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Street in Naples , 19th century, photography by Giorgio Sommer
Radial concentric streets in Washington, DC

A road (from Latin [via] strata , “paved way” ) is a land-bound traffic structure that serves as a basis for vehicles and pedestrians, primarily for the transport of people and their payloads from one place to another. Therefore, the connection between the two locations is ideally direct . Practically, however, the course of the road follows a hierarchy ( road network ) and is also influenced by the shape of the terrain. The road extends mainly and appropriately in one dimension ( length ) and predominantly approximates the natural course of the terrain , provided that the radii of curvature of the road, which are appropriate for the intended maximum vehicle size and speed, allow a course close to the surface. Otherwise it is led through tunnels or bridges . In width and depth ( foundation ), it can in weight, volume ( traffic volume ) and degree of crosslinking, be adapted to the intended vehicles. Administratively , a road is an overland transportation route .


Country road
33rd Street New York Street - looking west
Madeira : coastal road through the northeast
Gravel road (Gravel road) in Namibia

Under roads the devoted public roads, paths and squares are generally understood. In particular, a street includes:

  • the road body:
    • Subsoil - the natural rock or soil on which the road body is built
    • Substructure - artificially created dam body between the subsoil and the superstructure, is omitted in cuts
    • Superstructure - consists of one or more base layers and the road surface
    • Earthworks - dams , ditches , embankments , berms
    • Structures - culverts, drainage systems, retaining walls, bridges, tunnels, noise protection systems
    • Road surface - with road markings and signs
    • fortified hard shoulder and shoulder
  • the air space above the road body
  • The accessories:
the official traffic signs , the traffic facilities and other systems that serve the safety, order and ease of traffic and the protection of the residents, for example delineator posts , lighting , traffic lights , crash barriers , lane markings and the vegetation
  • the auxiliary systems:
the road maintenance depots, tool depots, storage areas, storage and extraction points, auxiliary companies and facilities

Legally, the entire public area forms the street. For example, the term “cycling on the road” is misleading in that it includes the sidewalk. Pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles all move on the street.

Are traffic separated:

  • motor vehicle traffic - it only moves on the road
  • other vehicle traffic - on the road or in the case of bicycles on the cycle path
  • Pedestrians - On the sidewalk (if any), otherwise on the roadway


Even after the spelling reform of 2006 , only the spelling with "ß" is correct in Austria and Germany : "Straße". In many places you can find the incorrect spelling of "street", both according to the current and the old rules. There is the use of capital letters correctly "ROAD".

In Switzerland and Liechtenstein, on the other hand, “street” is legal and is officially designated as such.

Components of the road cross-section

A road cross-section should guarantee traffic safety without impairing performance, the goals of environmental protection and urban development must be taken into account, and economic efficiency must be guaranteed.

Depending on the function required, the road cross-section consists of the following elements:

  • Roadway - divided into lanes and shoulder strips,
  • Pedestrian and bicycle traffic facilities , together or separately
  • Parking areas
  • Hard shoulder
  • Dividing strips - divided into central strips and side dividing strips,
  • Banquets
  • Borders and drainage channels

construction materials

Construction of a road with an asphalt concrete pavement using an asphalt concrete paver (in the back in the picture) and a two-wheel smooth roller (in the front in the picture)

The road surface is made of asphalt concrete , cement concrete , paving or unpaved material (e.g. gravel ).

Types of traffic and usage requirements

Cross section of a street in Dresden around 1900

There are different usage requirements for the traffic area, which is why different areas are set up on streets. These include:

The designation paths are used to describe the roads designed exclusively for non-motorized traffic . The so-called rural paths are an exception . These are also designed for motorized transport in agriculture and forestry.

In the area of ​​streets and paths, a distinction is still made between the free route , the through-town , the junction and the ancillary facilities .

Traffic capacity

The traffic capacity of a road is largely dependent on its state of development (number and width of the lanes, line layout). Furthermore, through-town roads with numerous junctions and crossings, level crossings and the topography of the terrain (incline / decline) also play a role. The proportion of truck traffic is also important. The higher this is, the lower the number of vehicles that can use the road as a whole without the flow of traffic stalling. In Germany, two sets of rules define the building standards for roads outside built-up areas. For motorways these are the guidelines for the construction of motorways and for federal, state and municipal roads the guidelines for the construction of country roads . They define the maximum capacity of a two-lane road with around 20,000 vehicles per day, whereby traffic congestion can increase even with traffic volumes over 10,000 vehicles per day - for example in intersections, with slow trucks and no overtaking opportunities or at level crossings - and an expansion, e.g. B. in the 2 + 1 system or by converting crossings to height-free entrances / exits can be useful. Two lanes in each direction, a total of four lanes, are the standard for motorways and highly frequented federal road sections with traffic densities between 20,000 and 60,000 vehicles per day. Three lanes in each direction (six lanes in total) are to be used for traffic volumes between 60,000 and 100,000 vehicles per day, which applies to more heavily frequented motorway sections. Traffic volumes of over 100,000 vehicles per day only occur on the most important motorways in metropolitan areas and make it necessary to create additional lanes.

