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Mapped: All of the World’s Roads, by Continent

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A road map of the world, visualized by type.

Mapped: All of the World’s Roads, by Continent

Once upon a time, it was said that all roads led to Rome. Now with at least 21 million kilometers of roads spanning the globe, every continent and country has its own web of crisscrossing connections, from major highways to rural drives.

And there’s no better way to see the scale and spread of roads than by visualizing them. Adam Symington from PythonMaps used data from the Global Roads Inventory Project (GRIP) to map all the roads in the world, creating an accurate representation of humanity’s need to connect.

Creating the Global Road Map

The GRIP database pulled information from a variety of sources including governments, research institutes, NGOs, and crowd-sourcing initiatives to create a harmonized dataset of geospatial road information for a 2018 paper, “Global patterns of current and future road infrastructure.”

Researchers categorized roads into types using a UN classification system, which have been visualized in three colors on this map:

CategoryDefinitionColor
Main RoadsHighways + primary roads between and within cities and towns. Multi-lane, limited entry and exit points.White
Secondary RoadsPaved, high-traffic, access between neighborhoodsYellow
Tertiary RoadsPaved or unpaved residential access within neighborhoods, or rural points of interest.Red
Local RoadsAll other smaller roads that don't fit above, and usually are not throughfare.Red

This classification allowed for examining relationships between road infrastructure, development, wealth, and population distribution.

Which Country has the Largest Road Map?

With nearly 3 million kilometers of motorways, the U.S. has the largest road network in the world, nearly double that of China (1.7 million km) and three times that of India (1 million km).

