Australian Tagging Guidelines/Cycling and Foot Paths

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Overview

The mapping of Australian roads is broadly consistent with the global guidelines in OpenStreetMap. This page provides supplementary guidance specific to Australia and its unique infrastructure.

Paths

There are multiple competing tagging practices (and some controversy) across OpenStreetMap with regard to appropriate path tagging.

There is significant overlap between path types and it is not possible for these guidelines to be rigidly enforced in every scenario. This ambiguity is compounded by the highly variable quality of pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure: signage can be poorly maintained (or inconsistently applied), designated cycleways or pedestrian ways may become impassible following surface works, signposted cycling routes may direct cyclists to use a seemingly dedicated footway, and so on. When determining the correct tag for a particular way, multiple factors should be applied holistically: signage and path markings, "intended use" and actual use, local laws, published routes, road surface and traversibiliy, surrounding infrastructure, etc. In same cases, multiple tags could be valid: use discretion, and seek further input from the community if unsure.

Path Types

Australian Paths Tagging
Tag Rendering Implied Access Description Example
highway=bridleway Rendering-highway bridleway.png horse=designated
motor_vehicle=no
Bridleways: Paths that are intended for use mainly, or exclusively, for horse riders. way Mitchell's Bridle Trail, Mount Buller
highway=cycleway Cycleway osm.png bicycle=designated
motor_vehicle=no
Cycleways: Paths that are intended for use mainly, or exclusively, for bicyclists. way Bay Trail, Melbourne
highway=footway Rendering-highway footway.png foot=designated
motor_vehicle=no
Footways: Paths that are intended for use mainly, or exclusively, for pedestrians. way Cahill Walk, Sydney
highway=path Path osm.png foot=yes
bicycle=yes
horse=yes
motor_vehicle=no
Generic paths: Can be used to denote a path with non-specific usage, or a multiple-use path. Most frequently used in bushland or remote areas where other tags would be insufficient. way Kosciuszko Walk, Kosciuszko
highway=pedestrian Pedestrian with area osm.png foot=designated
motor_vehicle=no
Pedestrian streets: roads, pedestrian malls, or areas mainly or exclusively for pedestrians in which some vehicle traffic may be authorized (for emergency, maintenance, etc). way Rundle Mall, Adelaide
highway=steps Rendering-highway steps.png foot=yes
motor_vehicle=no
Steps: A flight of stairs. way Jacobs Ladder, Brisbane
leisure=track Rendering-leisure track line.png N/A Exercise tracks: dedicated track for running, cycling and other non-motorised racing that is outside the normal network of ways and paths. relation Running Track at AIS, Canberra

For paths that are wide enough to support motorised vehicles (such as fire breaks or park management trails) highway=track should be used; see Roads Tagging Guidelines for more information.

Footpaths (Sidewalks)

A common source of confusion for Australian mappers is the word footpath. The use of footpath in OpenStreetMap is (along with other Australian English terms) counter-intuitive to the Australian English use of the term. The relevant tag is footway=sidewalk, which uses the relatively unambiguous American term sidewalk. For clarity, these guidelines will use sidewalk from here onwards.

Australian-English term Tag(s) Comments
Footpath highway=footway Sturdee Park path Loganlea Queensland Australia.jpg A predominately pedestrian walkway.
highway=footway
footway=sidewalk
Captains Flat Hotel Footpath.JPG A predominately pedestrian walkway adjacent to a road.

Sidewalk Cycling

A sign restricting access from bicyclists.
A sign permitting both bicyclists and pedestrians.

The legality of riding a bike on a sidewalk is not consistent. While most states and territories allow bicyclists to use a sidewalk, local government authorities can have bylaws which restrict cycling on certain sidewalks. In states where bicyclists are not generally allowed to use a sidewalk, there are multiple different reasons of exemption. In all states and territories, signage is also used in areas to restrict (no bicycles) or allow (shared paths) bicycles on specific sidewalks.

