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Using path in unusual cases

Paths versus fixed rope routes and climbing routes

In my view, there should be a clear distinction between a path (accessible to anyone with a reasonable fitness) and things like fixed rope routes and mountain climbing routes that require mountaineering skills and safety equipment. As pointed out here, all are currently often tagged and thus rendered as hiking paths or footways. Either one is clearly inappropriate. I am aware that a combination of highway=path, trail_visibility=... and sac_scale=... would do the job, but I believe that there should be a more strict separation between paths and (climbing) routes. A route up the Matterhorn is simply by no means a path. Any suggestions? Ukuester 08:28, 6 May 2009 (UTC)

sport=mountaineering? sport=rock_climbing? On the other hand, just because it's at high altitude or across a glacier doesn't mean it's not a path... (meaning that many mountain routes may indeed be paths). I would feel comfortable tagging anything sac_scale=T4 and below as a path. sac_scale=T5 is probably pushing the limits of a path though.

Fixed rope route (Klettersteig)

I realized, that numerous fixed rope routes (e.g., the famous Jubiläumsgrat heading east from Zugspitze) are currently tagged as highway=footway, sometimes with additional sac_scale classification, sometimes not. I think the tagging is fine in principle, nevertheless this is quite problematic since the current renderers render them as if they were usual hiking/walking ways. Compare for instance the level walking way around the Eibsee with the strenous and demanding fixed rope routes around the Zugspitze. They are rendered exactly alike. This should be changed but who should be approached with this respect? Ukuester 17:02, 2 May 2009 (UTC)

  • Not just the Zugspitze, the Hörnligrat of the Matterhorn is also shown as a path. Its also graded according to the SAC scale(albeit with a FIXME), which is completely inaccurate: It's a rock climb at TD/ZS on the standard scale, and also not a path. There are therefore issues both with tagging and rendering. SK53 19:16, 2 May 2009 (UTC)
  • Why not extend the scale? We just need to add sac_scale=climbing or sac_scale=via_ferrata wikipedia:Via_ferrata Basically saying this is a thing beyond sac_scale. The only bad thing about this is that this makes the key name "sac_scale" a bit inappropriate. However all of this stetches the meaning of highway path or footway. To prevent rendering one would need a generic-specific highway type like highway=sportway. This would prevent rendering, but making mappers aware of the new type would be a challenge. Katzlbt
Hi, this problem should imhao be discussed on the highway=path page. Doesn't anyone feel hurt if I move this discussion there ?. I totally agree this is quite a problem with path, but not only does it concerns via ferrata, but any activity which is one special sport path. I've allready commented some time ago on the very same problem about cross country skiing. A via_ferrata path, a cross country skiing path, a climbing path have in common that hikers might be unable to use them. (I said "unable" to differ from "not allowed" as tags such as foot=no could have been used for that) sletuffe 12:06, 9 October 2009 (UTC)
(discussion on the ski case moved down there) sletuffe 16:48, 30 November 2009 (UTC)
  • Back to the first remark, In my opinion highway=path shouldn't be used for via_ferrata and climbing route. I know we could add something like via_ferrata_scale and climbing_scale and that could do the job to express it isn't a "common path" and special equipement is required, but when thinking at those who use the data, they'll need to constantally adapt the rendering/routing/any software as special options are added. The piste map project is working rather well and doesn't clutter with other uses because it created a different set of tags. I would propose we do the same and invent a :
  • highway=climbing_path
  • highway=via_ferrata
  • + adding additionnal options such as via_ferrata_scale and climbing scale (and define them correctly in the wiki !)

sletuffe 17:03, 30 November 2009 (UTC)

5 years later, it's done, I suggest not to use highway=path for via ferrata, and instead, use highway=via_ferrata (read that proposal for more informations) sletuffe (talk) 22:58, 18 February 2015 (UTC)

Proposition to move out from path "snow only path"

Edit : After more english language research, what I wanted to refere to down there was backcountry skiing, it doesn't change the problem but I wanted to make it clear. sletuffe 16:01, 11 October 2009 (UTC)

We came accross a problem with path when they are used in snow convered only conditions (I refere to cross country skiing) The example in the front says A path for bicycles(...) and cross-country skiing could be tagged as: (...) ski=designated + bicycle=designated

Well, it works well when in winter it is used by skiiers and in summer by mountain bikers, but what happen when this path only exists in winter for cross country skiiers ?

