Use of highway=living_street?

The tag highway=living_street is used variably here and there for some residential streets.

In all the other countries listed in the wiki page, living_street seems to refer to a specific legal designation. The problem is that there is no such thing in Thailand. There are no laws specifying a speed limit for residential streets. (Local speed limits are only affected by local signs.) Tagging roads as such without a clear meaning would be confusing to data consumers. Also, it could create problems if such a legal designation arises in the future.

Therefore, I would like to suggest that the use of highway=living_street be avoided in Thailand, at least for now. What do you think?

Hi Paul,
Generally I don’t use this tag for Thai mapping, especially when tracing from aerials, as often the actual photos of the streets & buildings don’t give sufficient info as the the type of street, and I agree with you … there is no legal definition here.
However, I do make an exception when I come across generally new housing estates (subdivisions, if your from the States), where the layout takes the form of many dead end streets coming off a main “spine” access road. The buildings are also clearly houses or apartments, from the regular layout & size.
In this case, I would map the entire estate as a living street initially. If local knowledge or good aerials indicate the spine road is wider and perhaps more heavily used then that may warrant a residential tag.
I have done this in many places in Chiang Mai, where I have good local knowledge, and often if you drive into these estates, u might find a blanket lower speed limit, but you also find many speed bumps being used to keep the speeds down, and reinforce the concept of a “living street”.

Are there other opinions regarding highway=living_street?

I think these streets are certainly not living streets as understood in the rest of the world.

A living street is considered a special designation of a road. The concept is that people share the street with vehicles with the preference for the people.

I know those residential areas. People certainly don’t drive slow to get to their house. And children won’t play on the road. At least not more than on any other residential road.

If the road is quiet, you can play there. But not because of it’s designation but because it’s a quiet residential road.

So I suggest to not use that tagging for residential streets. I also vote for changing it back to residential. Not needed to be done in a mechanical edit, but as you come by an area mapping the details you could change it.


Though I have experimented with living_street myself (and it makes my OsmAnd map look less crowded), I actually agree with you and Paul_012 that we probably shouldn’t use it in Thailand (yet).

Hardly ever used that tag. But I think that in South-East-Asian countries there are some minor “residential” roads which actually come very close to living_street, though not from a legal definition. I found them more often in Indonesian towns than in other countries - very narrow roads (hardly usable for cars, often a sign that motorbike drivers should not ride there but push their bikes), and really more used for other purposes than road traffic. But I generally agree that that cannot be seen from aerial images, local knowledge is required; and I agree that most living_street tags I stumbled upon in SEA were totally wrong (mostly on minor country roads). Hence, I’d also suggest to discourage the use of that tag.

I’ve been mapping a lot (I think) recently in the Northeast from aerial images. In many villages you have clear grid-like patterns that define the residential roads, whether they are paved or not. However, on good aerial images, you can see irregular tiny alleyways that sometimes cross one of the normal quadrangles, sort of like Bernhard described, the paths that wind their ways through the houses. I have taken the liberty of marking these as living streets, but I use it sparingly. When obvious roads are visible I use the residential tag. But I think it makes sense to use either that tag, or alternatively, some “path” tag for such places, also because it renders (on the few I use) more narrowly.

I don’t use it in housing estates, usually the roads are broad there, and it’s easy to add access restrictions to residential roads indicating that they are not public etc.

So it sounds like we agreed on not using highway=living_street anymore to stick closer to the international understood definition of that tag.
No need to rush and replace every occurrence, simply don’t use it on new mappings and if you see some usage where it does not fit feel free to change it to something more matching. Usually highway=residential.

For the quite narrow ways:
Have a look at the definition and picture on the wiki page describing highway=path. If you thing it’s close to that definition you can keep it.

May very small ways I’ve seen in town would be better tagged as highway=service, service=alley. It’s the very small sois where you can go by motorbike but not by car.