Sidewalk Cycling by Jurisdiction
S/T Legality Ideal default restrictions for
bicycle=* on highway=footway.
  • ACT
  • NT
  • QLD
  • SA
  • TAS
  • WA
Permitted bicycle=yes
  • NSW
  • VIC
Restricted bicycle=no

There is no established consensus on how sidewalk cycling restrictions should be mapped. While good practice dictates that local legislation should not be mapped, there is no routing solution that accurately applies default restrictions on sidewalk cycling when providing bike routes to consumers. Further, the complex exemptions and allowances for sidewalk cycling in New South Wales and Victoria are considered too complex to map accurately in OSM.

The most common method of tagging sidewalks with no specific signage is no leave the way with no specific bicycle=* tag value, instead relying on implicit restrictions.

Legal Access

Sanctioned Paths

A signpost for way Bellbird Trail, a sanctioned path in Mt Coot-tha Reserve

Sanctioned paths are tracks, paths and trails that the landholder has officially designated as being open to the public. These paths are usually indicated by an official track head sign or guidepost, are often maintained to ensure track quality. The landholder may have installed toilets, lighting, and other basic amenities, and the path itself may have constructed with erosion preventative infrastructure, bridges, and so forth.

The signposted and sanctioned way Bellbird Trail in Mt Coot-tha Reserve. The designated access value indicates official sanctioning and specific accommodations.

Informal Paths

An way informal path formed by walkers taking a shortcut on the Diamond Creek Trail

An informal path is an unsanctioned, unofficial path that is in general use. These paths do not have official signage or endorsement from the landholder, but they are not closed and access to them is not restricted. Informal paths are often desire paths formed organically by individual visitors and local residents, though they are also formed by bush-bashing, urban exploration, and other recreational activities.

A way desire path on the Diamond Creek Trail in the Challenger Street Reserve.

Closed/Illegal Paths

Signage on an way Unnamed Closed Path in Morton National Park}}

Most park management authorities restrict access to certain areas to allow rehabilitation of vegetation and to help conserve the environment. Unfortunately not all park visitors obey these restrictions, causing damage and forming unsanctioned paths and trails. Park management authorities are continually closing unsanctioned paths, and park rangers enforce these closures through monitoring and fines. These closures may be marked on the ground with signage, barriers, or through park wide notices that you must stay on designated tracks only (mplying all other tracks are closed). In popular parks, these illegal tracks can become widely trafficked and become visible on external fitness tracking software.

A signed, closed path. The path is correctly tagged as being access=no, despite evidence that the sign is ignored by some visitors. way Unnamed Closed Path, Morton National Park.

When mapping these paths, consider adding additional note=* to help future mappers understand the closure and reason for tagging.

Vehicle Access

Walkers are allowed to use way Buxton Plateau Trail W11, however bicycles and horses are not permitted.

Maintainance tracks and internal service roads may be physically accessible by vehicles, usually restricted to authorised vehicles only (motor_vehicle=private), but signposted for use by walkers. These tracks should be mapped using highway=track. Access for bicycle=* and horse=* should be explicitly tagged in all cases, to avoid ambiguity caused by the legal definition of a "vehicle".

way Buxton Plateau Trail W11, Nattai National Park.

Trail Visibility

Without the small trail marker, this section of the relation Larapinta Trail near node Tangentyerre Junction might be completely indistinguishable.

The visibility of a trail can vary greatly, even for sanctioned, official paths. Some signposted walking routes are infrequently used and are quickly consumed by the local vegetation, others are easily affected by seasonal conditions. Not all trails with no visibility are a result of external influences; many coastal routes will include a section of along a beach, but only signpost the official route at either end.

relation Larapinta Trail near node Tangentyerre Junction

Informal, Invisible Trails

If a trail is not sanctioned, signposted, nor visible, it is not possible to map in OSM with any verifiability. Such routes should not be mapped in OSM at all. If they have been mapped, edited consider using not:highway=* with a note=* indicating why it should not be mapped.

