The angular nature of road networks

Road networks are characterised by several structural and geometrical properties. The topological structure determines partially the hierarchical arrangement of roads, but since these are networks that are spatially constrained, geometrical properties play a fundamental role in determining the network’s behaviour, characterising the influence of each of the street segments on the system. In this work, we apply percolation theory to the UK’s road network using the relative angle between street segments as the occupation probability. The appearance of the spanning cluster is marked by a phase transition, indicating that the system behaves in a critical way. Computing Shannon’s entropy of the cluster sizes, different stages of the percolation process can be discerned, and these indicate that roads integrate to the giant cluster in a hierarchical manner. This is used to construct a hierarchical index that serves to classify roads in terms of their importance. The obtained classification is in very good correspondence with the official designations of roads. This methodology hence provides a framework to consistently extract the main skeleton of an urban system and to further classify each road in terms of its hierarchical importance within the system.


The angular nature of road networks
Carlos Molinero, Roberto Murcio & Elsa Arcaute
Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 4312 (2017)