited access as required by major category A1. Thus, major category A2 includes most U.S. and State highways and some county highways that connect cities and larger towns.

Finally the U.S. definition of a secondary or connecting road:

A road in this major category must be hard surface, that is, concrete or asphalt, usually undivided with single lane characteristics. This road has intersections with other roads, controlled with traffic lights and stop signs. This major category includes State and county highways that connect smaller towns, subdivisions, and neighborhoods, thus the road is smaller than a road in major category A2. This road, usually with a local name along with a route number, intersects with many other roads and driveways.

Please note that none of these definitions require more than two lanes. 2/4/6/8 whatever. We have a perfectly good tag "lanes" for that purpose. That is what should be used to distinguish the physical structure of anything less than a motorway or limited access freeway. The highway tag should be used to distinguish functional levels of the road network hierarchy, i.e. to describe the functional properties of a road not a road cross section.

The main reason why we should do this is that functional classification is much more important and useful information than speed limit or number of lanes. It distinguishes the primary and secondary routes from place to place, especially in metro areas where the physical distinction with other roads is often non-existent. Butlerm 20:42, 9 April 2009 (UTC)

It sounds like you are describing the Functional Highway Classification System that was developed by the Federal Highway Administration. All state DOT's have classified all of their roads into this system but not all provide maps or data. Georgia's DOT has produced county maps [4] using this classification and I've begun to implement this county-by-county across the state. My translation from the FHCS to OSM's classification is as follows...
  • Rural Interstate Principal Arterial - highway:motorway
  • Rural Principal Arterial - highway:trunk
  • Rural Minor Arterial - highway:primary
  • Rural Major Collector - highway:secondary
  • Rural Minor Collector - highway:tertiary
  • Rural Local Road - highway:unclassified
  • Urban Interstate Principal Arterial - highway:motorway
  • Urban Freeways and Expressways - highway:motorway
  • Urban Principal Arterial - highway:primary
  • Urban Minor Arterial - highway:secondary
  • Urban Collector Street - highway:tertiary
  • Urban Local Street - highway:residential

The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1973 required the use of a functional highway classification system to update and modify the federal-aid highway systems by July 1, 1976. As a result, the Federal Highway Administration Functional Classification System consists of a process by which streets and highways are grouped into classes (or systems) according to the character of service they are intended to provide. The hierarchy of functional types— including local, collector, and arterial roadways—directly relates to the hierarchy of travel distances that each functional type serves. Arterial highways generally provide direct service for travel within and among cities and larger towns that generate and attract a large proportion of the relatively longer trips. (Deborah A. Carroll, Kristin A. Wagers . Taking Stock of Gaps to Be Closed: Survey Findings From the States . Public Works Management & Policy, Volume 11, Number 4 (April 2007), pp. 292-304, <>)

--Ksamples 00:12, 12 September 2009 (UTC)

Highway=Shared Space


In the Netherlands and in Bohmte, Germany there are some streets build with the concept of "Shared Space". There are no signs and all people, cars, bicycles, wheelchair users shall communicate by eye contact. This concept is very dangerous for visually impaired persons, btw. As this is a really new type of highway, I propose to have a new value for this. See Wikipedia:Shared Space --Lulu-Ann 22:11, 30 June 2009 (UTC)

looks like highway=pedstrian with car=yes ? --Cbm 12:42, 1 July 2009 (UTC)
I agree with Lulu-Ann that this is a new class that should have it's own value. highway=pedestrian with car=yes sounds nonsense to me. -- Dieterdreist 04:06, 9 August 2009 (UTC)
I agree with cbm. highway=pedestrian + motorcar=yes (or motor_vehicle=yes seem like a perfect fit. --Hawke 01:43, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
This is not a perfect fit as it does not reflect the danger that comes from 'no street signs' for blind persons. --Lulu-Ann 12:56, 7 January 2010 (UTC)

Unauthorized major change

Resolved: De facto since years have passed since Proposed_features/Highway_key_voting_importance


Dieterdreist has changes large parts of this page to change the highway-key from "physical description" to "importance".

