The correct use of highway tags in residential estates and complexes in RSA

Hi South Africa OSM Community!
I hope everyone is doing great!
I would like to get some input from the community on the use of highway tags in residential estates in South Africa.

Many of the roads in these areas are currently tagged with the combination of highway=service and access=private. Example here (-25.842885648361573, 28.201547291147715).
While I agree with the access=private tag for these areas, should we not rather be tagging these roads with highway=living_street or highway=residential?

The tag highway=service has a very broad definition. While these roads within residential estates could be classified as a “driveway”, I believe that the tag highway=living_street is more applicable to these areas.

When looking at the definition of “living_street”, there are many aspects of the definition that residential estates and complexes apply in South Africa. These include " lower speed limits, and special traffic and parking rules compared to streets tagged using residential". There are also usually pedestrians sharing these roads with cars within the residential estates although I do not think that our legislation grants pedestrians “the right of way over or at equal rights to other road users”. I have also observed in many occasions that the speed limit in residential estates is limited to 20km/h or lower.

The alternative is highway=residential but after comparing the two tags I feel like highway=living_street is the more applicable one for these specific areas.

I look forward to your opinions and feedback on this topic.

Thanks in advance!
Keep well
Arno (From Bolt)


I agree that in your example service is not the best choice.

Many such places I have come across are already tagged as residential roads, and I think either residential or living_street is good.

For small complexes which are basically just a single road, living_street would be a fine option, but I would probably have tagged it as residential if I had been mapping one.

Larger estates and complexes probably should not be living_street throughout, the main roads through and around would be residential and then maybe some cul-de-sac sections would be living_street.

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Thanks @confusedbuffalo for your input. Based on your feedback and some discussions we had within our South Africa mapping team at Bolt, we believe the best approach would be to use the highway=residential tag for these roads within residential estates. The tag highway=living_street can work in some cases but highway=residential would probably be the primary one to use in most cases.

We have created a MapRoulette challenge focused on the City of Tshwane to kickstart the changes to these roads.

Happy mapping!
Keep well


Hi all, just an update on these changes.
The first MapRoulette challenge has been completed, thanks to all community members who worked on this. I have created the next challenge " Reclassify residential roads in City of Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, West Rand and Sasolburg". This one is focussed on the greater Johannesburg area.

Happy mapping!
Keep well

Hi Arno!

Sorry I’m a little late to this thread.
This thread also made me think a bit…

I just wanted to add that:

  • I agree highway=service is not the best tag to use for housing complexes and estates, and that service=driveway should only be used to map “leading to a specific property” (as per the OSM wiki), i.e. not a whole complex.
  • I think there is a difference between what I think of as housing complexes (typically smaller) and housing estates (typically larger)

It always depends on the exact road that I’m mapping, but in line with what you mentioned about living streets having lower speed limits and sharing the road with pedestrians, as a rule of thumb:

  • For housing complexes, I would typically use living_street
  • For housing estates, I would typically use residential (specifically on roads where cars have priority and speeds are typically 40-50km/h)

In the example that you mention, for me, these really are living streets, with a lower speed and very much shared with pedestrians (walking on the road, not next to it).

Check the example here, where there are “housing complexes” inside a “housing estate”, and where the distinction between highway=residential and highway=living_streetis really useful.


Hey Chris!

Thanks for you valuable input to this discussion. I agree with what you said and I do think it is important to distinguish between these two tags depending on the specific street in question.

Based on your input and after some more discussions within our team, I have updated the instructions for the follow-up MapRoulette challenge.

Additionally I have included a link to this forum thread in the instructions section in case other community members want to join the discussion.

Best regards

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Awesome, I just did a few of the MapRoulette challenges for Johannesburg :+1:t3:

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