Rank (#)CountryAll Roads (km)% of World's Roads
1U.S.3,097,27814.34%
2China1,709,9977.92%
3India1,052,7184.87%
4Mexico741,9493.43%
5Argentina703,0873.25%
6Brazil681,2673.15%
7Russia621,8132.88%
8Australia620,3932.87%
9Germany563,1552.61%
10France523,5662.42%
11Japan452,4402.09%
12Turkey448,2492.08%
13Indonesia429,9701.99%
14Colombia387,4711.79%
15South Africa331,9091.54%
16Kazakhstan303,1701.40%
17Spain273,5971.27%
18UK268,7091.24%
19Thailand264,6391.23%
20Italy263,3041.22%
21Canada243,1551.13%
22Ukraine229,3801.06%
23Poland224,9041.04%
24Turkmenistan204,1000.94%
25Peru203,7260.94%
26Vietnam187,5990.87%
27Bangladesh183,3170.85%
28Somalia163,0930.76%
29Dem. Rep. Congo162,1740.75%
30Iran145,1770.67%
31Iraq140,3650.65%
32Angola135,6270.63%
33Sweden121,6730.56%
34South Korea119,4560.55%
35Venezuela118,3780.55%
36Libya117,5040.54%
37Bolivia108,5940.50%
38Pakistan106,1830.49%
39Sudan101,3450.47%
40Guinea101,3240.47%
41New Zealand100,4040.46%
42Philippines96,4660.45%
43Sri Lanka96,0230.44%
44Kenya94,3390.44%
45Chile93,0300.43%
46Nigeria92,4690.43%
47Austria90,2840.42%
48Finland89,3860.41%
49Czech Republic89,2660.41%
50Saudi Arabia86,1880.40%
51Greece86,1280.40%
52Afghanistan83,1860.39%
53Belarus80,8240.37%
54Ecuador80,2900.37%
55Myanmar79,4010.37%
56Ethiopia79,3060.37%
57Netherlands77,7930.36%
58Senegal74,9280.35%
59Taiwan72,8700.34%
60Cameroon71,8820.33%
61Madagascar71,3410.33%
62Zimbabwe70,5030.33%
63Uruguay69,5870.32%
64Norway66,2040.31%
65Portugal65,1810.30%
66Belgium65,0980.30%
67Uzbekistan64,4450.30%
68Romania63,3330.29%
69Botswana63,1300.29%
70Mali59,1420.27%
71Mozambique58,6930.27%
72Cuba56,8830.26%
73Hungary56,2090.26%
74Algeria55,6620.26%
75Cambodia54,5000.25%
76Egypt52,5800.24%
77Chad52,2570.24%
78Denmark50,2560.23%
79Mauritania50,0560.23%
80Mongolia49,8730.23%
81Switzerland46,0460.21%
82Ivory Coast45,8070.21%
83Niger44,6380.21%
84Bulgaria44,2250.20%
85Paraguay43,2980.20%
86Yemen42,4760.20%
87Tanzania42,0000.19%
88North Korea41,9320.19%
89Zambia40,5810.19%
90Guatemala40,4130.19%
91Namibia40,1310.19%
92Ireland39,6200.18%
93Morocco39,4790.18%
94Papua New Guinea37,9600.18%
95Malaysia37,2370.17%
96Nepal36,7910.17%
97Croatia34,8700.16%
98Syria34,4330.16%
99Sierra Leone33,5590.16%
100Slovakia33,1360.15%
101Albania33,0220.15%
102South Sudan32,2770.15%
103Burkina Faso31,0460.14%
104Laos28,9240.13%
105El Salvador28,5060.13%
106Ghana28,0240.13%
107Kyrgyzstan27,8500.13%
108Latvia26,8080.12%
109Rwanda26,7140.12%
110Lithuania26,1440.12%
111Nicaragua25,3730.12%
112Central African Republic25,2490.12%
113Israel24,8010.11%
114Congo24,6160.11%
115Liberia24,5070.11%
116Oman23,5460.11%
117Jamaica23,1930.11%
118Serbia21,8580.10%
119Benin21,2890.10%
120Tunisia20,7650.10%
121Uganda19,5230.09%
122Mauritius19,4340.09%
123Jordan19,2840.09%
124U.A.E19,1980.09%
125Costa Rica18,9240.09%
126Estonia18,5510.09%
127Haiti18,1690.08%
128Burundi17,4500.08%
129Tajikistan16,0860.07%
130East Timor16,0480.07%
131Iceland15,3740.07%
132Azerbaijan15,3610.07%
133Honduras15,2000.07%
134Guinea-Bissau13,6360.06%
135Malawi13,2380.06%
136Puerto Rico12,9340.06%
137Palestine12,8170.06%
138Slovenia12,4740.06%
139Gabon12,2860.06%
140Cyprus11,7210.05%
141Lebanon11,3990.05%
142Dominican Republic10,8900.05%
143Panama10,4170.05%
144Armenia9,8880.05%
145Belize9,8170.05%
146Qatar9,0470.04%
147Moldova8,8600.04%
148Georgia8,0430.04%
149Bosnia 7,7690.04%
150Togo7,4230.03%
151Eritrea7,1010.03%
152Western Sahara6,7940.03%
153Djibouti6,7860.03%
154Gambia5,1120.02%
155Luxembourg5,1060.02%
156Guyana4,3230.02%
157Guadeloupe4,3030.02%
158Northern Macedonia4,1500.02%
159Singapore3,5470.02%
160French Guiana3,3160.02%
161Lesotho3,1570.01%
162Martinique2,8570.01%
163Montenegro2,8100.01%
164Eswatini2,6640.01%
165Equatorial Guinea2,6090.01%
166Netherlands Antilles2,5490.01%
167Cabo Verde2,3920.01%
168Bhutan2,3760.01%
169New Caledonia2,2130.01%
170Suriname1,9210.01%
171Barbados1,8060.01%
172Kuwait1,6510.01%
173Malta1,6370.01%
174U.S. Virgin Islands1,4290.01%
175Solomon Islands1,3090.01%
176The Bahamas1,2850.01%
177Fiji1,1340.01%
178Antigua and Barbuda1,1250.01%
179Kosovo1,1110.01%
180Aruba8900.00%
181Dominica8620.00%
182Faroe Islands8260.00%
183St. Lucia7930.00%
184Cayman Islands7460.00%
185Brunei6600.00%
186Trinidad and Tobago6360.00%
187Isle of Man6100.00%
188Sao Tome and Principe5380.00%
189Grenada5160.00%
190Bahrain5020.00%
191Falkland Island4850.00%
192Reunion4650.00%
193St. Kitts and Nevis4460.00%
194Vanuatu4450.00%
195St. Vincent & the Grenadines3890.00%
196Comoros3840.00%
197Samoa3420.00%
198British Virgin Islands2970.00%
199Anguila2090.00%
200Guam2010.00%
201French Polynesia1750.00%
202Northern Mariana Islands1450.00%
203Tonga1350.00%
204Montserrat1250.00%
205San Marino1180.00%
206Mayotte1090.00%
207Niue910.00%
208Turks & Caicos Island750.00%
209Seychelles700.00%
210Saint Helena570.00%
211Cook Islands470.00%
212Monaco420.00%
213Andorra360.00%
214Gibraltar290.00%
215Wallis & Futura Islands250.00%
216Liechtenstein240.00%
217Palau180.00%
218American Samoa170.00%
219French Southern & Antarctic Lands150.00%
220Bermuda140.00%
221Christmas Island120.00%
222Norfolk Island100.00%
Total21,600,760100%

