Categories of roads, footways and cycleways

How we have classified our roads, footways and cycleways to help us prioritise highway maintenance in Suffolk.

It is not possible for works to be carried out everywhere at the same time so there has to be prioritisation and that has to be undertaken adopting a risk-based approach, which is what central government wants all local highway authorities like Suffolk to do. The busier a road or footway is in terms of traffic, the greater the chance of a defect causing a problem.

The classification of roads as A, B, C and Unclassified does not necessarily reflect the needs, priorities and actual use of each road in a local highway network. It is important that our maintenance strategy reflects factors such as:

  • importance (e.g. a road leading to a major hospital);
  • environment (e.g. rural, urban, busy shopping street, residential street etc.); and
  • usage (e.g. traffic flows, bus routes and the like). 

Suffolk Highways has therefore established a hierarchy of roads, footways (including rights of way) and cycleways which is used to prioritise maintenance and acts as a key link between our maintenance policy and our day-to-day operations. Effectively, Suffolk Highways is giving greater priority to the roads that carry most vehicles and less priority to the less-trafficked roads.

Further information is shown below - you can find out more about how we provide highway maintenance in our Highway Maintenance Operational Plan (PDF, 1,950KB).


List of road categories
Road typeDescriptionDetailed description
2 Strategic A roads
  • Routes for fast-moving, long distance traffic, with little frontage access or pedestrian traffic
  • Speed limits are usually in excess of 40mph and there are few junctions
  • Pedestrian crossings are either segregated or controlled
  • Parked vehicles are generally prohibited
3a Main distributor - major urban network and inter-strategic routes
  • Routes between strategic A roads, linking urban centres to the strategic network
  • Limited frontage access
  • In urban areas where speed limits are usually 40mph or less
  • Parking is restricted at peak times and there are positive measures for pedestrian safety
3b Main rural secondary distributor roads
  • Rural roads (usually B and C) carrying local traffic with frontage access and frequent junctions
  • These roads link larger villages and heavy goods vehicle generators to the strategic and main distributor network
  • On-street parking is generally unrestricted, except for safety reasons
3b  Main urban secondary distributor roads
  • Urban roads (usually B and C) carrying local traffic with frontage access and frequent junctions
  • In urban areas, these roads have 30mph speed limits and very high levels of pedestrian activity, with some crossing facilities
  • On-street parking is generally unrestricted, except for safety reasons
4a Local roads
  • Roads linking the main and secondary distributor network with frontage access
  • Frequent junctions
  • In rural areas, these roads link smaller villages to distributor roads
  • They are of varying width and don't always allow 2-way traffic
  • In urban areas, they are residential or industrial inter-connecting roads with 30mph speed limits, random pedestrian movements and uncontrolled parking


4b Minor rural roads and urban cul-de-sacs
  • Roads serving limited numbers of properties, carrying only access traffic
  • In rural areas, these roads serve small settlements
  • They provide access to individual properties or land
  • They are often single lane width and are unsuitable for heavy goods vehicles
  • In urban areas, they are often residential loop roads or cul-de-sacs

Footways and urban rights of way

Footway maintenance standards are unlikely to be reflected by road classification - it is the amount of pedestrian usage that counts, rather than the category of the road.  Local factors such as the proximity of schools and shops are also important in this context. 

Suffolk Highways has therefore developed a separate footway hierarchy to assist with the prioritisation of our maintenance as shown in the table below. 

List of footway categories
Footway TypeDescription
  • Busy urban shopping and business areas
  • Main pedestrian routes
  • Medium use routes through local areas feeding into main pedestrian routes, local shopping centres, etc.
  • Footways linking local access ways through urban areas and busy rural areas
  • Footways associated with low usage, short estate roads to the main routes
  • Cul-de-sacs
  • Little used rural footways serving very limited numbers of properties
  • Mandatory cycle lanes forming part of the carriageway

Urban Rights of Way

Some footpaths within urban areas are recorded on the definitive map as public rights of way - in urban areas these may provide a route to shops, schools etc.  Some of these footpaths are metalled (surfaced for example with asphalt or paving slabs).  Where footpaths are metalled then they will be assigned an appropriate category within the footway hierarchy (shown above) and will be inspected and maintained accordingly.

Most unmetalled footpaths in urban areas are managed as part of the wider public rights of way network and surface inspection and maintenance is undertaken on a mainly reactive basis.


The maintenance of cycleways is prioritised as shown in the table below

List of cycleway categories

Cycle lane - forming part of the carriageway, commonly a strip next to the nearside kerb (identified as Footway type 4a (low usage) - see further information in the "Footway and urban rights of way" section on this page

Cycle gaps at road closure point (no entry to traffic, but allowing cycle access).

Cycle track - a highway route for cyclists not contiguous with the public footway or carriageway

Shared cycle/pedestrian paths, either segregated by a white line or other physical segregation, or un-segregated (which could be Footway Type 1, 2 or 3 - see further information in the "Footway and urban rights of way" section on this page) 
Cycle trails, leisure routes through open spaces.  These are not necessarily our responsibility as local highway authority but may be maintained under other powers or duties.