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Now I'm trying to nail down the distinction between driveways and private residential roads. It's certainly a continuum; on the one end are the clear driveways that are relatively short and unambiguously lead from a public road to a single house or business, while on the other are clear roads that tie into the public road system and look exactly like public roads (built and maintained to the same standards) and have many houses on them, but the road is maintained by the residents paying dues to some co-op organisation or whatever.

My problem is that in my current area in Virginia (USA) I'm finding a lot of ways that fall in some fuzzy middle ground. A lot of houses are deep in the middle of what is (or once was) a farm, so their "driveway" is in some cases a half-mile or even a mile long. Does that turn it into a road? A lot of these owners have posted a signpost where one would turn off the main road, labelling their "driveway" as "TheirLastName Lane", sometimes with "PVT" on the sign. Can driveways have names?

Further muddying the waters, some of the ways in question are shared. This may come in the form of two houses basically sharing their turnoff from the main road and immediately splitting---which seems more like a driveway. But often there's one way that's a really long driveway/road (its final destination ends right at a house, rather than a last branch that goes to a house) but there are one or two branches along the way that look more like conventional driveways. Maybe that makes the longer way a private residential road rather than a driveway? Or possibly a non-driveway service road with appropriate access (private or maybe destination)? [Edited to clarify and expand. -dpb]

For a long time I was leaning more towards "driveway" unless the road looked exactly like the public residential roads (except for the "private" sign), but lately I've been wondering if more of these shouldn't be residential roads, albeit somewhat less-maintained ones. Obviously there will always be a certain fuzziness between these two concepts, but I'm hoping to narrow the fuzzy region a bit---where does the line get drawn?

Some examples:

20407106 is clearly a driveway

20410307 is a driveway with an immediate branch (i.e. small shared portion)

20406143 is long and mostly to one house, but with a branch, and a name

20404823 is driveway-ish but many driveways branch off

21816241 is clearly a road, but private

asked 17 Mar '13, 02:05

blahedo's gravatar image

accept rate: 50%

edited 17 Mar '13, 18:03

Unfortunately our wiki isn't very clear about those two categories. Therefore I will explain my point of view.

I think all of them belong into the driveway (that is, highway=service) category. A residential road is a road maintained by the local municipality or a similar administration. It is usually open for everyone to use except for a few cases where vehicle=destination applies.

In contrast, a driveway usually belongs to the owner. It is usually also maintained by the owner and (depending on the local law of course) has access=private. Yet such driveways can also be shared by multiple owners which will complicate the classification in some cases.

As always there will be slight differences from country to country. But I don't think there are many, if any, cases where a residential road is private. I can't think of any such case in my country at least.

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answered 17 Mar '13, 09:12

scai's gravatar image

scai ♦
accept rate: 23%

edited 17 Mar '13, 09:14

Regarding private residential roads: look at my last example (and look at satellite view of it). Other than the word "private" on the street sign it is indistinguishable from any other residential road. This (and others like it) definitely seem to be access=private, highway=residential. It's really not a driveway.

(17 Mar '13, 18:01) blahedo

Are you sure the last example is a residential road? It has gates on both sides according to Google Street View. And if it is indeed a residential road access=destination would fit better than access=private in my opinion. But local laws are sometimes weird. Personally I would tag it as a driveway but that's a matter of opinion.

(18 Mar '13, 07:47) scai ♦

This is about how I feel. I might oversimplify it and say "If it goes to one house, it's a driveway." I think it does come down to who is paying for maintenance, but I don't know about the municipality. I share a non state-maintained road with 5 other residents that I don't consider a driveway. Where it splits off and I share it with one other resident, still not a driveway. But where the part splits off that is solely mine to maintain, then it becomes a driveway.

(22 Jul '14, 18:21) TylerSchwend

So would you (scai) say that if it is gated and private it should be “highway=service”? If not gated, but unnamed, unsaved, dead end, and poorly maintained, it is the same? (This is my inclination, but I am very new to this.)

(15 Sep '19, 02:37) Happy Hobo

This depends on the specific case. Unnamed and poorly maintained could also be highway=unclassified. In the end it doesn't make such a big difference for this particular example.

(16 Sep '19, 10:49) scai ♦

My New England town had private ways that functioned like public ways, mostly in small developments. They were as open and public as any other road. The only difference is ownership, not access. Anyone could drive down the road. If one is on such a privately owned road, none of the neighbors would consider you to be on their personal property. Evergreen Road in Natick, Massachusetts is one such road.