The small Pacific island country of Palau has the smallest road network in the database measuring 18 kilometers. However, many overseas territories of countries have even smaller networks, with Norfolk Island being the smallest in the dataset at 10 km.

That said, when breaking the road networks down by type, the rankings change significantly.

China muscles out the U.S. with nearly double the amount of main roads (highways + primary roads). Meanwhile, Japan and Canada climb into the top 10 by largest main road networks, while India drops down to #8.

CountryMainSecondaryTertiaryLocal
China683,248306,176373,831346,742
U.S.366,800898,87342,0711,789,534
Mexico105,822181,088185,587269,452
Japan94,45167,454100,536189,999
Canada91,17373,52546,12132,336
Brazil86,772223,662283,93386,900
France74,956114,433192,191141,986
India69,748413,790526,13043,050
Argentina69,18855,519534,87643,504
Australia69,13873,376426,34651,533
Spain64,62837,57180,09491,304
UK63,67330,99948,605125,432
Germany63,51797,272100,513301,853
Turkey59,01340,863203,987144,386
South Africa56,262103,332138,89533,420
Russia52,920512,38633,74222,765
Kazakhstan47,39341,074149,96364,740
Italy47,09851,03884,14781,021
Thailand45,44549,924129,72439,546
South Korea33,59024,39920,51740,950
Peru31,36147,296115,03810,031
Indonesia29,34623,324334,16443,136
Norway27,17519,0575,37714,595
Iran23,72298,6875,95316,815
Chile21,07841,35320,27410,325
Colombia20,88443,084309,72513,778
Sweden20,56225,43845,80729,866
Poland20,43229,49967,151107,822
Dem. Rep. Congo20,20929,387109,9622,616
Ethiopia19,92022,00633,4093,971
Venezuela19,66313,82274,65610,237
Pakistan19,18625,67255,5355,790
Belarus17,72029,64430,9282,532
Ireland17,540015,3796,701
Romania17,12718,4039,74518,058
Philippines17,07715,26742,81121,311
Saudi Arabia16,8608,02045,59315,715
Myanmar16,52713,46245,0414,371
Ukraine16,34233,147170,0209,871
Uzbekistan16,12744,0003,557761
Portugal15,5459,18618,64621,804
Finland14,84716,03033,04325,466
Vietnam13,80017,635152,9013,263
Zimbabwe13,48218,80334,8833,335
Austria13,41312,87815,47048,523
Bangladesh13,27221,723137,49710,825
New Zealand12,5226,91364,49816,471
Iraq12,41853,28571,0123,650
Greece11,53312,28434,81527,496
Netherlands11,4667,42518,46040,442
Taiwan11,4408,89939,98712,544
Uruguay10,314059,160113
Croatia9,84411,0436,5067,477
Mongolia9,06140,81200
Belgium9,0487,28112,66136,108
El Salvador8,9848,42411,07226
U.A.E8,8893,1722,0435,094
Hungary8,73211,51211,81924,146
Algeria8,6756,40736,1874,393
Nicaragua8,06014,2121,2551,846
Bolivia7,9578,09182,9609,586
Czech Republic7,87715,23235,64030,517
Sri Lanka7,70415,71570,5362,068
Nigeria7,5458,11968,5728,233
Latvia7,51910,2134,1344,942
Lithuania7,4525,1077,4806,105
North Korea7,3387,77520,1676,652
Switzerland7,2785,30310,82122,644
Libya7,2775,61580,98523,627
Ivory Coast7,0307,53129,0152,231
Laos6,8824,08917,749204
Angola6,69110,588114,6803,668
Mozambique6,68623,42527,2661,316
Yemen6,64750334,0201,306
Syria6,4406,83416,6244,535
Kyrgyzstan6,12118,9271,0391,763
Malaysia6,02216,71314,020482
Egypt5,8725,67835,6115,419
Israel5,8505,09512,0631,793
Kenya5,79228,24157,7252,581
Ecuador5,72511,03455,2078,324
Papua New Guinea5,6207,16825,1720
Qatar5,5702,046588843
Serbia5,5365,2463,8327,244
Cuba5,3736,28529,48515,740
Paraguay5,14413,66921,7672,718
Albania5,1216,24921,64111