There was no proposal to change the meaning of the most important key here, and there was no voting. I have restored the page several times, but I think administrative competence shall be taken against such vandalism. If it is true what Dieterdreist wrote, that there was wide agreement on this change, then there should be a proposal to change the meaning of highway=*.

--Lulu-Ann 14:33, 11 August 2009 (UTC)

Please don't. Changing the page to reflect reality is perfectly fine IMO. --Hawke 16:19, 11 August 2009 (UTC)
As Dieterdreist said himself on the talk discussion - this is a proposal. Proposals need to be voted on. I can not find more then 4 pro votes on the talk list, so I will revert the changes. Dieterdreist or anyone else, you are welcome to put your changes into a proposal.

User Dieterdreist has changed the description so the highway tag is no longer used for the objective physical description but for a subjective feeling of "importance". Millions of highway tags would need to be reviewed if this change without proposal and approval would become valid.

Two important aspect of routing, the estimation of time to arrival and finding the fastest route, will fail if the highway tag does not stick to physical facts.

Several other established or proposed tags like maxspeed defaults are negatively affected by changing the highway concept of tagging.

New OSM contributors learn bad practice from the start when the first tag they learn is switched from hard facts so unsure estimation.

Probably new users have already done large damage to the map by mapping or changing highway tags from the facts to the feeling schema, resulting in worse quality of calculated routes.

I think that we, the community, should not accept such severe changes made to extremely used and highly established without the proposal + approval workflow.

I ask you to support the reverting of the unapproved changes in the wiki and in the mailing lists.

--Lulu-Ann 11:08, 26 August 2009 (UTC)

Purely physical attributes of a road just gives bad classifications. That's why a vague word like "importance" was introduced, which could be further defined in each country. A 2x2 road in one place could be tertiary, while a much more important but simple 2-lane road would be primary somewhere else. Furthermore, it was just modifying the page to reflect current classification, because most of the world is using other attributes than just physical ones. --Eimai 11:38, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
""importance" was introduced" is nonsense, if highway is classified as motorway than it is a motorway not some importance dream of someone. --Walley 12:11, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
We're talking about the classifications for primary/secondary/tertiary here. --Eimai 12:20, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
We should talk about the topic on the new proposal page. --Lulu-Ann 12:40, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
What new proposal page would that be? --Hawke 12:56, 26 August 2009 (UTC)
It applies to motorway as well though: something classified as (say) a US highway may be physically a motorway; and something classified as an Interstate may not be physically a motorway. It appears that this is applicable to motorways in the UK as well: says "...any motorway that drops down to a single lane...", suggesting that motorway classification and physical structure are not as closely linked as one might hope. I suspect there are other examples somewhere on that site, but I don't feel like going through them all. --Hawke 12:56, 26 August 2009 (UTC)

Classification of Spanish roads is patently absurd

Disregard: Spanish road classification is described/discussed at Normalización

If the road classification in this project is based on "importance" as defined by the local regulations, then the standing classification for roads in Spain is seriously messed up. Consider the following roads:

  • EX-A1, Extremadura regional motorway legally described as "regional road, first class, autovía" . White-on-blue sign, blue panels [5]. Classified as "highway=motorway".
  • M-45 (p1 and p2), Madrid regional motorway legally described as "regional road, first class, autopista". Black-on-orange sign, blue panels [6]. Apparently classified as "highway=motorway" (picture 1), but strangely appears red in some zoom levels (picture 2).
  • M-501, Madrid regional motorway legally described as "regional road, first class, autovía". Black-on-orange sign, blue panels [7]. Classified as "highway=primary, motorroad=yes", which is lower than the M-45 and the EX-A1.
  • C-25, Catalan regional expressway (controlled-access single-lane road) legally described as "regional road, first class". White-on-red sign (should be black-on-orange), white panels. Classified as "highway=trunk", which is higher than the M-501

All four of these roads are legally described in Spain as "first order regional roads", thus apparently classifying for the "highway=primary" tag according to the standing rules for Spain. However, the EX-A1 regional motorway is awarded the motorway tag because its sign is blue, even though it's an autovía, while the M-501 is denied the same tag because its sign is orange. Furthermore, the M-45 has it too even with an orange identifier, maybe because it adheres to the stricter autopista standard instead of the laxer autovía one.