  • highway=path + ski=designated is wrong as this is not a matter of a route has been specially designated (typically by a government) Usability by hikers or horses is not forbiden, it is just that physicaly, in summer there is no "path"
  • highway=path only is not good either as there is still no summer path. The path only exists in snow conditions.

Interpretation of the data then becomes a problem as there is no way to make distinction between an hiking summer path and a winter cross-country skiing path.

One solution would be to add some tweaks like only_exist_with_snow=yes / only_exist_without_snow=yes but that would need much work on software using the data on already tagged data without.

My view is that the Proposed_features/Piste_Maps is good at dealing with snow related/only ways and we shouldn't try to cover everything within path.

I propose to explicitly remove snow related things from path (snowmobile and croos-country ski) and let something like :

  • piste:type=cross_country
  • piste:type=snowmobile

do the job.

In the case of a really shared path between skiier in winter and hiker in summer, we could do just like it is done for piste:type=downhill when it's a track, tag it like :

  • highway=track + piste:type=downhill +...

In the path case, it would be :

  • highway=path + sac_scale=* + piste:type=cross_country + piste:difficulty=bla

sletuffe 01:36, 12 September 2009 (UTC)

If there is (in summer) "something's there, usable for navigation but for some reason you can't call it at least a footway", then it's a path with suitable tags to describe what the heck then travels there - skiers in this case. And if there's in winter a maintained cross country skiing piste, then it bloody well is ski=designated. Alv 08:31, 12 September 2009 (UTC)
I'm thinking of cases where (in summer) there is nothing to make it distinct from any other place in the mountain. What "with suitable tags to describe (...)" are you refering to ? sletuffe 10:30, 12 September 2009 (UTC)
Anything =designated (or possibly =yes in some cases). Alv 13:03, 12 September 2009 (UTC)
That is not how I understand designated (as I explain above) and refering to Tag:access=designated This tag indicates that a route has been specially designated (typically by a government) for use by a particular mode (or modes) of transport. Which is not the case here. The mountain I'm refering to is free for anyone to travel in. So this path has not been specifically designated as a cross-country skiing trail. But physically it is nothing. That's why I think the way to describe path would be better as "physical existence without snow" sletuffe 14:31, 12 September 2009 (UTC)
Yes, I was too much thinking of a situation like the "first example picture on a snowmobile path". ski:nordic=yes. Since there is the skiing track in winter, there won't be impenetrable bushes, steep cliffs or the like, features that might exist nearby - You'd rather follow the skiing trail route if you were lost in the wilderness and there are no specific hiking trails nearby, even when there isn't any other physical indication of pedestrians users along the skiing track - if there are, it has the foot=yes. Alv 08:59, 13 September 2009 (UTC)

(moved here for easier reading)

    • Cross country skiing should be covered in the piste: namespace piste:type=nordic Piste Maps. No problem to move, just please keep move notice and a link here or the other way round. Thanks.
Okay, I do totally agree with using piste:type= namespace (However nordic is a bit different, I'll propose a piste:type=cross_country or else) but, do you think the piste should keep having a highway=path ? sletuffe 15:09, 11 October 2009 (UTC)
If the piste is just bushes, scree or it's otherwise not apparently visible in the landscape when there isn't any snow, it's better without a highway=path; and the other way round, if there's something usable for transport or navigation in the summer, I'd tag it as a highway=path foot=? wheelchair=yes/no etc. Alv 08:15, 12 October 2009 (UTC)
To give a feed back on this, what I meant by "cross country" seams to be called "ski touring" in english, and was added to the piste map project [piste:type=skitour]. So there shouldn't be any need to use path with it (unless it also is a walking path in summer) sletuffe 16:49, 30 November 2009 (UTC)

path common usage

foot=yes ?