Denmark5,0536,1136,55632,534
Botswana4,9798,31449,8370
Sudan4,8595,14281,9549,390
Turkmenistan4,73124,952174,4107
Morocco4,7272,42428,1054,223
Iceland4,6663,2915,9341,483
Zambia4,6483,80631,1131,014
Somalia4,60532,248125,418822
Slovakia4,3173,72310,31814,778
Tunisia4,2322,6069,6794,248
Afghanistan4,1892,20475,7621,031
Bulgaria4,0904,53324,53411,068
Panama3,8873,7182,8111
Tanzania3,8524,57531,7341,839
Oman3,4352,58815,3952,128
Mali3,4323,08048,3974,233
Malawi3,3527,1222,625139
Bosnia 3,2391,3322,529669
Jordan3,0212,1197,7226,422
Namibia2,9042,14635,0738
Azerbaijan2,8897,2653464,861
Madagascar2,7993,77963,6721,091
Niger2,7512,09938,6331,155
Guatemala2,74510,43120,6326,605
Congo2,73311,0637,0893,731
Tajikistan2,63913,44700
Honduras2,6254,6965,4212,458
Costa Rica2,60811,2773614,678
Puerto Rico2,5432,5393,4154,437
Rwanda2,2994,21519,609591
Cambodia2,23111,48138,3872,401
Benin2,2255,10413,281679
Slovenia2,2232,6863,6893,876
Lebanon2,1642,3684,0972,770
Ghana2,1078,05112,8834,983
Senegal2,0515,43764,3543,086
Uganda2,02434616,224929
Burkina Faso2,02110,08715,7473,191
Jamaica1,9725,19315,495533
Bhutan1,87104996
Estonia1,8593,0659,7453,882
Mauritania1,7382,18545,204929
Nepal1,7283,64430,1001,319
Burundi1,7147,5718,12144
Cameroon1,5743,45364,0952,760
Singapore1,5614171931,376
Cyprus1,4882,3112,2665,656
Kuwait1,33412864125
Northern Macedonia1,3321,421991406
South Sudan1,2664,97426,0307
Armenia1,2312,8741,5784,205
Georgia1,1925,4121981,241
Moldova1,1902,8984,75121
Luxembourg1,1861,9163811,623
East Timor1,18068014,066122
Dominican Republic1,1483,8091,1524,781
Haiti1,0891,34713,9131,820
Palestine1,0357512,4128,619
Suriname1,03089100
Togo8559702,9272,671
Montenegro842519809640
Belize6805,1533,9840
Djibouti6751,6734,4380
Eswatini6481,0619550
Bahrain502000
Guinea4868,37990,3202,139
Eritrea477306,5922
French Guiana4751,82299326
Central African Republic4591,86122,9245
Liberia4454,56319,4981
Guadeloupe4385232,0171,325
Sierra Leone4194,89127,374875
Fiji40772700
Kosovo3664492960
New Caledonia3401,87300
Isle of Man33612021133
Martinique3234421,211881
Netherlands Antilles3101517471,341
Chad3041,95848,7671,228
Mauritius27779015,2093,158
Lesotho2676352,2505
Faroe Islands24613042408
Barbados244364361837
Malta2282231731,013
Dominica22460237341
U.S. Virgin Islands211129711,018
Reunion1901461290
Western Sahara1825686,0413
Gabon18194511,15010
Grenada17355175113
Cayman Islands1685590433
Antigua and Barbuda13453343595
Sao Tome and Principe12304150
Guam1237800
St. Lucia11551394233
Cabo Verde993331,9591
Northern Mariana Islands875800
Gambia851,4003,61215
British Virgin Islands723911967
Guinea-Bissau713,30110,2577
Trinidad and Tobago6557100
St. Kitts and Nevis544297253
French Polynesia5412100
St. Vincent & the Grenadines5053160126
Anguila421145111
Aruba3175123661
Andorra29700
Saint Helena223500
Montserrat2023370
Monaco146715
San Marino13115836
Christmas Island12000
Tonga1012500
Liechtenstein9618
Gibraltar7868
Guyana09293,3940
Equatorial Guinea02102,3990
Solomon Islands001,3090
The Bahamas01,215700
Brunei006600
Falkland Island048500
Vanuatu044500
Comoros003840
Samoa034200
Mayotte001090
Niue09100
Turks & Caicos Island09660
Seychelles032380
Cook Islands04700
Wallis & Futura Islands02500
Palau01800
American Samoa01700
French Southern & Antarctic Lands01500
Bermuda01400
Norfolk Island01000