Let me explain that in Spain, each region (autonomous community) has de facto power to choose how to design the identifiers for its roads. In fact, the Catalan road here is an example, as the identifiers leading to it from other Catalan roads are white-on-red (a "national" road, expressing the hopes of the nationalist government then in power in Catalonia), while those coming from national roads see the "proper" black-on-orange identifier. Thus, the background color of a road identifier by itself is definitely not a proper measure of its importance in the road network. In fact, most (but not all) A-n roads tagged as motorway are actually autovías, so they should use "highway=trunk, motorroad=yes".

In conclusion, the situation of Spanish road coloring is a total mess, and the example is this: there are absolutely no legal, and even physical, differences between the EX-A1 and the M-501, and thus they should both use the same color. Which one, is a matter for this project to decide. Habbit 18:28, 16 April 2010 (UTC)

After 5 days editing you have solved all the problems of the Spanish road network classification. Why dont you come to the talk-es spanish list and illuminate everyone with your clever idea? --PerroVerd 14:26, 20 April 2010 (UTC)
BTW, it's spelled "enlighten", as in "Why don't you come over to talk-es and enlighten us?" Ivansanchez 14:31, 20 April 2010 (UTC)
Had you read me, you'd have noticed that I haven't solved anything, I've just stated what in my opinion is a severe problem that is hampering the usability of OSM. I'm sorry if I've sounded like a jerk, but I didn't know if people had noticed the discrepance. Habbit 17:49, 20 April 2010 (UTC)
We know. We know Basque Contry, Catalonia, Castille-Leon, Extremadura and Andalucia use weird custom colour schemes. We know it's wrong. Geez, even the OSM default renderer doesn't use red for trunk roads 'cause UK trunk roads are green. Question is, how do you propose we fix it? Ivansanchez 14:30, 20 April 2010 (UTC)
Taking the suggestion from my irate commenter up there, I think I'd better go discuss this at the list. Sorry if this wasn't the right forum, I didn't even know there was such a list. Habbit 17:49, 20 April 2010 (UTC)


Resolved: The full sentence at highway=residential is better at explaining.

Classification for residential is completely useless: "not classified or unclassified". What exactly does that leave? Mentor 05:31, 7 May 2010 (UTC)

I think it is not. See Tag:highway=residential for details. --Jkjk 17:20, 7 May 2010 (UTC)
So, what's the classification of a highway tagged residential? Mentor 00:44, 11 May 2010 (UTC)
I'm not sure what the clarification problem is here; the classification of such a road would be "residential". Do you disagree with the notion that 'residential' is a valid classification? In my experience, typically tertiary roads which are residential are classified as tertiary, not residential. --Ceyockey 23:29, 20 November 2011 (UTC)

Top undocumented values

Resolved: Better alternatives for old mistakes listed here

--Jkjk 12:32, 20 July 2010 (UTC)


I've started to use the value combination highway=median_strip and either median=concrete or median=grass as I've not found any consensus on how to actually tag the dividing areas between ways of a divided highway. Look at, for instance, way 137685862 or way 137715023. Suggestions as to whether you agree or disagree with this approach or whether this is redundant with an approach that I've failed to see would be appreciated. --Ceyockey 23:25, 20 November 2011 (UTC)

