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1.5.0 • Public • Published

Crosswalk: safe routes for Express and TypeScript


This library helps you build type-safe REST APIs using Express using TypeScript.

Here's what you have to do:

  • Define your API using TypeScript types (see below).
  • Run typescript-json-schema to produce a JSON Schema for your API.

Here's what you get in return:

  • Type-safe API implementations (for your server)
  • Type-safe API requests (for your client code)
  • Runtime request validation (for your server, using ajv)
  • Interactive API documentation (via swagger-ui-express)


  • TypeScript 4.1+
  • Express

There is an optional requirement of typescript-json-schema if you want runtime request validation or API docs. (You probably do!)

For a full example of a project using crosswalk, see this demo repo.


First install crosswalk and its peer dependencies (if you haven't already):

# if needed
npm install express
npm install -D typescript @types/express

npm install crosswalk

Then define your API in api.ts:

import type {Endpoint, GetEndpoint} from 'crosswalk/dist/api-spec';

export interface API {
  '/users': {
    get: GetEndpoint<UsersResponse, {query?: string}>;  // Response/query parameter types
    post: Endpoint<CreateUserRequest, User>;
  '/users/:userId': {
    get: GetEndpoint<User>;

Then implement the API (users.ts):

import {API} from './api';
import {TypedRouter} from 'crosswalk';

export function registerAPI(router: TypedRouter<API>) {
  router.get('/users', async ({}, req, res, {query}) => filterUsersByName(users, query));'/users', async ({}, userInput) => createUser(userInput));
  router.get('/users/:userId', async ({userId}) => getUserById(userId));

Finally, register it on your Express server (server.ts):

const app = express();
const typedRouter = new TypedRouter<API>(app);

There are a few things you get by doing this:

  • A definition of your API's shape in one place using TypeScript's type system.
  • A check that you've only implemented endpoints that are in the API definition.
  • Types for route parameters (via TypeScript 4.1's template literal types)
  • Types for query parameters (and automatic coercion of non-string parameters)
  • A check that each endpoint's implementation returns a Promise for the expected response type.

While not required, it's not much extra work to get runtime request validation and this is highly recommended. See "Runtime request validation" below.

For a complete example, check out the crosswalk-demo repo.

Type-safe API usage

In your client-side code, you can make type-safe API requests:

import {typedApi} from 'crosswalk';
import {API} from './api';

const api = typedApi<API>();
const getUserById = api.get('/users/:userId');
const createUser ='/users');

async function demo () {
  const newUser = await createUser({}, {
    id: 'fred',
    name: 'Fred Flinstone'
  });  // Request body is type checked

  const user = await getUserById({userId: 'fred'});
  // Route parameters are type checked!
  // user's TypeScript type is User

This uses the fetch API under the hood, but you can plug in your own fetch function if you need to pass extra headers or prefer to use Axios.

You can also construct API URLs for mocking or requesting yourself. The path parameters will be type checked. No more /path/to/undefined/null!

import {apiUrlMaker} from 'crosswalk';
const urlMaker = apiUrlMaker<API>('/api/v0');
const getUserByIdUrl = urlMaker('/users/:userId');
const fredUrl = getUserByIdUrl({userId: 'fred'});
// /api/v0/users/fred
const userUrl = urlMaker('/users');
const fredSearchUrl = userUrl(null, {query: 'fred'});
// /api/v0/users?query=fred

Runtime request validation

To ensure that your users hit API endpoints with the correct payloads, use typescript-json-schema to convert your API definition to JSON Schema:

typescript-json-schema --required --strictNullChecks --noExtraProps api.ts API --out api.schema.json

Then pass this to the TypeRouter when you create it in server.ts:

const apiSchema = require('./api.schema.json');
const typedRouter = new TypedRouter<API>(app, apiSchema);

Now if the user hits an API endpoint with an incorrect payload, they'll get a friendly error message:

$ http POST :/user name="Fred"
    error: `data should have required property 'age'`,

You now have two representations of your API: api.ts and api.schema.json. The recommended way to keep them in sync is to run typescript-json-schema as part of your continuous integration workflow and fail if there are any diffs. The TypeScript definition (api.ts) is the source of truth, not the JSON Schema (api.schema.json).

Bells and Whistles

Error handling

You may throw an HTTPError in a handler to produce an error response. In users.ts:

import {API} from './api';
import {TypedRouter, HTTPError} from 'crosswalk';

function getUserById(userId: string): User | null {
  // ...

export function registerAPI(router: TypedRouter<API>) {
  router.get('/users/:userId', async ({userId}) => {
    const user = getUserById(userId);
    if (!user) {
      throw new HTTPError(404, `No such user ${userId}`);
    return user;

Verifying implementation completeness

With JSON Schema for your API (see above), the typed router can also check that you've implemented all the endpoints you declared. In server.ts:

const apiSchema = require('./api.schema.json');
const typedRouter = new TypedRouter<API>(app, apiSchema);
// will throw unless all endpoints are registered

Route-aware middleware

Express middlware runs before you know which route is going to match. This means that you can't access route params, or the path that was matched. You can access these properties if you register a finish handler, but by that point the request has been served and you can't do anything about it.

crosswalk lets you register middleware that runs after a route has been matched, but before the request has been handled. This is often a convenient place to apply access controls.