In the database, 1.8 million km or more than 50% of the U.S.’s large road map is made up of smaller local roads, giving unparalleled access across almost the entire country. It also has the world’s most secondary roads, while Argentina, India, and Australia lead the rankings with the most tertiary roads.

Regional Differences Between Types of Roads

These different types of roads have a striking effect on the regional visualizations of road maps.

In North America, the U.S. and Canada have a white-yellow hue accounting for the large number of highways, primary, and secondary roads.

A map of all roads in North America, visualized by type.

In Mexico, the map takes on a distinct red tint, since tertiary and local roads account for nearly two-thirds of the country’s road network.

Something similar occurs in Europe, where old Cold War divisions play out in white, yellow, and red. France, Germany, Italy, and the U.K. glow hot in a mix of white and yellow, while former Eastern Bloc countries simmer more in red.

A map of all roads in Europe, visualized by type.

GRIP found that main roads (highways + primary) are usually found in North America, Europe, and China, while the rest of the world has a greater percentage of secondary (yellow) and tertiary and local (red) roads.

However, one interesting sidebar is that the four countries with the greatest percentage of main roads are all from the Middle East.

Rank (#)CountryMain Roads (% of All)
1Bahrain 🇧🇭100%
2Kuwait 🇰🇼81%
3Bhutan 🇧🇹79%
4Qatar 🇶🇦62%
5Suriname 🇸🇷54%
6U.A.E 🇦🇪46%
7Ireland 🇮🇪44%
8Singapore 🇸🇬44%
9Bosnia 🇧🇦42%
10Norway 🇳🇴41%
11China 🇨🇳40%
12Liechtenstein 🇱🇮38%
13Canada 🇨🇦38%
14Panama 🇵🇦37%
15Grenada 🇬🇩34%

While there may be reasons for this, it’s possible it could also be a quirk in the database, depending on how data is collected or classified in the region.

What Do Road Networks Tell Us About Countries?

Analysis of the GRIP database found that “total road length in a country is strongly and positively related to its total land surface area, human population density, gross domestic product, and OECD membership.”

However, of all the correlations, population density is perhaps the most visible in snapshots of the larger world map, such as in this one of Asia.

