2.2 Functions of roads

2.2.1 Road user hierarchy

The road network should enable all road users to move safely for all trip purposes. It should provide access to and from individual premises and allow connections to services, employment opportunities and leisure destinations.

All premises should be fully accessible, with particular regard to the needs of people with mobility or sensory impairments. The road user hierarchy defined in the National Transport Strategy applies.

Sustainable transport hierarchy showing walking and wheeling as the highest priority mode of transport

Sustainable transport hierarchy from the National Transport Strategy showing walking and wheeling as the highest priority mode of transport, followed by cycling, public transport, taxis & shared transport, then the private car, in that order.

Diagram illustrating relative place and movement functions of streets

Diagram from Designing Streets illustrating relative place and movement functions of streets

The national policy statement Designing Streets sets out the tensions between the ‘movement function’ and the ‘place function’ of different roads. While it is appropriate to design motorways for the efficient movement of cars and lorries, residential areas should be designed primarily as places where people live. Where streets (for example, shopping areas which are also through-roads) have both a place and a movement function, these should be balanced appropriately.

Quality Audits should be undertaken at an early stage in the design to ensure that sufficient weight has been placed on facilities for active travel in line with aspirations for sustainable communities.

It is important that higher density areas of development are concentrated around the bus routes and transport nodes as this will support local bus services and encourage sustainable transport choices.

2.2.2 Road categories

While recognising the above, it is accepted that for practical purposes it is necessary to segment the road network into broad categories:

There is a general assumption that most roads and streets will be adopted by the Roads Authority i.e. become ‘public roads’, and therefore they must be suitable for access by everyone, including people with visual or mobility impairments, in accordance with Roads for All guidance.

Full consideration should always be given to Designing Streets guidelines with reference to the National Transport Strategy road user hierarchy. It will usually only be cases where the development is served by or is close to higher speed roads, that the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges will be referenced.

Main Distributor Roads e.g. roads between towns

Main Distributor Roads are thoroughfares which link urban centres or strategic routes. Such roads regularly accommodate heavy vehicles and are potential bus routes and so must have with suitable widths and corner radii for these purposes. Consideration must given to the location of bus stops, for which laybys may be required.

Any road serving more than three hundred dwellings or giving access to non-residential development would generally be designed to Main Distributor Road standards.

If Main Distributor Roads also have streetlighting or house frontages or shops/schools with pedestrian activity, they will be subject to lower speed limits in accordance with our Speed Limit Policy. Additional traffic calming may also be required.

The location of accesses will be subject to junction spacing requirements, and driveways should incorporate turning facilities such that vehicles are able to enter and leave premises in a forward gear.

General Access Streets e.g high streets and local link roads

General Access Streets are mulit-modal corridors with significant pedestrian, cycle, bus and vehicle activity, as well as having direct frontage access to dwellings. Each General Access Street may typically serve no more than three hundred dwellings from a single access point. 

Although they may be classified, General Access Streets have a significant ‘place’ function, as they include high streets and roads around schools and other community facilities, and therefore physical traffic calming measures will often be required. Bus operators should be consulted for advice on the location and the design of traffic calming features and bus stops.

Layouts of private developments should be designed to ensure that all vehicles entering a General Access Street can do so in forward gear.

Residential Streets

In Residential Streets, non-motorised vehicles and varied community uses are encouraged. Traffic speeds should be physically constrained by localised narrowing of the carriageway, raised tables and chicanes. Long straight sections of road will be avoided through the adoption of tight bends to restrict vehicle speeds, and a flowing alignment of gentle curves must be used on slopes to reduce gradients to 5% or shallower for accessibility.

Forward visibility for drivers should be limited. However, reduced visibility should not be the sole means of reducing vehicle speed.

The maximum driving distance from a dwelling on a Residential Street to a General Access Street is normally around 400m.

Non-residential streets

Non-residential streets serve industrial, retail, educational, commercial, medical and other private premises. They are unlikely to be adopted, unless there is general public benefit, for example, to access civic amenity sites.

Rural roads and steadings accesses

Access to steading developments should be discussed in the first instance with the Council, and reference made to our Farm Steading Design Supplementary Planning Guidance.

Footways and shared-use paths

By definition, a footway runs adjacent to a carriageway, forming part of the public road, over which the public have a right of way on foot only.

The Land Reform Act 2003 confers a responsible right of access to most land for all non-motorised traffic, and therefore any path which is not a footway must be treated as shared-use for pedestrians, cyclists, horse-riders and so on. 

While segregated pedestrian and cycle areas are preferred, we recognise that space is often limited and shared-use paths may be necessary.

2.2.3 Standards


Main Distributor Road

General Access Street

Residential Street

Non-residential Street


Road between strategic routes or linking urban centres. It would generally be classified

Multi-modal corridor with significant pedestrian, cycle, bus and vehicle activity, typically serves fewer than 300 dwellings. May be classified.

Road with primarily residential uses with emphasis on pedestrians and cyclists

Designed for commercial uses and will often need to accommodate frequent heavy goods vehicles

Accesses and frontage

Junction spacing requirements apply. Vehicles should be able to enter and leave premises in a forward gear

Frontages encouraged, but vehicles should be able to enter and leave premises in a forward gear

Multiple frontages and driveways by definition

No residential accesses. Frontage access to premises permitted

Speed Limits

20-60mph which may be supported by traffic calming features in appropriate areas

20-30 mph which should be supported by traffic calming features

20mph with traffic calming features every 30m


Typical carriageway width

5.5m - 7.3m or greater

5.5m – 6.5m

4.8m - 5.5m

(3.7m minimum over short stretches)

5.5m - 7.3m

Sight distances

According to design speeds

Desirable minimum = 45m;

Absolute minimum = 33m

Minimise straight sections of road

Desirable minimum  = 45m

Footways, paths and verges

Where speed limit is 30mph or lower, footways should be provided on both sides. 

Where speed limit greater than 30mph, a parallel shared-use path is required on at least one side of the road, and this should be segregated from the carriageway by a 2m verge.

Wherever a footway is not provided, a 2m wide verge is essential.

Footways required on both sides of the road, unless there is a segregated path system and it can be demonstrated that pedestrians are unlikely to walk along the road.


Footway required on at least one side of the road and on both sides where buildings are accessed.

Footway required on at least one side of the road and on both sides where buildings are accessed.

Wherever a footway is not provided, a 2m wide verge is essential.

Turning and cul-de-sacs


Loop roads and through-roads are preferred over culs-de-sac which create dead-mileage for deliveries. Culs-de-sac may serve up to 25 properties and require turning heads which can accommodate occasional large vehicles and refuse vehicles[1] 

HGVs and refuse vehicles must be able to turn within the site. Loop roads are preferred to reduce reversing movements.

Maximum Gradient


Minimum Gradient


Note: These webpages are for reference by developers of housing and employment sites in East Lothian.
They provide guidance on transport infrastructure against which Planning Applications will be assessed
and evaluated, and set out East Lothian Council's procedures regarding the construction and adoption
of new roads in accordance with current legislation.
These pages supersede all previous versions of our Standards for Development Roads document.

01/07/2023 Document release