Definitely not a type of highway if you're not allowed to drive, walk or ride along its length. If you can't even cross there, or there's some sort of physical fence-like thing for safety, I would call it a type of barrier=* since you can't drive along it. We seem to be doing this sort of thing locally: way 69984694, but I'm not overly happy with it and I tend not to go along with it. If it's not a barrier to crossing foot traffic, consider marking the extent of grassy bits with landuse=grass; you might want to come up with your own typology for just median=* on its own, have a look in taginfo to see if anyone's using any common values. I'd shy away from using highway=* for it though. --achadwick 17:54, 21 December 2011 (UTC)
Thanks for the input. I've since switched over to a use of landuse=traffic_island. In most cases, it is not possible based on aerial imagery alone to determine whether the traffic island presents a barrier or not. --Ceyockey 05:39, 22 December 2011 (UTC)
Also, there is the matter of whether the surface is grass or concrete ... so, for instance, in at least one case I've used surface=grass. --Ceyockey 05:41, 22 December 2011 (UTC)
Why would it be landuse? The whole area, median and roadway, is used as a highway. Barrier probably makes sense in all cases, since certain other types like bollard are not a barrier to foot traffic. --NE2 05:46, 22 December 2011 (UTC)
I thought it reasonable based on the opening sentence of Landuse: "Landuse can usefully be considered to be a way of classifying areas of land according the the human use they are put to...." --Ceyockey 13:32, 22 December 2011 (UTC)
I thought on this a bit more and I don't think that landuse=traffic_island is in conflict with the highway tag. For instance, the object could be given a barrier=yes attribute if needed; it would not necessarily need to be assumed to be a barrier to vehicle traffic as there are plenty of grassy islands that can be driven across by vehicles which are not too low to the ground. It could also be included in relation=route/route=road so that it is a part of aggregate highway objects. --Ceyockey 23:22, 22 December 2011 (UTC)
P.S. it might be better to use the access tag rather than the barrier tag, now that I think of it. --Ceyockey
Barrier and access work together. One might tag something barrier=fence access=private. --NE2 05:29, 23 December 2011 (UTC)


Stale: Has not been discussed further

I suggest to add a form highway:snow_chains for Open Street Map and JOSM only. Really sure that the road signs is used in Switzerland. Omegaelmo87 10:04, 3 June 2011 (BST)

Better use some other tag, like snow_chains=mandatory so that the key doesn't conflict with the classification of the road. Seems there is at the moment just one way with snow_chains:conditional=* tag. Alv (talk) 10:19, 27 October 2015 (UTC)

Criteria for dividing roads

Resolved: Physical obstruction is considered as what counts

I'm trying to solve a question I'm running into about dividing roads. From what I can glean, the consensus is that a road should be divided if it has a physical island or fence. But locally, we have roads that are divided by 9x18 concrete berms. These aren't islands, nor fences, and they could theoretically probably be driven over, at least by trucks and SUVs etc, but they are meant to be impassable. The road is one strip of asphalt, not two as in most divided road cases. The concrete berms are secured atop the road surface. Should such a road be divided?

And then I have the case of "legally divided" roads where, instead of the concrete berms, the roads are divided by an 18-inch-wide solid line, which is to be treated the same as the berms. (Its official name "solid barrier line".) This is distinct from the typical double-yellow line which usually can be legally crossed to make a left turn. I am tempted to argue this should be divided, but there is no physical barrier -- only a legal one. Is there any precedent for this? - KTyler 10:15, 13 June 2012 (BST)

I'd say the first case is divided - there's a nontraversable (legally) median of a different surface than the main lanes. The second case - it might depend on the situation. Does the line end at every random driveway? --NE2 17:18, 13 June 2012 (BST)

Scenic/historical roads

Resolved: Tag scenic=yes has almost 4300 uses so far

Around the world there are different ways to communicate that some roads or routes have special historical or scenic value. Common for these routes/roads are often that they are marked with special signs and/or with (often) green lines (or dots) on the national road maps. In my country (Denmark) we have for example an national system of scenic routes (The Marguerite Route). Question is, how to tag these in OSM?

As long as they are signed as such (and not just a recommendation by the map maker, for example): scenic=yes --Tordanik 01:46, 2 September 2014 (UTC)

No parking"-tag

Resolved: The parking:lane=* key is to be used

I cant seem to figure out how to tag a node (ex. on a road) or area as "No parking". In my local area I've seen several places on small parking lots or residential roads with a "No parking" sign on the road. I also seen actual signs standing beside the road with "no parking" on it as well. I believe there should be a way to tag these nodes and areas. Any thoughts?