The highway=service is another tag not used consistently. It has been used to tag all residential roads, but I took the liberty to convert that when I came across it.
At present I use it only in areas which one would not consider residential, i.e. Schools, Wats, industrial compounds, shopping center parking lots, service stations along highway, other public compounds (hospital, military) I know that service has the alley (and other variants) tags to it, but in a way, it would be better if one actually had a highway=residential residential=alley variant.

To me service doesn’t fee quite right for these narrow sois - it really makes distinction what is supposed to be a residential road and a service road very difficult. I can see a little path leading to the back of a hotel or apartment building in a residential area tagged as service road, but I think these would not be official sois.

Obviously the definition of “a narrow road or path between properties” led to residential roads being tagged as service roads.

In general, I am against using the living_street tag in Thailand. As mentioned above, there is a legal definition already in existence that AFAIK simply does not apply to Thailand. As for highway=service, service=alley I think the problem here is that, once again, Thailand’s narrow residential sois do not fit into the western-style definition of what a residential street should be like. OSM is heavily slanted towards a U.K. or European interpretation and that makes it difficult for those of us mapping in S.E. Asia, or, I imagine, India or Africa.

Clearly these sois are not service roads. Also, many would fit my conception of what an “alley” looks like. There is much ongoing discussion on tagging of highways, and their surfaces in the tagging list. These problems are not unique to Thailand. I’m not sure what the best course of action is for us but maybe interested parties could contribute to those discussions.

You seem to be too focused on how the tags are written as to what they mean. If alleys are done as highway=service;service=alley then this really does mean an alley, whether or not it is a “service” road.

Other examples are:
highway=footway - those aren’t really highway, are they?
tourism=hotel - those aren’t just for tourists?
man_made=tower;tower:type=stupa = those aren’t really towers, right? :wink:

You can find many examples like this and most of them have some historical reason to be that way. The names are made to be unique and hopefully easier for humans to remember.

The biggest problem is when tags gets misinterpreted, so one country/group/user use the tag to describe one feature and another country/group/user uses it to describe something else.

An example could be “building:wall” which could mean a color, a material, a height or something else:

If one group puts in colors and another material, then the meaning of the tag gets lost as it no longer represent the same thing.

The important part is that we all agree on the tags and what they mean, even the names they get doesn’t always make perfect sense.

Sorry, I went a little bit off topic here, but it seems to be something that influences a few of our discussions.

highway=service is one of the tags where you have to evaluate a second tag, the service=* tag to get the exact meaning of the definition. Some rendering software might use a “fallback” rendering for all subtypes not know.

But for example the service=alley is quite established with 340.000 uses. And the definition matches quite well for the situation in Thailand.

Thanks for your and Johanny Carlson’s clarifications. I guess I still tend to come back to the renderers, consistency etc., I have written scientific programs myself, so I tend to also think from the programming perspective.

So, just some naive comments here:

First, the number of “uses” does not necessarily indicate if something is correct or not. We know there can be lot of wrong things out there (that’s just a general thing of the internet, I’m not saying that all the service-alley’s are incorrect).

Second, for people writing renderers, they want obvious simple standards, that stay stable (don’t change). One doesn’t want to add lots of exceptions to the code.

Now, the alley sample. I guess that’s where I still lack some understanding how the renderers operate, or the rational of the tags.
highway=service , service=alley. If the software recognizes alley, it will draw an alley, if not, it will draw a service highway.
If another alley were defined as " highway=residential, residential=alley " instead, would the renderer, if it recognized “service=alley”, also recognize residential=alley as alley, and draw it so? I have no idea, it depends on how the software is written. From a classification perspective, a service=alley and a residential=alley should be rendered differently, since they are defined differently. Based on the editors (potchlatch, Go Map!!!) I use, it seems one can heap lots of different tags on a single node, or a way. Yet how does the renderer resolve all these tags. Presumably on a first come first basis, since it would be too cumbersome to have priority rules on how different tags should be evaluated.
If this is the case, then clearly there is defined order, i.e. systematics (like the biological systematics/taxonomy), and then the whole tree should be consistent, with no cross-connections in the subtrees, as that would be a nightmare to resolve for a renderer.

