Classification – two main road types

The problem of loose terminology and roads has already been referred to (see here).  It involves

  • Within one language (English), an indiscriminate use of words such as”road hierarchy, distributor road, collector arterial road” with no consistent meaning given for them.
  • A collection of terms to refer to “roads” which over a long period of time have begun to lose any clear meaning which they once might have had
  • The lack of clarity where terms in different languages are used to express what are common problems

It might be possible to simplify things if we argue that there are two main groups of “roads” which could be called “highways” and “streets”.  The key difference between the two groups is this – the first group is used for movement, the second is not.

Australia’s Ray Brindle  suggested something along these lines when in 1989 he argued in favour of a ‘separate functions’ or ‘two categories’ road hierarchy, where a road has either an access function or a traffic function. M.G.Lay, in his “Handbook of road technology” (ref. 711) has a table which summarises terminology used to describe routes. The table begins with just two categories (streets and roads). Other writers have discussed the complexity of urban streets (see the references for examples from Paulo Ribeiro of Spain,  Akram J. Al-Akkam of Iraq, and Stephen Marshall of the UK)

The features of the two suggested road groups could include:

classification 03


387 – Akram J. Al-Akkam , “The classification of commercial streets in Baghdad city” (Emirates Journal for Engineering Research, 2011)

388 – Stephen Marshall, “Artists –   A First Theoretical Approach to Classification of Arterial Streets“, (England, 2002)

446 – Ribeiro, Paulo “A new perspective on street classification towards sustainability“, Proceedings of the 8th WSEAS conference; 2012

711 – Lay, M.G. “Handbook of road technology“, 2nd edition, Gordon and Breach, 1990


About roadnotes

Robert Bartlett is an international consultant with over 30 years of professional experience as a highway and traffic engineer with leading companies and organisations in several countries, including Germany, China (Hong Kong), Qatar and the UK. Specialised in urban studies, transport and the use of GIS, research has included new ideas on subjects such as the study of social justice using GIS, the dimensions of vehicles, and comparative geometrics (highways and transport).
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