The parking:lane=* key is what you are looking for. However, it is used on ways (i.e. the road), not nodes or areas.
Specifically, you need one of these tags:
  • parking:lane:left = no_parking
  • parking:lane:right = no_parking
  • parking:lane:both = no_parking
  • parking:lane:left = no_stopping
  • parking:lane:right = no_stopping
  • parking:lane:both = no_stopping
The distinction between parking and stopping depends on the exact signage. --Tordanik 11:45, 16 September 2015 (UTC)
Thanx. Wouldnt it be wise to be able to tag this on points or areas as well? Ex. on bigger areas like landuse:industrial=*, where there arent necessary roads or lanes to tag, but in some cases in real world might be spots/areas restricted for parking for not blocking gates or other important objects. It wouldnt make sense to have a small independent piece of road (a line) floating in the middle of nowhere tagged with fx. parking:lane:both = no_parking. --Ascaaear (talk) 20:12, 16 September 2015 (UTC)
I am not entirely sure whatever it makes sense to tag all location where there is no parking as "parking is not allowed here". IMHO it would be better to rather tag existing parkings Mateusz Konieczny (talk) 13:18, 17 September 2015 (UTC)
I agree. It should be tagged inside parking areas. There is already a key parking:lane=*, which defines if a lane is "parking not allowed". Unfortunatly it only goes for a path objects. Why not expand this to points and areas? I believe there are examples of existing parkings or general areas where there are exceptions where people might believe its allowed to park, but really not. The point is, in some cases your car could even be towed away if using these non-allowed parking spots. Anyway, its not a huge thing. I just thought it might be usefull. --Ascaaear (talk) 17:57, 22 September 2015 (UTC)
We usually map traffic rules on the ways they affect, even if they affect an area (e.g. zones with maxspeed=30 are still represented by tags on ways). Whether you think it's worth to map this at all is a different question. --Tordanik 12:53, 23 September 2015 (UTC)

Trim usage section

I'd like to make the following change which was recently reverted. I think we don't need this duplication, also the ellipses look weird. --Jojo4u (talk) 21:43, 12 November 2015 (UTC)

How to tag a square/plazas that is not pedestrian-only

I know this is a common problem, but I have yet to find a satisfactory answer. Tagging plazas with highway=pedestrian is rarely suitable, because most plazas allow for mixed usage (which is actually the very purpose of a public square).

So I thought that other highway=* tags might be used, since plazas and streets have many properties in common (they usually have a name, they can be used by humans or cars to go from one place to another, house addresses refer to either a street or a plaza, surface may be paved or unpaved, etc.), e.g. :

In this example I used highway=unclassified because no other highway tag looked more appropriate (this plaza is little more than a crossing and most people don't even know it has a name). One problem to this proposal is that, according to the wiki, some of these tags cannot be used on an area (I wonder why).

Does it make sense? Thbz (talk) 09:35, 30 December 2015 (UTC)

Perhaps higway@residential=* is more appropriate MortenLange (talk) 18:13, 5 June 2016 (UTC)

What about streets on Open Street Map  ?

I see no classification that seems to fit nicely with a normal multi-use street in a city or town, that might be a major road but has lots of intersections. low average speeds (15 kph in rush hour) and max speeds at 30 kph or 50, and a varied mix of users, like people on foot, on bikes, on trikes, young, elderly crossing the street when convenient etc. Have I overlooked something ? The images accompanying the highway=* tags, like highway=primary highway=secondary all seem to be from places with very few people. Still, using highway=residential does not seem to fit either. (Suburb, or quiet corner of city ?) The UN Habitat III conference on the promises and challenges of urbanisation (a growing majority of people living in cities and towns) is to be held this autumn. In the zero-draft a less car-centric approach is recommended. Perhaps now is a good time to have a look at this issue. ? Poosby the thing that needs to be done is to add some urban images and perhaps recommend that interpretstions of tags should presuppose access for people on foot and cycles at least, unless specifically tagged as =no, even on trunk roads or motorways ? MortenLange (talk) 18:37, 5 June 2016 (UTC)

