Talk:Tag:highway=track

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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.
highway=service
service=driveway
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)

Highway=track in iD

User:Mateusz Konieczny: I think your addition concerning iD has all the hallmarks of disrupting wiki to prove a point: you got into a rather personalized dispute with Brian, an iD dev [1], and then you used an annoyed answer of his as a point what iD does or does not do. While I'm quite neutral on the issue, I tend to agree with him that it was a very uncool thing to do.

On to the merits of your addition: no, iD certainly does not "deliberately push 'probably not safe for most cars'" as semantics for this tag. iD does not "push" anything, it is all due to an individual mapper, just like (I suppose) any other editor. You cannot use a tongue-in-cheek response by a dev as a proof for anything. So, I'm re-reverting that text, as I certainly can't see what purpose it serves for the mappers, other than furthering an annoyance of yours. Duja (talk) 06:39, 14 April 2019 (UTC)

editors can certainly push/promote/encourage tags. In this case highway=track is described with meaning roughly "low quality road" rather than as "agricultural/forestry road". iD developer confirmed that it is deliberate (I see no sarcasm/irony in linked discussion). While there may be some other issues with removed text, I am not sure why you claim that it "is certainly not true" in [2]. Are you claiming that by answering "Yep" to "So iD deliberately pushes "probably not safe for most cars" as a definition for highway=track?" he meant something else? Note that his reply is NOT claiming that I misintepreted him. Mateusz Konieczny (talk) 08:12, 14 April 2019 (UTC)
"iD does not "push" anything, it is all due to an individual mapper" individual mapper in iD is typically not aware about used tags (it is by design and is not a problem). Typical user is not aware whatever selecting "forest" from list of features tags landuse=forest or natural=wood or something else. iD is certainly able to push/promote/encourage meaning of tags by deciding what gets matched to a given description. Mateusz Konieczny (talk) 08:15, 14 April 2019 (UTC)
Well, you could have opened iD and tried for yourself. There's a preset titled "Unmaintained Track Road", which produces only highway=track and no other tags. The "info" icon provides short description "Roads for agricultural and forestry use etc." and a hyperlink to this very wiki page. I don't see how it follows from that behavior that iD "deliberately pushes 'probably not safe for most cars'", and it's simply not fair to take one person's word answer "yep" to a loaded question, apparently uttered in zest, as a proof for that. I don't want the wiki to be abused for advancing one side in a dispute.
While iD is probably "able to push/promote/encourage meaning of tags by deciding what gets matched to a given description" by means of its prominent position of default editor, I haven't seen any strong evidence in the mailing list so far that it does so. It would take much more than a single "yep" from one of its developers to convince me otherwise. Duja (talk) 09:37, 14 April 2019 (UTC)
@Duja: iD will also display highway=track + surface=asphalt + tracktype=grade1 as "Unmaintained Track Road" and various attempts with request to fix this were refused while encouraging tagging for the renderer - "If you don't like iD's label I suggest using highway=service" Mateusz Konieczny (talk) 11:44, 31 October 2020 (UTC)
@Mateusz Konieczny: For the record, I would like to abstain from what I see as partly a difference of opinion, and partly verging on a scholastic battle. I don't see there's an universally accepted definition of "highway=track", particularly for edge cases, which are numerous. In the countryside of Balkans where I live, there are long stretches of unpaved roads running through forests, connecting a 3-house hamlet, then continuing into meadows and forests and branching into several more remote houses. And it's repaired once in a blue moon. And it's passable by a normal car on a good weather day if you must, but generally avoided. I'm at loss how that fits into the OSM nomenclature, and mappers in my country have variously tagged those as "residential", "track", "unclassified" and even (god-forbid) "road".
Also for the record, I can agree that it would be better titled "Agricultural/Forestry road" as in German translation, but the current one is for me acceptable enough. Let's have in mind that w:Hard cases make bad law, and cases such as highway=track + surface=asphalt are really rare outliers. I can imagine such may be used within large and rich agricultural or vineyard estates to reach the more distant fields, but I don't expect those to be a common occurrence (didn't check with taginfo myself). Duja (talk) 22:03, 4 November 2020 (UTC)

Maybe iD should offer a "Maintained Track Road" in addition, as only it knows the difference? Jidanni (talk) 03:56, 22 February 2020 (UTC)

Roads?