Before I continue, perhaps I should wait from feedback from your side to see if I understood this right??

PS: The service roads I changed were “not alleys”, but larger roads that are consistently labeled as residential in other villages/towns. It would seem inappropriate that in one village the roads are residential, in another service=alleys.
I think as others pointed out, having a convention/style sheet for Thailand, beyond what is in the wiki, would be useful.

Hi AndlessRoumdabout,

You bring up a lot of things here, let me see if I can clarify some of them.

Many of us here have a programming background, and we are not denying that issues exist.

You are correct, no matter how many times a tag has been used - there could still exist better or more correct ways of doing it.

This forum however have a very small amount of mappers, and changing well used tags seems to be out of our league. If you want to change the general tagging scheme, then you should bring it up on the tagging mailinglist.

Exactly, and this is why we shouldn’t start to use residential=alley instead of service=alley - doing that will just add even more code and conditions to the renderes, routers and other tools out there.

I can’t talk for all renders and other tools out there, but for Mapnik you can take a look at CartoCSS. Here is the stylesheets for roads:

I am not sure this is the exact stylesheet being used, but either way it will still give you an idea about how Mapnik handles tags.

If you were to add the tag residential=alley, the tag would simply be ignored as no style matches.

Now let me get back to your argument about service=alley vs residential=alley, you believe the latter is better. I believe that is because you deep down know that this is not a service road and is only for residential use. From a software perspective though, try to look at it this way.

A stupid renderer that only looks at the main tag (service/residential) would probably render the alley as a service road, which is usually is rendered smaller than a residential road. This seems behaviour actually seems correct.

A stupid routing engine that only looks at the main tag would give higher priority to residential roads compared to service roads, which is again correct. We don’t want to go down small alleys when bigger residential roads are available.

I don’t know which solution is most correct, and I don’t really have to. I’ll look at what the most well mapped and successful areas are doing, and I copy their behaviour. If something is really awful, it will be brought up and discussed - and in the end tagging standards will be updated.

I believe that highway=alley might make more sense, but I guess there is a benefit in keeping the main set of tags down.

You are both right and wrong, but that goes for all of us. The important part is communication and trying to find working solutions.

Yes, Russ McD mistakenly added a bunch of service roads in residential areas. Feel free to update them to either residential, alleys or whatever fits the best. Be careful though, a few of them are actual service roads.

Does any of these answers make sense to you, or do you feel I completely miss the point?

Best Regards,
Johanny Carlson aka Johnny Carlsen

Thanks again. I didn’t necessarily want to propose residential=alley, I used it more as example (rather than using the stupa example :wink: ).

Anyway, it means we should live with confusing nomenclature. This makes it even more important that a convention sheet be drawn up for newcomers how they should tag things - because some things are not necessarily intuitive.

I completely agree that a convention sheet would be nice, and I think that in time the Thai wiki page will cover most of what we agree on here.

There was another thread about these small sois a while back. Personally I’m not really comfortable with using highway=service + service=alley, but for really small sois they seem to be okay.

We already have a “convention sheet” for all users, new and old alike. It is called the Wiki Project Thailand and it is at


Which is exactly what I meant by the “Thai Wiki” :slight_smile:

that I am fully aware of, that’s why the streets were not included. it’s further smaller details, which may or may not go into the wiki.

and this issue I was thinking off, why it could be useful to have more convention/instructions beyond the wiki.

@Endless - That thread is EXACTLY the issue we’re trying to deal with in several other threads. These little, let’s call them personal touches, are the same sort of “customizations” that are in one sense perfectly reasonable from a personal use standpoint, but in the greater scheme of things messy and inconsistent. I think any convention sheet other than the Wiki will not serve a useful purpose. And even if we could agree that one is necessary or useful, how would you make it available or distribute it? I believe the Wiki should contain all the information that has been decided and once quantified, should be adhered to.

I’m in Doi Chang at the moment and the temperature was only 7 deg C this am. The sun is out now but we’re about to hop on the bike and ride back to Chiangmai and we’re going to be very cold.