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A ring road is a road that encircles a town or city. This is the common name for almost any metropolitan circumferential route in the European Union. Examples include the Berliner Ring, the Brussels Ring, the Boulevard Périphérique around Paris and the Leeds Inner and Outer ring roads. Some ring roads, particularly those of motorway standard, are often known as orbital motorways, including the London Orbital, Manchester Orbital or the Madrid Orbital. In the United States, ring roads are mostly known as beltways or loops, such as the Capital Beltway around Washington DC.

Many cities and metropolitan areas deal with ring roads in unique ways, meaning that the roads have many distinguishing features. Some cities have multiple ring roads. For example, London has two: the London Orbital and the North and South Circular routes. The British cities of Birmingham, Leeds, Norwich and Glasgow also have two ring roads.

Geography can sometimes complicate the construction of a ring road. One example is the ring road around Stockholm, which has a partially completed ring road, much of which runs through underwater tunnels or over long bridges. Equally, some towns or cities cannot have a full ring road as they are located on the coast. Dublin's ring road runs only to the west of the city, for example.


Ring road

Although ring road and orbital motorway can be used interchangeably, a ring road commonly indicates a road or series of roads within a city or town that have been joined together by town planners to form one single road, but where the standard of road could be anything from an ordinary city street up to motorway level. The principal difference is that a ring road is an circumferential road system designed from already existing roads, as opposed to a purpose-built road around a town or city.

Some ring roads (particularly in towns where a body of water may prohibit the construction of the road at one side of the city) do not completely encircle the city but may still be referred to a ring road. An example of this is the Ring Road in Kingston upon Hull.


A beltway in the United States is commonly part of the Interstate Highway System. Such roads are often similar to orbital motorways in the United Kingdom.

"Beltway" can also have a political connotation (e.g., in politics, inside the Beltway, derived metonymically from the Capital Beltway encircling Washington, DC).

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