The road classes are based on their importance in the grid, not maximum speeds or similar properties. So if there is a lot of through traffic on a road (including cyclists and other means of transportation), that road is probably a tertiary road. 50 km/h are absolutely common for urban tertiary roads in Europe. You are right that the images depicts examples for roads outside of urban areas, and that it might be good to add images depicting how these road classes typically look inside urban areas.
As for your second point: As much as I hope for more alternatives to car-based traffic, I don't think that assuming access for pedestrians and bicycles by default is a good idea for all road types in OSM. In many countries, those groups of users are excluded from trunks and motorways (and perhaps other road types) by law. This information is much better expressed as a country-wide default, rather than as tags on every such road. Making mappers tag the normal situation, rather than exceptions, is not a good use of volunteers' time in my opinion, and makes it much more likely for errors to happen (i.e. navigation devices sending cyclists onto motorways because someone has forgotten to state the obvious, i.e. bicycle=no, foot=no, horse=no, ...). --Tordanik 01:37, 6 June 2016 (UTC)

Single carriageway motorways

This page defines motorways as being restricted access, which implies dual carriageway. But the article on highway=motorway mentions that motorways can eventually be two-way, which would suggest the flows have no physical separation, which would mean single carriageway. So is separation of flows a requirement? --Fernando Trebien (talk) 11:04, 17 December 2017 (UTC)

In the parts of the world I'm familiar with, dual carriageways are a requirement for motorways. I don't feel confident enough to state with certainty that every single OSM community worldwide is following this rule, but that sentence on highway=motorway is definitely unexpected for me. --Tordanik 13:13, 17 December 2017 (UTC)
In Poland motorway during maintenance may have one of carriageways temporarily closed, with one becoming two-way without physical separation. It is still motorway but one may at least in theory map such state (especially as sometimes this state exists for quite long time). So it is at least one way to have dual carriageway requirement and no physical separation Mateusz Konieczny (talk) 13:12, 19 December 2017 (UTC)
I see the point, but one might question whether they are still motorways in such situations. Since mappers are going through the trouble of representing the closure, they might as well reclassify it according to its temporary function. --Fernando Trebien (talk) 17:04, 4 January 2018 (UTC)

Photos vs road quality assumptions

The article ends with a discussion on assumptions based on physical qualities of the road, after presenting each highway type with an example photograph. I think the photographs might be misleading and they might suggest that road infrastructure determines highway type. So I think we should either provide more than one photograph to exemplify typical case and corner cases, or no photographs at all. --Fernando Trebien (talk) 17:02, 4 January 2018 (UTC)

I agree, photos of some low-quality important roads would be a good addition Mateusz Konieczny (talk) 20:07, 4 January 2018 (UTC)


It looks like the descriptions and examples are very city-centric. I'd like to propose some clarification. In the US a dirt surfaced 'way' which is not wide enough for a 4 wheel vehicle is usually called a path, a trail or a single track. I think this is properly tagged as a path, and for the most part this is how it's been tagged. A wider way, is usually called a 2 track, jeep road, 4wd road, fire road, or ranch road. These are usually and properly tagged as track. Unfortunately, I've seen some trails tagged as cycleway or footway. Path and track indicate the physical characteristics of the way. The permitted usage can be tagged with bicycle=yes, motorcycle=yes, etc. I think cycleway/footway/bridleway should be discouraged, and should be only used if that is the only permitted usage.

It is a tricky topic. Lets start from disclaimers:
  1. I am from Poland and unfamiliar with US local situation (though I am familiar with hiking)
  2. I was involved in one of highway=path controversies - see
Note that highway=footway is used in multiple ways. it may be used to indicate (1) a paved footway (2) way primarily for walking.
In both cases I would encourage tagging also physical characteristics - at least surface=* (StreetComplete is useful here).
"Path and track indicate the physical characteristics of the way." - I would dispute this. There are highway=track that are high-quality asphalt, there are ones that are overgrown/muddy/with deep sand. Note that tracktype=* exists. I would argue the same for highway=path, though many argue that surface=unpaved may be safely assumed there.
"cycleway/footway/bridleway should be discouraged, and should be only used if that is the only permitted usage" also highway=footway + bicycle=yes?
Mateusz Konieczny (talk) 14:45, 19 April 2019 (UTC)