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restricted usability

I think the description of this tag makes it's use difficult. In Switzerland, there are many ways in the forests, usable as footways, bicicleways or for offroad or hiking. But most of them are made for agricultural use. As for me, the highway=path seems to be too unspecific to use it in the mountains. What about a usage=hiking or alike? --tmeller 9:10, 4 October 2008 (UTC)

From a Southern-UK perspective, I'd say if it's wide enough for a motor car or a tractor and shows any evidence at all on the ground of being used by either, even sporadically, then that purpose should be called dominant and it's a highway=track. That's because here it's the purpose that dictates the form, not usage. IMO, while specific form is globally unimportant to highway=* in the middle of the range, it's meaningful at the extremes. Motorways are built to extremely high local standards, paths to very low local standards or none at all, so you can legitimately use "8 lanes, blue signs, and hard shoulders" as physical criteria to decide that something is a motorway (and not a trunk road), and "narrow, undriveable" as physical criteria to decide that something is a path (and not a track).
On the other hand, if foot or horse or cycle use is the only use that leaves a worn mark on the ground, call it one of the path types. They very in width and construction, but they all imply non-use by 4-wheel vehicles in my book.
Offroad 4-wheel motor vehicle use always implies track or service of there's a well-worn trail in the ground.
--achadwick 19:36, 2 March 2012 (UTC)
To clarify - it's a highway=track if and only if it doesn't meet one of the definitions below. --achadwick (talk) 18:19, 28 May 2013 (UTC)

I am having an issue with the definition too. Here in Cyprus there are hundreds of miles of tracks, both in and outside of villages. They are tracks, but they do not fall into the agricultural definition. --Dpjanda (talk) 09:09, 26 May 2013 (UTC)

What purpose do these tracks serve? If they're short and mainly for access to houses and businesses, they're highway=service. If they're long and connect up villages and towns, then they're highway=unclassified, or possibly more important types of highway=* if they have heavy traffic. If they run between houses inside a town or a village or a city, they're highway=residential. If they are unpaved, it's a good idea to also tag them with surface=unpaved. If two motor cars cannot pass each other at the same point without one or both having to leave the track, please use lanes=1 as well.
However, if they're mainly for access to agricultural areas by workers, stick with highway=track. I hope that answers your question ☺ --achadwick (talk) 18:19, 28 May 2013 (UTC)

Kind of service alley for non-urban areas ?

Is not highway=track redudant whith others highway=* tags combined with different surface=* tag ? For example, can't the road for agricultural use be tagged highway=service,surface=unpaved and the gravel road in the forest something like highway=unclassified,surface=gravel ? There's a lot of tracks (read "unpaved roads") which usage is not very clear : in some parts of the world there are tracks that are in fact unpaved state or national roads, they can be tagged appriopriately (highway=*,surface=unpaved) but there are also a lot of minor tracks made for example by companies for extracting natural ressources. As those tracks can be tens kilometers long, I guess that they didn't fall into the highway=track tag even if they are sometimes used for agriculture, in the Amazonian Forest for exemple. So, how to make a decision between highway=track and highway=unclassified,surface=unpaved ? --Awalé 14:02, 1 January 2011 (UTC)

It gives a little more expressive power for mappers because it says something important about the predominant vehicular use. Right now I do my countryside mapping by estimated usage and importance, almost regardless of surface: this is what I do myself currently:
Tag Decision order Rendering cutoff order Description
highway=unclassified 1 z=9 The least important sort of minor roads which are either a) proper signposted formal parts of the public road network, or b) nominally private or just unsignposted but the locals use them anyway. The idea is that "4"-wheel vehicular use by the general public is possible, the general public use dominates other uses, and no single specific purpose dominates.
highway=service 2 z=12 On its own for roads into landuse=farmyard areas which have barns and machinery, regardless of whether there's a farmhouse in there as well, reasoning that the industrial character of farming takes precedence. The notion is that routine industrial uses or routine "access to property" use dominates other kinds of use: the general public would not use them for movement between clusters of population.
highway=track 3 z=12 Double-tracked rough vehicle roads whose vehicular use is dominated by field access or forest management, but not any heavier sort of industry.
4 z=15 For any minor road leading only to a single residence. Inside a landuse=farmyard that's often the spur leading to the farmhouse. Access to residential property by the owner or guests dominates.
So in short, I advise making the decision based on how the road is used, i.e. how important it is in the road network to the general public, and almost never basing your decision on what a road is made of. The only role a road surface has in making the decision is as a practical yardstick, helping to decide between different categories of importance and use based on your personal, local knowledge. Since most of these little roads around the world aren't signposted, you have to use whatever clues are available. For your specific examples, I'd suggest highway=tertiary or above for a state/national road if it connects sites of importance. For minor but long industrial roads (made by mining concerns, perhaps, or roads for big logging trucks), use highway=service or above if the company's trucks are by far the most dominant users per hour, but highway=unclassified or above if locals use it more for general transportation. "Or above" means you can use higher categories to reflect higher degrees of usage. After all, industrial roads put in by logging companies which see 100 big trucks per hour are not the same as minor forest tracks which only carry smallish felling equipment and workers 4 or 6 times a day.
Hope that makes sense!
--achadwick 19:11, 2 March 2012 (UTC)