New road classification / 2 – English is not enough

In an earlier post I suggested that there is a confusion of languages in the world (one estimate puts the number at around 6,700). I also said that, in trying to make sense of terms on road classification: “Since English is widely spoken in the engineering world, perhaps we could begin with a list of terms taken from English ?”

In fact English only comes third in Wikipedia’s list of the most spoken languages in the world (see here) – after Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. However, if the languages are listed in terms of their influence, at least one source puts English at number 1. The article on list25 (here) says

“Although it only has about 500 million native speakers there are almost 2 billion people in the world that communicate in English on a regular basis”.

Unfortunately however, terms for road types are confusing even when they are all in English.For example, from UK documents contain terms such as:

  • All-purpose trunk roads
  • All-purpose single carriageways
  • All-purpose dual carriageways
  • All-purpose dual carriageways (categories 5 to 8b)
  • WS2 with frontage development
  • Single 2-lane roads (categories 1 to 4)

And the 2014 edition of the manual of the USA state of Illinois Bureau of Design and Environment (ref. 1999) has a table on the selection of maximum superelevation where the types of facility for which superelevation is quoted include terms such as:

  • Rural Two-Lane Directional or Semidirectional Roadways
  • Rural Frontage Roads (Type A, B, or C)
  • Rural Strategic Regional Arterials (SRAs)
  • High Speed Urban Highways and Urban Two-Lane Directional or Semi-directional Roadways
  • Open Suburban Likely to Become Closed Suburban Within Next 10 Years
  • Open Suburban Likely to Remain Open Suburban for Next 10 Years
  • Low-Speed, Wrap-Around Frontage Roads (Suburban Areas) and Realigned Township/County Roads Near State Route Intersection

These two lists suggest that terms for road classes and types can be confusing, even when just one language is used. My mother tongue is English, but even so I don’t well understand what details the terms are trying to indicate.

Maybe road engineers could decide what are the “details which they are trying to indicate”, and then use simple codes for each detail? The codes would be at least independent of every language.


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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