Difficulty

Because of the highly variable state of bush tracks and abilities of users, tag on the basis of their physical condition (width, surface etc) and legal (usually signposted) restrictions, rather than assigning permissions based on subjective assessments.

Australian Walking Track Grading System

AWTGS grading visible at the trailhead signage for the relation Uloola Falls Trail.

The difficulty and quality of bush tracks and trails should be mapped using the Australian Walking Track Grading System (AWTGS). The AWTGS is a nationally consistent system to grade the level of difficulty of the track walking experience and then to clearly communicate that information to walkers. It includes a five graded levels of difficulty indicating the suitability for different fitness levels. The AWTGS grade for each track should be captured using hiking_scale:awtgs=AWTGS Grade

A hiking trail tagged with AWTGS level: relation Valley of the Winds Walk, Kata Tjuṯa

Alternate grading schemes (such as sac_scale=*) can be used where applicable, though of grading systems designed for international terrain and weather patterns are often unsuitable for local conditions.

AWTGS Sourcing

Use source:hiking_scale:awtgs=* to indicate where the AWTG was sourced.

Value Description
user Where the AWTGS grade has been determined by a user.
as-signed Where the AWTGS grade has been determined by an onsite sign, usually at the start of the track
operator Where the AWTGS grade has been determined by the operator of the track/trail. This may be from other material such as brochures, advice from the operator.

Bike Lanes and Street Cycling

A cycleway=lane on way Herbert Street in Sydney.

There are many different types of bike lanes in Australia. Mapping of these lanes is consistent with the global guidelines

Unfortunately, it is possible for a legally designated cycle facility to be completely unusable (such as a "bike lane" that, in practice, is a parking lane). Similarly, a large road shoulder or unmarked area may be safe and implicitly useful for cyclists.  When mapping, use common sense and map according to what is on the ground, rather than relying on technical, legal definitions.

Bicycle Access on Motorways

The highway=motorway includes an implicit restriction of bicycle=no. Many motorways and freeways in Australia, particularly rural roads, permit usage by bicycles and should be tagged with bicycle=yes. It is also a good idea to add a bicycle=no tag to roads where there may be ambiguity.

Rail Trails

The old station platform in Leongatha abutting the way Great Southern Rail Trail

There is an ongoing trend to convert disused or abandoned railway corridors into footways and cycleways, often known as "rail trails".

Example of a rail trail following the original rail route in OpenStreetMap: way East Gippsland Rail Trail.

Where these rail trails follow the path of the old railway infrastructure, the path can be tagged as both highway=highway type and railway=abandoned. Use discretion where the path of the rail trail diverts from the original path of the railway.

Route Networks

Cycle routes, Walking Routes, and Riding Routes in Australia can be mapped according to the global tagging guidelines.

Local Networks

Signage at the start of the relation Kings Canyon Rim Walk in NT.

Local routes (lcn, lwn, lhn) are generally short paths and routes that are confined to a local area. This can include short scenic bush trails, suburban cycling routes, and short walks in metropolitan parks.

These routes are often maintained and signposted by local councils and can include fragmented infrastructure and bike lanes. Local routes may be identified only by destination signage rather than having a gazetted name.

Regional Networks
Signage on the relation Hume and Hovell Walking Track in Albury.

Regional routes (rcn, rwn, rhn) are longer paths or routes of regional importance, and are likely be connect multiple different local networks. These paths include major cross-city routes and routes that connect regional towns. These routes are often maintained and signposted by state governments or multiple councils, and will often be more prominently defined. Regional routes will nearly always have a formal name.

National Networks

National routes (ncn, nwn, nhn) are paths or routes of national importance. National routes are of considerable length, spanning multiple regions or crossing state/territory borders. Examples include the relation Australian Alps Walking Trail and the relation Bicentennial National Trail

International Networks

There are no international networks (icn, iwn, ihn) in Australia as there are no routes that meet the necessary criteria.