Given my location (in Bochum city, Germany), I am trying to identify the nearest highway way id by using the following Overpass API query:

way(around:50.0, 51.4661, 7.2491)[highway~"[a-z]"][name~"[a-z]"](area);
out ids;

And it returns me a list of way ids:

overpass turbo screenshot

The returned ids are sorted in numeric ascending order...

Is there please a way to find the way id nearest to my location?

If that is not possible, then please advise me how to select a random single id.

The background of my question is that my application reports car positions, but I only would like to report a limited number of cars per way id - to get better "area coverage". (That is why I suppose that selecting a random way id would possibly be an okay workaround...)

Note, that I have added [name~"[a-z]"], because I would only like to see highways with names (as a novice I am not sure, if there is a better way to express that).

2 Answers 2


Overpass API doesn't support a "nearest neighbor"-like query at the moment. While I don't really understand your workaround, you can certainly limit the output to a max of 1 entry:

way(around:50.0, 51.4661, 7.2491)[highway~"[a-z]"][name~"[a-z]"];
out ids 1;

(I removed all the "area" stuff in your example, as it's not strictly needed for (around:50.0, ...) to work.)


Even though I have received a great reply by @mmd, I would like to submit my own answer to help the future users trying to find the nearest way to a location.

For that I have prepared a jsFiddle demo using the turf.js library, where a marker can be dragged around and the closest way is drawn in red color:

animated map

Below is a copy of my javascript code:

'use strict';

function distancePointNodes(lat, lng, list) {
    var pt = turf.point([lng, lat]);
    var line = turf.lineString(list);
    var snapped = turf.nearestPointOnLine(line, pt);
    return snapped.properties.dist;

function findNearestWayId(ways, nodes) {
  var markerPosition = draggableMarker.getLatLng();
  var shortestDistance = Number.MAX_VALUE;
  var nearestWayId;
  for (var wayId in ways) {
    var way = ways[wayId];
    // iterate all nodes of a way object and save their positions
    // as a list of Leaflet latLng objects in the way object
    way.latLngs = way.nodes.map(nodeId => nodes[nodeId].latLng);
    // also save the minimal distance from the way object to car position
    way.minDistance = distancePointNodes(
      way.latLngs.map(pos => [pos.lng, pos.lat])

    // find the overall shortest distance among all ways
    if (way.minDistance < shortestDistance) {
      shortestDistance = way.minDistance;
      nearestWayId = wayId;

  return nearestWayId;

// draw ways as polylines with popups
function drawPolylines(ways, nearestWayId) {
  var markerPosition = draggableMarker.getLatLng();
  for (var wayId in ways) {
    var way = ways[wayId];
    var line = L.polyline(way.latLngs, { color: (wayId === nearestWayId ? 'red' : 'blue') });

    var markerLatStr = parseFloat(markerPosition.lat).toFixed(6);
    var markerLngStr = parseFloat(markerPosition.lng).toFixed(6);
    var minDistanceStr = parseFloat(1000 * way.minDistance).toFixed(2);

    var popupMsg = '<p>Way: <a href="https://www.openstreetmap.org/way/' + wayId + '" target="_blank">' + wayId + '</a></p>' + 
        '<p>Distance to the draggable marker at<br>' + markerLatStr + ',' + markerLngStr + ':</p><p>' + minDistanceStr + ' meter</p>';


function processOverpassReply(data) {
    var ways = { };
    var nodes = { };

    console.log('Received Overpass API reply with ' + data.elements.length + ' elements');
    if (data.elements.length < 3) {
        // for drawing the received data must contain at least 1 way and 2 nodes

    for (var i = 0; i < data.elements.length; i++) {
        var element = data.elements[i];
        var type = element.type;

        if (type === 'way') {
            var wayId = element.id;
            ways[wayId] = element;
        else if (type === 'node') {
            var nodeId = element.id;
            nodes[nodeId] = element;
            // create a Leaflet LatLng object for this node, for drawing polylines later
            element.latLng = L.latLng(element.lat, element.lon);

    var nearestWayId = findNearestWayId(ways, nodes);
    console.log('The nearest way id ' + nearestWayId + ' with the shortest distance of ' + ways[nearestWayId].minDistance + ' km will be drawn in red color');
    drawPolylines(ways, nearestWayId);

function sendOverpassRequest() {
  // remove all lines
  var markerPosition = draggableMarker.getLatLng();
  // return ways and nodes with non-empty "highway" tag around the draggable marker position
  var query = 'way(around:50,' + markerPosition.lat + ',' + markerPosition.lng + ')[highway~"."][name~"."];(._;>;);out;';
  console.log('Sending Overpass API query: ' + query);
  var url =  'https://overpass-api.de/api/interpreter?data=[out:json];' + query;
  var request = new XMLHttpRequest();
  request.open('GET', url, true);
  request.onload = function() {
    if (this.status >= 200 && this.status < 400) {
      var data = JSON.parse(this.response);

var startPosition = [51.4661, 7.2491];
var zoomOptions = {
  minZoom: 9,
  maxZoom: 18

var map = L.map('map', zoomOptions).setView(startPosition, 16);
L.tileLayer('https://{s}.tile.openstreetmap.org/{z}/{x}/{y}.png', {
  attribution: '&copy; <a href="https://www.openstreetmap.org/copyright">OpenStreetMap</a> contributors'

var draggableMarker = L.marker(startPosition, {
  draggable: true
.on('dragend', sendOverpassRequest);

var lineGroup = L.layerGroup();

body {
  padding: 0;
  margin: 0;
  height: 100%;

body {
  display: flex;
  flex-direction: column;

#map {
  flex-grow: 1;
<link type="text/css" rel="stylesheet" href="https://cdn.jsdelivr.net/npm/leaflet@1/dist/leaflet.css">
<script src="https://cdn.jsdelivr.net/npm/leaflet@1/dist/leaflet-src.js"></script>
<script src="https://cdn.jsdelivr.net/npm/leaflet-overpass-layer@2/dist/OverPassLayer.bundle.js"></script>
<script src="https://cdn.jsdelivr.net/npm/@turf/turf@6/turf.js"></script>

<div id="map"></div>

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