Street categories

Roads are divided into road categories.

These include, for example, motorways , highways , main roads , local roads , access roads , play streets , agriculture and forestry paths , independently-run bike paths, sidewalks , roundabouts , tunnels or parking . In places, it is important to distinguish between thoroughfares, city streets, settlement streets and residential streets. In Germany, in the regulations of the Research Society for Roads and Transport, a distinction is made between main roads , collecting roads and access roads, whereby this primarily specifies the importance in the vehicle network.

Special categories are inches streets (duty-free roads), dead ends , one-way streets , pedestrian zones , temporarily closed or open roads, service roads , bicycle roads , mountain passes , racetracks .



Street sign in Munich.

Inner-city streets in Germany usually have names (one exception is Mannheim's inner city ), which are indicated by signs at crossings or junctions . As a rule, each street name occurs only once in each town, so that the streets can be clearly identified by naming the town and name. Due to incorporations , street names can appear several times. As a rule, the smaller of the affected streets is then renamed. If this was not done, as in Cottbus, street names exist several times. An exact identification is then usually possible via the district name or the postcode. When Greater Berlin was formed in 1920, a large number of rural communities and villages in the area were included, so there were several street names with the same name, which, however, could be distinguished by the (therefore common and necessary) information about the administrative districts or districts. In 1938, with the centralization of administrative tasks, a major renaming campaign took place, but this did not cover all duplications. In addition, there is a large number of streets that can only be distinguished by numbering - mostly according to the development plan - and some of them are assigned twice. (Example: Street 101 No. 3a) During the war and post-war years that followed, duplicate street names were only renamed later and in districts. Remaining examples can be found in the district lists of streets and squares in Berlin . Roads were renamed in the 2000s when the cause was otherwise. Dedicated numbered streets will be renamed when the occasion arises. In the meantime, there is a coordination between the Berlin districts and within the districts for new names (especially after reunification ). One example is the selection of 42 streets to be renamed in Berlin-Blankenburg , where the system-wide naming according to bird species led to considerations for street names in other settlements and alternative names.

Roads outside of town and highways have numbers. In Germany normally only the numbers of the federal highways and autobahns are signaled to the driver. State roads and district roads are also marked with numbers. This number can be recognized by the station sign , which, however, is of no further importance for the road user.

Additions to names

In the case of names for local streets , it is necessary to use the word component street . However, depending on the property, other street-describing terms are used. The word component -weg is often used for residential streets , since authorities or residents want the delimitation from the pavement or the width of the street to the city street. It is not usual to assign such word components to the traffic conditions, for example an “X-path” can be a road suitable for a motor vehicle.

One example are the streets in Berlin-Gropiusstadt that were newly laid out in the 1960s and 1970s . Here (sometimes for historical reasons) trafficable streets of class V (other streets) of the Berlin street directory were named with path, line, path, on the other hand, avenue or embankment are green, but narrow streets.

The following overview shows a list of the frequently used after -name additions to street and place names in Germany :

  • Street
  • path
  • alley
  • path
  • avenue
  • dam
  • ring
  • Rise / rise
  • row
  • Wall
  • space
  • Road
  • promenade

The following overview shows a list of the frequently used prefixes in front of street and place names in Germany :

  • At the
  • On the
  • In the
  • At the
  • in the


Ancient Greek street from the IV.-III. Century BC BC (Porta Rosa - Velia - Italy)
Side street of the Roman city of Pompeii ( sunk in AD
79 , photo from 1991)
Map of the main streets in Pompeii : 1. Via Marina; 2. Via dell'Abbondanza; 3. Via di Porta Nocera; 4. Via di Nola; 5. Via di Stabia; 6. Via di Mercurio; 7. Via del Foro
Processional street to the Ishtar Gate in Babylon with a bed of asphalt , VI. Century BC BC (computer model of the Pergamon Museum Berlin)
Cross section of the processional street of Babylon

There have been many reasons to build roads throughout history: They provided access to food and shelter, served as routes for seasonal hikes, as processional routes , for pilgrimages, or for trade.

The streets as we know them today evolved from streets of antiquity , the so-called old streets . Social and economic developments led to the introduction of vehicles, which increased the volume of traffic. In the course of social differentiation, streets were also needed for access to work, education and entertainment. However, military and state-political considerations were the most common motives for road construction. The first military vehicles ( chariots ) were made around 2500 BC. Developed. From then on, roads were an important tool in attack and defense, and many rulers spent considerable resources on their construction and maintenance (see tolls ).

The earliest evidence to date of an orderly road construction systematically laid out as a chessboard can be found in the Bronze Age between 2600 and 1800 BC. In the Harappa or Indus culture . In the first Indian civilization, which over long trade relations as far as Asia Minor possessed and the Mediterranean, there were in cities like Harappa or -Daro Mohenjo already paved roads, a sewage drains possessed. The quarry road on Lake Qarun in Egypt is considered to be the oldest preserved paved road in the world and is dated to around 2600–2100 BC.

