Europe continues to report the world’s highest Road Network Density, followed by East Asia and Pacific.

What is Road Network Density?

Dividing the total national road length (km) by the land area (sq km) depicts the road network density of a country. The road network includes all roads in a country: motorways or highways, main or national roads, secondary or regional roads, as well as other roads.

As it depicts an average, considerable local differences within a country are possible. Consider Russia for example, where the urban population density is high and urban areas have a high road network density, whilst at the same time there are vast rural areas with few roads. The road network average for Russia depicts that the overall road density is very low (0.094 km per sq km), a finding that might initially be counterintuitive to Russians living in cities such as Moscow or St. Petersburg, where road network density is high. The same applies, to different extents, for other large countries with highly urbanised areas such as Australia, the United States, Canada, France, or Germany.

Global Road Network Density

The following interactive graphs were built with data from the IRF World Road Statistics (WRS 2020 – dataset 2013-2018) and by relying on the newly released IRF Data Warehouse. The first graph below provides an overview of the global road network density. Each country’s road network density is mapped proportionately to other countries within its subregion, as well as proportionately to all other subregions. The larger a country’s area, the higher it’s road network density in comparison to other countries within its cluster and subregion.

©International Road Federation, Geneva, Switzerland. All rights reserved.

Assessing this data, Monaco, San Marino and Liechtenstein depict significant high values, with exceptionally high road network densities in the regional and global comparison. Multiple factors play into this. All three are European microstates (e.g. 2.1 sq km in the case of Monaco) where the population is distributed equally and with few to none rural areas with fewer roads. This pattern shows to be true for different geographic regions as well. In East Asia and Pacific, Macau shows a much higher road density (14.8 km per sq km) compared to other countries in that region. In the Middle East and North America, Bahrain has a significantly higher road density than the region’s average, and in North America, Bermuda is outstanding.

©International Road Federation, Geneva, Switzerland. All rights reserved.

In general, we see a trend where smaller countries with relatively high population density also encounter higher road network density. This stands in stark contrast to large countries with a very clustered population distribution. Consequently, there should be a high correlation and causality between population density and the road network density. The more people live in an area, the more roads they might need. The bubble chart below combines road network density data with the total road network length, as well as the total population for different countries. For all geographic regions, road density scales with population size and network length.

©International Road Federation, Geneva, Switzerland. All rights reserved.

Comparing the various regions, Europe and Central Asia witnesses the highest road network density, whilst Sub-Saharan Africa encounters the lowest density of all regions. Within regions, as previously identified, we see those very small countries often have much higher road network density, whilst larger countries typically encounter lower densities due to sparsely populated rural areas.

©International Road Federation, Geneva, Switzerland. All rights reserved.

The new IRF WRS 2020 encompass updated data of over 200 countries and 180+ indicators coverings topics such Road Networks, Road Traffic, Multimodal Traffic Comparisons, Vehicles in Use, Road Accidents, Road Expenditures & Revenues and many more.

The web-based IRF Data Warehouse provides you with intuitive tools to perform these types of analysis and to create many more comparisons of different metrics or time series charts.

If you are interested in more detailed information regarding key statistical indicators for the road and transport sector, whether for a specific country or worldwide, we invite you to visit the dedicated IRF World Road Statistics website or contact us directly by phone +41 22 306 0260 or email