Can you give an example of a path where foot=no ? -- Pieren 21:39, 6 December 2008 (UTC)

Sure. The first example on the example page, assuming foot traffic is not permitted across that rocky field. --Hawke 00:14, 7 December 2008 (UTC)
This tag implies foot=yes because it's a exception if not. -- ck3d 16:40, 4 May 2009 (UTC)
Without a tagged foot=yes it's foot=unknown - it can or could be assumed to be legal but nothing is said about if it is suitable for any pedestrian. Alv 16:51, 4 May 2009 (UTC)
Ok, I see in your example with rocky field that the path doesn't exist or exists only in winter time when there is snow. I would say outside this exceptional case, omitting foot means foot=yes. Like omitting oneway means oneway=no. -- Pieren 23:10, 28 August 2009 (UTC)

key description evolution

Post vote modification

During the proposition of path : Proposed_features/Path A clear sentence was available and has now disapeard from this page : highway=path is a generic path, either multi-use, or unspecified usage. The default access restriction of highway=path is "open to all non-motorized vehicles, but emergency vehicles are allowed" As it become amended somehow ? Sletuffe 10:09, 12 June 2009 (UTC)

guideline to path vs. track

The recently added clause "If a path is wide enough for four-wheel-vehicles, it should at least be tagged as a highway=track if not explicitly designated to pedestrians, biclycles, horeseriders,..." is misleading, even more so with the different interpretations of the word "designated". There's plenty of ways for walking and cycling in urban parks, that do not have any signs indicating that they can't be used by cars (any signs at all, in fact), and which are tagged as cycleways or footways (or path if you really must in your country). Yet tagging them track would be wrong. Because of the controversy around highway=path I'd rather not edit it myself right away. I'd suggest something along the lines of

"If a path is wide enough for four-wheel-vehicles, and it is not legally signposted or otherwise only allowed for pedestrians, cyclists or horseriders, it is often better tagged as a highway=track." Alv 20:13, 10 October 2009 (UTC)
Also both sentences have the same meaning, yours is much clearer in that it avoids using "designated" and insist on the "legally" and thus avoid the controversory and it's unclear (well not for every one) meaning. sletuffe 01:15, 11 October 2009 (UTC)
I'd like to add that putting it right into the introduction of "path" might be a bit too proiminent. I would prefere another chapter later in the page. sletuffe 01:17, 11 October 2009 (UTC)


Benefit and abuse of the tag

In 2007, highway=path was proposed with the intention to replace highway=cycleway and highway=footway.

Fortunately, the depreciation of highway=cycleway and highway=footway was rejected. This way, highway=path has become a classification for narrow ways with a bad surface or vage designation.

Nevertheless, some mappers stick to the original idea and repeatedly destroy the more specific classifications, which are understood by renderers better than access-tags of a "path".

There are two unanswered questions:

  • What benefit should the displacement of highway=cycleway and highway=footway have had for any user or program in 2007?
  • What benefit for any user or program shall be provided today by the use of highway=path for well defined ways with good surfaces?

** Example:

      • If a cycleway is tagged as highway=path because it is also allowed for pedestrians, some renderers don't show it as a cycleway any more. Readers of the such a map designed for showing cycleways (with highway=cycleway) can't see, if cycling is forbidden or allowed, and how is the surface.
      • If every designated/allowed and approriate for cycling is tagged highway=cycleway, pedestrians have no problem. They know that almost always there is either a shared use or an adjacent or nearby footway; they can use it at least like they can use a road.

--Ulamm (talk) 14:07, 29 September 2014 (UTC) The problem has lost most of its virulency: Now the mapniks detect path/bicycle=designated, too.--Ulamm (talk) 17:23, 30 September 2014 (UTC)

General Discussions

skiDisputed and snowmobile trailsDisputed

I propose to remove ski and snowmobile trails from list of features mappable as highway=path. Both are extremely differing from other features mappable as path and deserve a separate tags Mateusz Konieczny (talk) 07:45, 14 July 2015 (UTC)

see my reasoning in the top section of this page. In short : +1 sletuffe (talk) 10:18, 14 July 2015 (UTC)
+1: Ski and snowmobile trails may be mapped as a route-relation --geow (talk) 20:19, 8 August 2015 (UTC)
Edited Mateusz Konieczny (talk) 21:15, 28 July 2015 (UTC)
-1 Ski and snowmobile trails are an existing item on the ground. It's no different than a bike path (except permissions to use are limited to skis/snowmobiles instead of bikes.) --Hawke (talk) 14:44, 23 September 2015 (UTC)

