Rendering of road surface in standard OSM style

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Discussion about how or if the surface=* tag should be used for rendering has been ongoing for many years. This article aims to give an overview of the different proposals and their advantages and disadvantages.

This article is needed to reset the current impractically huge GitHub issue [1] about this subject.

Dashed casing

Like on your traditional paper map. Ideal for low zoom levels, but conflicts with tunnels and bridges at high zoom levels

Different colour or width of casing

See for an example where a different map style uses casing width and colour to indicate whether there is a roadside sidewalk or verge or not, and also to distiguish between trunk and primary roads. example of using coloured casing at high zoom. Note that filling is used at low zoom - see the filling section.

Balticmaps-high zoom.png

Different kinds of filling

A patterned line fill, similar to how we render beaches. Interesting for high zoom levels, it does not work at low zoom levels. example of using coloured filling at low zoom. Note that casing is used at low zoom - see the casing section. Balticmaps-low zoom.png

Dashed casing at low zoom, filling at high zoom

A combined rendering style.

  • Disadvantage: the same property is treated differently, which might make it harder to interpret
  • Advantage: allows for both simple overview maps, and many different patterns to render subtle differences like "concrete slabs" versus "continuous concrete"