In the Neo-Assyrian Empire (the area around the Mesopotamia ) a King Street (was harran Sarri ) built on the periodically caravanserais or road stations ( kalliu were). A Urartean road up to 5.4 m wide with road stations at a distance of approx. 30 km was detected between Elazığ and Bingöl .

The Achaemenid Royal Road , which was built by Darius I in the 5th century BC. BC, led from Susa via Persepolis and Pasargadae to Sardis . The king had this road built for rapid communication within his vast empire. A section of the Königsstrasse was excavated at Naqsch-e Rostam , it was about 5 m wide and paved.

The magnificent processional street (Aj-ibur-shapu) to the Ishtar Gate in Babylon was built under Nebuchadnezzar II until 562 BC. Created. In terms of its layout and design, it differed significantly from the road construction customary at the time. The paving of the street consisted of relief-like - glazed stones, which were already laid on a bed of asphalt at that time . The Ishtar Gate was part of the walls of Babylon , which were one of the seven wonders of the ancient world until it was destroyed .

As neighbors of the Romans , the Etruscans built up to 15 m wide paved streets - with pedestrian crossings - in their cities, such as in the well-researched Marzabotto in the Apennines . There was a water pipe under the streets. The city's chessboard-like network of streets later served as a model for Italian architects during the Renaissance .

As in other high cultures before, there were also city ​​streets in the Greek and Roman cities to open up the individual insulae . The Romans built roads mainly for military purposes in order to be able to move troops as quickly as possible to the borders of the Roman Empire (see Roman road ).

The British engineer John McAdam had been involved in road construction for a long time. In 1815 he had the first gravel road built near Bristol . The road bed was higher than the surrounding fields so that the rainwater could run off, it had a substructure made of coarse gravel, over it a layer of smaller stones and was paved with slag. This construction worked so well that it quickly spread to other countries. The name “ Macadam ” , which has been used for a long time, was derived from the name McAdam for this type of road construction.

In Central Europe, the old roads were not replaced by the Chausseen until around 1850 , which then, when Guglielminetti covered an old gravel road near Monte Carlo with a tar layer in 1902 , became the streets as we know them today. "New" streets have also been invented in recent times in order to be able to better market them for tourism. It is the holiday routes that are often related to the old routes .


  • Roads contribute to the fragmentation of the landscape and can therefore contribute indirectly to the threat to biodiversity and even to species extinction, whereby the correlation between the width of the road and the size or behavior of the animal must be observed. For example, highways separate the rooms for crawling insects or wild animals, while flying species tend to fall victim to traffic. But also many animals living on land fall victim to traffic, such as B. hares, rabbits, squirrels, hedgehogs, cats, dogs and. a.
  • 1.3 million people die in road traffic worldwide every year and it is estimated that 20 to 50 million are injured.
  • Extreme values
    • The Harappa of the Indus culture in today's Pakistan is the first - so far proven - paved and sewerage road network in the world .
    • The Eixo Monumental in Brazil is the widest street in the world, while the narrowest street, measuring just 31 cm, is Spreuerhofstraße in Reutlingen.
    • One of the steepest roads in the world is Ffordd Pen Llech in Harlech ( Wales ), it has a road section with a maximum gradient of 37.45%.
    • The North Yungas Road in Bolivia is considered the most dangerous road in the world.
  • Works of art
  • The German Road Museum in Germersheim is the only museum in Germany dedicated to the subject of the road.
  • The French Fédération nationale des routes historiques for historic roads has existed since 2000 .

See also

Portal: Streets  - Overview of Wikipedia content on streets


Web links

Commons : Streets  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Street  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Reference to road construction with sewerage in the ancient Indian Mohenjo Daro . Mohenjo Daro - The secret of the Indus culture. At Retrieved June 11, 2013.
  2. Lake Moeris Quarry Road - ASCE. In: Retrieved August 29, 2018 .
  3. ^ World's Oldest Paved Road Found in Egypt - The New York Times. In: Retrieved August 29, 2018 .
  4. Veli Sevin: The oldest highway: between the regions of Van and Elazig in eastern Anatolia. Antiquity 62, 1988, p. 551.
  5. Veli Sevin: The oldest highway: between the regions of Van and Elazig in eastern Anatolia. Antiquity 62, 1988, p. 547.
  6. ^ W. Kleiss: A section of the Achaemenid royal road from Pasargadae and Persepolis to Susa near Naqsch-e Rostam. Archaeological communications from Iran 14, 1981, pp. 45–53.
  7. Etruscan road construction as a model in the Renaissance . Iron Lords of Tuscany. At Retrieved June 11, 2013.
  8. A. Burton: Steam Engines - Veterans of Technology. Bechtermünz-Verlag, 2000, ISBN 3-8289-5368-9 , page 112.
  9. ^ Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT)
  10. ^ Steepest road in the world in Wales. In: . July 16, 2019, accessed July 19, 2019.
  11. Top ten most dangerous roads in the world