This is different from a long driveway even with multiple houses. If one was on such a driveway, then the residents would think that you were on their property.

In other words, there is a distinction between ownership and control. In the first case, the residents own the road but do not feel that they control the road and therefore that they can limit access. In the second, the residents feel a sense of control over the road -- that it is part of their personal residential space.

Perhaps the distinction lies not in the road but in the land. Who owns the land on both sides of the road? Does the privately owned road bisect a single piece of property (that may have multiple houses on it), or does the road connect smaller individual lots like in a subdivision?

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answered 30 Jul '14, 04:13

Bruce%20in%20Iloilo's gravatar image

Bruce in Iloilo
accept rate: 0%

By the way there is also cases of the reverse, a public road that is treated like a private, access-only road, sometimes because there is confusion over ownership. There have been court cases about such roads here in the Philippines.

(30 Jul '14, 04:16) Bruce in Iloilo

Hi Guys, What about the combi highway - service (Scai) or living street with access - destination. IMHO is an access road to some houses never a road with lots of traffic and maintained by the owners. It’s even possible that the maintenance is delegated to the public community. Greetz

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answered 17 Mar '13, 13:01

Hendrikklaas's gravatar image

accept rate: 5%

Ooh, yes, I'd thought about the highway=service option too but forgot to include it---I've edited my question to mention this possibility. In the cases I've posted the maintenance is not delegated to any municipality, and that's the main thing that makes them private, I think.

(17 Mar '13, 18:06) blahedo

Hi Blahedo, what about track - grade1 or grade2, I use them to tag ways to farms etc up to grade5. Since track does not use the other tags, you don’t need to add them. But looking at your ways it’s not appropriate, they’re all IMHO minor local roads covered with asphalt. So service looks still a good tag, but over here its private when it’s visible, Galesburg s private clearly, you don’t have to guess. Greetz

(17 Mar '13, 20:19) Hendrikklaas

Not sure about using 'highway=living_street' for such driveways/access roads. 'Living streets' are a very specific type of highway described in the Map Features wiki as "residential streets where pedestrians have legal priority over cars, speeds are kept very low and where children are allowed to play on the street." Here are the relevant links

(21 Jul '14, 23:21) NZGraham

In USA, pedestrians ALWAYS have legal priority over cars and bicycles.

(15 Sep '19, 02:26) Happy Hobo

Here in Sequoyah County, Oklahoma, it looks like all the public and private roads have been imported from Tiger, and the accuracy as very bad. Some I have deleted from spots where there is ZERO evidence on aerials or on the ground that there was EVER a road there, names consistently disagree with street signs, and things of identical use can be labeled some, “service road” and others parking aisle. Driveways, with gates and keep out signs might be labeled “residential” or “service” and not all have “private.”

(15 Sep '19, 02:32) Happy Hobo

In New England, such roads are defined as a "private way". They are privately maintained roadways that provide access to more than one residence and are quite common in both urban and rural settings. Municipalities may shoulder some of the cost for maintaining safe access on a private way (such as snow plowing or salting during cold weather), but the cost of maintaining the roadway itself is typically the responsibility of the homeowners served by the private way. Also, a private way almost always terminates at the last residence it serves and is not a throughway for other traffic. Because a private way is technically private property it should probably be listed as a distinct category of roadway.

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answered 21 Jul '14, 15:38

Benito9's gravatar image

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Perhaps it depends on who owns the soil - for a driveway through private grounds, the soil will normally belong to the owner of the house. For a private road leading to one or several premises, the soil will belong to the owner of the land on either side, which is normally a different person to the owner of the house.

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answered 16 Feb '19, 12:36

English%20View's gravatar image

English View
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In my area of Virginia, we have many "pipe stems" which are shared right of ways for multiple residences. I have been setting the "shared" access part as a "Driveway" with Access "Destination" and the off shoot branches to the home as "Driveway" Access "Private". I think that most likely reflects what a computer would need to route to the home via GPS.

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answered 11 Nov '20, 17:12

mrdvt92's gravatar image

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question asked: 17 Mar '13, 02:05

question was seen: 21,596 times

last updated: 11 Nov '20, 17:12

NOTICE: is no longer in use from 1st March 2024. Please use the OpenStreetMap Community Forum