Removing link to country specific access restrictions

The tables in OSM_tags_for_routing/Access-Restrictions currently contain at least one value that is in contradiction to the approved proposal and everyones expectation. The link to the table was introduced relatively recently by this edit and in effect retroactively changed 7 years of mapping practice and changed meaning of all previously mapped paths in Austria without explicit tagging bicycle=yes/no.

Such changes should not be made without broad consensus, preferably an approved proposal.

It may be okay to reintroduce the link if it made sure that it won't reintroduce any new breakage, this would probably amount to removing fields such asfoot,bicycle etc for highway=path from the tables. RicoZ (talk) 11:30, 7 August 2015 (UTC)

Richard, is the contradiction you mentioned country-specific to Austria only? Then we should consider a specific reference for the austrian exception and not withhold the valid information in OSM_tags_for_routing/Access-Restrictions to the rest of the globe.--geow (talk) 21:16, 8 August 2015 (UTC)

I did not validate all 29 or so country specific tables for other possible pitfalls. Instead I am wondering - what valid information is there in OSM_tags_for_routing/Access-Restrictions which is a useful refinement to path and does not contradict the approved definition - "open to all non-motorized vehicles"? Belgium and a few other countries add "moped=yes" - which might be a valid extension but I wonder what those "paths" really look like and if they have additional sings etc. Swiss adds "inline_skates=yes".. for paths?? Hong Kong says for path "bicycle=yes" with a footnote "Bicycles must use a cycleway alongside if present" :)
The mofa/moped could be valid extensions - if verified that this is generally valid without additional signs etc but given the state of the "Access-Restrictions" table itself it might be better to list those in the highway=path page in a table.
To explain, the "Access-Restrictions" table it seems to be an early shot ("not yet fully drafted") and does not know about "permissive". What is worse, it seems people did massively misunderstand what the table means - especially the "unless tagged otherwise" principle of a default value. Looking at the footnotes.. "Bicycles are often allowed on pedestrian roads, but this depends on the sign used", "Restrictions for bicycles, skateboard, and rollerblade usually posted at the entrances to such area", "Allowed only when additional sign "Sallittu mopoille" is present"," If the signs "footway" and "cycleway" are posted together, or if there is no warning "no foot", foots can use cycleways", " On pavements, it is illegal to cycle unless designated (hence not a default setting here)".
The table - even when fixed - might be fine for official highways but rather useless for "OSM-defined" highways like track and path because those escape a simple legal definition. RicoZ (talk) 13:09, 9 August 2015 (UTC)
Another problem I see is that the permissions will be likely different depending on the value of key:informal. In particular I have significant doubts that informal paths in Belgium do allow mofas by default for example. RicoZ (talk) 11:06, 13 August 2015 (UTC)

Link to "UK public rights of way"

UK public rights of way redirects to "United Kingdom Tagging Guidelines" and this one has not a single mention of "highway=path". The original page supposedly moved to UK access provisions which again does not mention highway=path. So is there any reason to keep (restore) this link? RicoZ (talk)


For those who are wondering why highway=path is now rendered as highway=footway, here're some pointers:

  • issue #1698 stop displaying highway=footway and highway=path differently
  • issue #1766 highway=path/footway should not be assumed to be paved by default
  • pull #1713 unify=path/footway styling, show surface for highway=path/footway/cycleway

PS Personally I hope this is not the final battle in the path controversy, the outcome is disappointing. Salmin (talk) 10:09, 24 August 2015 (UTC)

Is there a way that I can get a path to render with obvious directional arrows (or to render arrows at all)? Here is an example of a mountain bike/hiking trail near me, which needs the direction of travel clearly shown on the map. --TreeStryder (talk) 03:14, 29 June 2017 (UTC)

Animal tracks

See also Talk:Animals#Animal_tracks. Jidanni (talk) 14:19, 7 December 2017 (UTC)