[Tagging] highway=service // public road?

Greg Troxel gdt at lexort.com
Wed May 23 20:33:13 UTC 2018

Florian Lohoff <f at zz.de> writes:

> I now see increasing usage of service roads as a category below
> unclassified. People tagging "smaller roads" in the countryside
> as a service roads. 

I think this is basically wrong tagging.

> I find this a little disturbing and now got into an argument whereas
> my position is the above - broken down into my more strict language:
> - If the public has a right of way
> - The road is build/run by public authorities
> - Its not something obvious like a parking space
> - It cant be service
> It might not fit 100% everywhere, but no rule without its exception.

Broadly agreed with your concerns.

A very important characteristic of a place you can drive is

  - it is legally a road, where more or less anyone has a right to
    drive (and this can be public ownership or private).  Typically this
    means that the ground on which it is built is carved out as a
    separate lot for ownership (or government owned).  This can be
    government, or it can be a road in a subdivision which is in the US
    marked "private way" meaning that it is legally a road but privately
    owned.  You can still get a speeding ticket on it, because the road
    use rules apply to private ways, but do not apply to what you do in
    your farm field.

    Whether they apply in a shopping center is an interesting question.
    I'd say: yes, you will be cited, and probably that does not hold
    up.  But in some places (north carolina), the property owner can put
    up signs that the traffic laws apply anyway - I saw these at the
    biltmore estate.   Basically "this is private but the unwashed
    public is here and we want the police to be able to bust them" :-)

  - not legally a road, in that there is no right of access, traffic
    laws do not necessarily apply, and there is no separate parcel for

This is basically
"highway=primary/secondary/tertiary/unclassified/residential" vs

It would be goo to have this be 

> The Argument of the usage is:
> - It only serves as access to a single house/company/farm.

Mostly agreed, but that's not quite right.  It's "a legal road" vs "a
place you can drive on someone's property".  If the pavement (assume
paved, but that's not the point) is on land owned and maintained by the
government, even if it only goes to one house, it's a road, not a

> IMHO It should be driveway (Where there is no right of way and no name)
> when its not in public ownership, or unclassified with all the
> bells and whistles like a name, maxspeed etc.

I don't quite follow - but agreed that if no right of way it's service/driveway.

> To find those roads in my QA tools i dump/highlight roads which
> are highway=service and carry a name. The argument behind this is that
> at least in Germany only official public roads get names in a process
> called "Widmung" 1) - So if it carries a name, either the name has
> been copied (E.g. people copying the residentials name to all driveways)
> or somebody has "downgraded" a public road to a service.

That's a clue, but having a name on a service road is not proof of it
not being service.   My town has an airport access road which sort of
has a name, but is on a private lot and really a service/driveway.

> So i am asking where my misconception is:>

> - Is service a street category below unclassified/residential?

no, it's special - not a legal road, and typically should not be used
for through routing.

> - Does a service road typically have a right of way for the public?

typically not, maybe almost never.

> - Is service usage "just because there is only one house/company/farm"
>   valid? 

typically yes, but it's not exactly the right test.  I've seen a
residential legal road with more or less one house, but a separate land
area for the road, just like roads with more than one house.

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