Path controversy

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Short background

There are different customs, rules and signs in use in different countries for several kinds of ways available to pedestrian, bicycle and horse users. Tagging them has been varying, even before the introduction of highway=path and has lead to different conceptions of what all do the current tags

imply.

This page aims to gather the current conceptions and use needs. As the Key:highway claims to be the "a very general and sometimes vague description of the importance of the highway" (was "of the physical structure of the highway"), it should convey something; be it that it's only "something not for motorcars" or "for specific transport mode only" - that is yet unclear.

Things that all agree on

  • highway=footway
    • Something, where walking is allowed and possible for someone. (walking might be and is allowed and possible elsewhere, too)
  • highway=cycleway:
    • Something, where cycling is allowed and possible
    • Pedestrian access undefined - might be country dependent but not supported (yet), so there has about always been a suggestion in the wiki to always tag it with foot=no/yes/designated.
  • highway=path:
    1. Something not wide enough for four wheeled vehicles
    2. OR where motorvehicles are forbidden (unless otherwise indicated by snowmobile/agricultural=designated or similar).
  • Anything with wheelchair=no:
    • Unsuitable for wheelchair users or other mobility impaired
  • Anything with highway=footway + foot=no (+ snowmobile=yes) would be silly
  • highway=track
    • Implies that it's wide enough for a small motorcar to drive on, even if it's illegal.

Different types of ways

Kinds of paths

Description wheelchair foot bicycle horse Tagging before path
Unmaintained trail no yes country country highway=footway
Signposted/implied foot access only yes yes no no highway=footway
Signposted as being for cycles only no no yes no highway=cycleway + foot=no
Signposted for mixed use
Signposted "no motor vehicles"
No sign but local law allows foot and bicycle
yes yes yes sign highway=cycleway + foot=yes
For horses no country country yes highway=bridleway
For snowmobiles/whatever no no no no highway=footway + foot=no
  •      Sign Must be tagged depending on the sign used.
  •      Country Depends on country specific defaults and rights and exceptions are tagged.

By access

Example (signposted ways) Pedestrian in UK Continental pedestrian Scandinavian pedestrian Hiker Cyclist Mountain-
bike
Horse Wheelchair
"Way for pedestrians" yes yes yes yes no no no yes
"Way for cycling only" yes no no no yes yes no no
"Combined cycling and pedestrian way" yes yes yes yes yes yes no yes
"No motor vehicles" yes yes yes yes yes yes no yes
Built, even way with no signs at all yes yes yes yes yes yes no? yes
Example (not signposted) Pedestrian in UK Continental pedestrian Scandinavian pedestrian Hiker Cyclist Mountain-
bike
Horse Wheelchair
Even unbuilt trail

Could be wear marks on a park grass or a solid forest trail; people will consider it suitable if not in high heels

permissive permissive yes yes yes yes permissive/yes per country no
Narrow unbuilt trail

Where a urban person wouldn't wan't to be routed over

permissive permissive yes yes no yes/permissive yes/permissive per country no
Signposted for horses yes no no no no (UK, yes) no no yes
Signposted for snowmobiles n/a n/a no no no no no no

Nine kinds of ways and four highway classes.

  • Bridleway hasn't been contented - legally allowed/reserved for equestrian use.
  • Is a cycleway only for bicycles or is combined way also a cycleway? Do they need different rendering?
    In the past both were highway=cycleway, now opinions differ.
    It varies with country which type is more common, if not equally common.
    IMO: it's a rendering issue.
  • Is a way for both cyclists and pedestrians any different from a way signposted as "no motor vehicles"?
    IMO: no, and their highway classification should be the same. Alv 15:35, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
  • Is a narrow uneven trail different enough from a paved sidewalk or other signposted and modern built footway? (Where foot access on both is legal).
    IMO: yes, their highway classification should be different. Alv 15:35, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
    If yes, where to draw the line?
  • Should snowmobile ways even be highways? They're legally binding and defined in the same law as other traffic regulations.

with images

Example Description Global implications UK use rights "European" use rights Scandinavian use rights
Path-footdesignated.jpg

Footpath pointer.jpg

A signposted footway/footpath. Pedestrians can use, cyclists not. Pedestrians should use this (and not the primary road nearby) if in their direction.
Path-bicycledesignated.jpg A signposted way for cycling. Cyclists can use. N/A or the definition of the next sign is closer to UK cycleway signs(?)
Group 1 Group 2
Pedestrians never. Pedestrians too.
Pedestrians allowed only in exceptional cases.
Path-lighttraffic.jpg


"Cycleway" sign in UK

A path designated for pedestrians and cyclists equally. Likely horse access is not allowed. Sign implications are equal to UK "cycleway", apparently. Pedestrians and cyclists can use. Horses not allowed Obligation to use if in their direction. Horses not allowed. Obligation to use if in their direction. Horses not allowed.
Path-nomotortraffic.jpg An urban path on which motorized vehicle access is forbidden. Pedestrians, cyclists and horses allowed. Motorcycles allowed, if engine turned off. No authority claims it's usable.
Example Description Global implications UK use rights "European" use rights Scandinavian use rights
GuideFootPathCycleYes.jpg A (semi urban) path suitable for walking but without any signs posted. Access depends on local law and possibly on whether it passes though someones yard. Physically suitable for pedestrians, horses and all terrain bikes but no guarantees of passability by any means. Way appears "suitable for walking" and "suitable for mtb" but no claims by the authorities/owner. Permissive access for pedestrians, cyclists and horses. Permissive access for pedestrians, cyclists and horses. Access is legal for pedestrians, cyclists and horses.
06072009(045).jpg A path without any signs posted through an (urban) forest as in "there is something used for transport"; walking is possible on dry and non-winter days with a sure foot, but you'd be mistaken to route anyone there. Way appears "suitable for hiking" and "suitable for mtb" but no claims by the authorities/owner. Permissive access for pedestrians, cyclists and horses. Permissive access for pedestrians, cyclists and horses. Access is legal for pedestrians, cyclists and horses.
Bridleway-reitweg-de.jpg Bridleway Horses allowed, surface likely not paved if not given. Pedestrians and cyclists allowed, too. Pedestrians and cyclists not allowed. Pedestrians and cyclists not allowed.
Example Description Global implications UK use rights "European" use rights Scandinavian use rights