A map of all roads in Asia, visualized by type.

The Indian subcontinent and Eastern China are the two most populous regions of the world, accounting for nearly 35% of the world’s population. The most populous regions within—especially in China—have more roads, representing growing cities and urban centers.

The opposite is visible in Africa and Australia, where large natural features like deserts prevent human settlement and roads vanish from the visualization as well.

A map of all roads in Africa, visualized by type.

Road Maps and Sustainable Development

The environmental impact of economic development is also visual on these road networks.

Road construction leads to emissions and biodiversity displacement. By matching road maps with natural environment visualizations like this forest map, we can see how much of the world’s pristine natural reserves are still untouched by humankind.

In South America for example, the Amazon rainforest accounts for a large chunk of Brazil’s lacking road coverage.

A map of all roads in South America, visualized by type.

Finally, though the GRIP research attributes population and affluence as key correlations with road development, other economic factors drive road network expansion as well.

The researchers estimate that there will be 4 million kilometers of additional roads covering the Earth by 2050, even under conservative assumptions.

In the never-ending balancing act of sustainable development and economic prosperity, development of the world’s road map will have ripple effects for years to come.

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Cities

Vintage Viz: World Cities With 1 Million Residents (1800–1930)

From someone born in the 19th century, in the midst of historic population growth, comes this vintage visualization showing world cities growing ever bigger.

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A cropped chart from our vintage viz series showing world cities with one million residents between 1800 and 1930.

World Cities With At Least 1 Million Residents (1800–1930)

This chart is the latest in our Vintage Viz series, which presents historical visualizations along with the context needed to understand them.

The explosive world population boom in the last 300 years is common knowledge today. Much and more has been written about how and why it happened, why it was unusual, and how the specter of a declining population for the first time in three centuries could impact human society.

However, equally compelling, is how people in the past—those living in the midst of the early waves of this boom—were fascinated by what they were witnessing.

Evidence of this comes from today’s vintage visualization, denoting the increasing number of world cities with at least one million inhabitants through the years.

The above pictogram was made by Austrian philosopher and sociologist Otto Neurath (1882–1945), found in his book, Society and Economy, published in 1930.

World Population Doubles Between 1800 and 1930

In 1800, the world population crossed 1 billion for the first time ever.

In the next 130 years, it doubled past 2 billion.

The Second Agricultural Revolution, characterized by massive land and labor productivity, grew agricultural output more than the population and is one of the key drivers of this population growth.

And in the pictogram above, where one silhouette indicates one million inhabitants, this exponential population growth becomes far more vivid.

In 1800, for example, according to the creator’s estimates, only London had at least million residents. A century later, 15 cities now boasted of the same number. Then, three decades hence, 37 cities across the world had one million inhabitants.

YearCities with One Million Residents
18001
190015
193037

Importantly, the data above is based on the creator’s estimates from a century ago, and does not include Beijing (then referred to as Peking in English) in 1800. Historians now agree that the city had more than a million residents, and was the largest city in the world at the time.

Another phenomenon becoming increasingly apparent is growing urbanization—food surplus frees up large sections of the population from agriculture, driving specialization in other skills and trade, in turn leading to congregations in urban centers.

Other visualizations in the same book covered migration, Indigenous peoples, labor, religion, trade, and natural resources, reflecting the creator’s interest in the social life of individuals and their well-being.

Who Was Otto Neurath and What is His Legacy?

This vintage visualization might seem incredibly simple, simplistic even, considering how we map out population data today. But the creator Otto Neurath, and his wife Marie, were pioneers in the field of visual communication.

One of their notable achievements was the creation of the Vienna Method of pictorial statistics, which aimed to represent statistical information in a visually accessible way—the forerunner to modern-day infographics.

The Neuraths believed in using clear and simple visual language to convey complex information to a broad audience, an approach that laid the foundation for modern information design.

They fled Austria during the rise of the Nazi regime and spent their later years in various countries, including the UK. Otto Neurath’s influence on graphic design, visual communication, and the philosophy of language has endured, and his legacy is still recognized in these fields today.

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