For example:

typedRouter.useRouterMiddleware((req, res, next) => {
  const {params} = req;
  if ('userId' in params && params.userId === 'badguy') {
  } else {

You can also access req.route in this context. For example, req.route.path might be /users/:userId in the previous example.

Generating API docs

You can convert your API definition into Swagger form to get interactive HTML documentation.

First, install swagger-ui-express:

yarn add swagger-ui-express

Then convert your API schema to Open API format and serve it up:

import swaggerUI from 'swagger-ui-express';
import {TypedRouter, apiSpecToOpenApi} from 'crosswalk';

app.use('/docs', swaggerUI.serve, swaggerUI.setup(apiSpecToOpenApi(apiSchema)));

Then visit /docs. You may need to pass some additional options to apiSpecToOpenApi to get query execution from the Swagger docs to work.


The TypedRouter class takes the following options.


By default, if request validation fails, crosswalk returns a 400 status code and a descriptive error. If you'd like to do something else, you may specify your own invalidRequestHandler. For example, you might like to log the error or omit validation details from the response in prod.

This is the default implementation (crosswalk.defaultInvalidRequestHandler):

new TypedRouter<API>(app, apiSchema, {
  handleInvalidRequest({response, payload, ajv, errors}) {
      error: ajv.errorsText(errors),
      invalidRequest: payload,


GraphQL has types, why not use that?

If you want to use GraphQL, that's great! Go for it! But there are many reasons that REST APIs are still around. If you're already using REST and want to get type safety without havin to do a full GraphQL conversion, then Crosswalk can help.

Why do I have to define my API in TypeScript and JSON Schema?

TypeScript types get erased at runtime, so if you want to use TypeScript types as your source of truth, you need to have some way of accessing them at runtime. For Crosswalk, that way is JSON Schema. This is a convenient form since there are many JSON Schema validators (such as ajv) and JSON Schema is also used by OpenAPI, which makes it easy to generate documentation.

Why not use JSON Schema as the source of truth? Some developers choose to do this, but personally I find TypeScript's type declaration syntax much friendlier to use. And you'd still need some way to get TypeScript types out of it to get static type checking.

There are several tools for defining types that are available both at runtime and for TypeScript. If running typescript-json-schema bothers you, you might want to look into iots or zod.

How do I keep api.ts and api.schema.json in sync?

I recommend adding a check to your continuous integration system that runs typescript-json-schema and then git diff to make sure there are no changes. You could also do this as a prepush or precommit hook.

How do I use middleware with this?

crosswalk is a thin wrapper around calling app.get,, etc. Your middleware should work exactly as it did without crosswalk.

How do I register my API under a prefix?

Make a new router, wrap it with TypedRouter, and mount it wherever you like:

const app = express();
const rawApiRouter = express.Router();
const apiRouter = new TypedRouter<API>(rawApiRouter, apiJsonSchema);
// ... register API endpoints ...
app.use('/api/v0', rawApiRouter);

Why does this require TypeScript 4.1 or later?

Because it has a hard dependency on template literal types. These are used to generate types based on Express paths.

If you get errors about Type 'any' is not assignable to type 'never'., it might be because you're using an old version of TypeScript, either in your project or in your editor.

Should I set noExtraProps with typescript-json-schema?

There are many options you can set when you run typescript-json-schema. You should think carefully about these as they have an impact on the runtime behavior of your code.

You should set strictNullChecks to whatever it's set to in your tsconfig.json. (It should really be set to true!). This ensures that the runtime checking and static type checking are in agreement.

The noExtraProps option is more interesting. TypeScript uses a "structural" or "duck" typing system. This means that an object may have the declared properties in its type, but it could have others, too!

interface Hero {
  heroName: string;
const superman = {
  heroName: 'Superman',
  alterEgo: 'Clark Kent',

declare function getHeroDetails(hero: Hero): string;
getHeroDetails(superman);  // ok!

This is simply the way that TypeScript works, and so it must be the way that crosswalk statically enforces your request types. If you're comfortable with this behavior, leave noExtraProps off.

If you do specify noExtraProps, additional properties on a request will result in the request being rejected at runtime with a 400 HTTP response. This has pros and cons. The pros are that it will catch more user errors (e.g. misspelling an optional property name) and allows the server to be more confident about the shape of its input (Object.keys won't produce surprises). The con is that your runtime behavior is divergent from the static type checking, so client code that passes the type checker might produce failing requests at runtime. Until TypeScript gets "exact" types, it will not be able to fully model noExtraProps statically.

What's with the name?

A crosswalk is a safe route across a road. Also a nod to Sidewalk Labs, where this project was originally developed.

Related projects

  • GraphQL achieves type-safe APIs by ditching the REST structure altogether. If you want to use GraphQL, there are many tools to help, e.g. Apollo.
  • swagger-typescript-api starts with a Swagger (OpenAPI) schema as a source of truth and generates TypeScript types from it (crosswalk does the reverse).
  • blitzjs and trpc also give you end-to-end type safety, but without modeling a REST API explicitly in the way that crosswalk does.

Development setup

After cloning, run:


You may get some warnings about peer dependencies, but these can be ignored.


yarn test
yarn test --coverage

To test with the demo repo,

yarn tsc
cd ../crosswalk-demo
yarn add ../crosswalk

To publish:

yarn tsc
yarn publish

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npm i crosswalk

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  • danvk