The definition states these are "roads", but road is generally a term referring to public roads, tracks may also be entirely private. In at least some countries (e.g. Germany), tracks are considered to be something below roads. Maybe another term like "way" or "thoroughfare" should be used instead? --Dieterdreist (talk) 08:03, 30 April 2019 (UTC)

Right, but do you agree that not every way where you can drive on is a „road“? Some are just tracks. —Dieterdreist (talk) 23:27, 30 April 2019 (UTC)
Maybe, maybe not (I am not a native speaker). But I think that
  • "road is generally a term referring to public roads" is a poor argument - just because most of roads are public roads it does not mean that all roads are public roads. Also, many tracks are legally classified as public roads.
  • "tracks may also be entirely private" - as mentioned, roads also may be private
  • "at least some countries (e.g. Germany), tracks are considered to be something below roads" - I would not assume that German and English words have exactly the same meaning
Overall, I see no arguments justifying this change, though I am unsure whatever native speaker would agree with "tracks are not roads" or "tracks are roads" Mateusz Konieczny (talk) 17:42, 1 May 2019 (UTC)
I agree, it's prone to confusion! I bet new contributors are always confused by the imprecise and unnecessary long Wiki pages (demotivates reading). Also to avoid the confusion with the tag "highway=road", which is name wise already confusing according its definition.
@Mateusz, when Dieterdreist said "...do you agree that not every way where you can drive on is a „road“? Some are just tracks.", actually he means that not all varieties of tracktype grades fit the name "road", grade1 only, all others are non smooth, eroded, unmaintained ways/tracks.
Access should never be part of a definition, this is an independent tag.--SHARCRASH (talk) 13:45, 18 August 2019 (UTC)
A road is generally open to the public. Also a private road is generally open to the public, but unlike a highway, which is paid for by the public, a private road is owned by a private entity and usually privately maintained. Says the dictionary, and I agree. In Germany, a track (“Wirtschaftsweg”) is not a road (“Straße”), and from what I understood about the English situation, it may be similar there. When you wrote that many tracks are officially classified as public roads, you got me confused. Which context do you refer to? In my mapping I never have consciously classified a public road as track, I do not think it would be helpful, rather the opposite. With regard to surface quality, I would not let this influence the decision of the highway type, you can have unpaved roads.
This is not a language issue I would say, because it is not about the translation of words but about the meaning of tags. —Dieterdreist (talk) 14:33, 18 August 2019 (UTC)

Purpose: agricultural / forestry / recreation / firefighting

I updated the comparison paragraph with some clarifications about vehicle width and track purpose. I didn't add anything about items I'm not fully convinced about:

  1. Fire access roads, which primarily provide firefighting crews with access to the land (and may also serve as fuel breaks): Are they tracks because they provide access to the land? Or are they service roads?
  2. Recreational hiking trails which are wide enough to carry vehicles (though vehicle access is usually forbidden). They provide access to the land, and they are wider than paths, and may be well constructed, but they are not (currently) open for vehicles. Are they paths, tracks or roads?
  3. Well constructed vs. ad-hoc tracks: Should a track be promoted to a service or unclassified road if it has a thick gravel bed, paved surface and elaborate bridges? Should a road be demoted to a track if's just rough unmanaged land where people drive through? Or should the track/road designation be determined solely by purpose and usage? (The tracktype tag can be used to describe the physical properties of either a track or a road.)

- T99 (talk) 06:07, 12 November 2019 (UTC)

I've added numbering to your questions so it is easier to reply:
  1. I'm unsure about these. Are they used exclusively for firefighting or also for forest management? I would tend to track.
  2. I would not use path for these. If vehicle access is forbidden, this can be tagged with access restrictions, and some vehicles (like military or rangers) will likely use them occasionally, or not? You could also tag them as footways. In any case adding a width tag is useful (for all kind of highway). For the question of road vs. track, see 3.
  3. The distinction between tracks and roads is not done by physical characteristics but through the designation (right of way, who built it and for what, etc.), so yes, it should be determined solely by purpose and usage. --Dieterdreist (talk) 11:39, 12 November 2019 (UTC)
  1. fire roads: I would use highway=track because these are part of forestry: fire suppression is important for timber production.
  2. Recreational hiking trails which are wide enough to carry vehicles: If these were originally built as forestry / agricultural tracks and then converted to paths, I agree that they can be tagged as a track. If they were built as footways, I would expect that any bridges and culverts are not wide or strong enough for motor vehicles, and would then use highway=footway.
  3. track/road designation be determined solely by purpose and usage? - Yes, that's right. --Jeisenbe (talk) 12:46, 12 November 2019 (UTC)
# In Australia standard mapping is to use highway=track to represent fire trails. Many don't go through forestry for timber production, most are through native bush land much of which is protected from logging. Sometimes these run on private property as well. Most of the time you can walk/cycle along them, but driving is usually restricted for emergency use. Since it's currently "in use" to tag these as highway=track I'll update the wiki page here to say that fire trails are a type of highway=track. --Aharvey (talk) 12:57, 13 January 2021 (UTC)
Forestry includes also protection and maintenance of forest without logging Mateusz Konieczny (talk) 13:06, 13 January 2021 (UTC)
Firefighting in scrubland is also related to agriculture / forestry. Though scrub is not the same as trees, it's still a form of woodland, and it's the same kind of rural land management. I would also include "rangeland" as a type of agriculture land, e.g. areas used for low-intensity grazing by sheep or cattle, in Australia or the west of North America, or other semi-arid regions. So roads which access rangeland and are used by ranchers / graziers / herdsmen (cattle stations?) for accessing the land or management are also tracks: they are roads that lead to rural land, not a settlement.

Recreational use of track roads

Should something be added in the wiki text that mentions use as jeep trails, ATV trails and such? --Floridaeditor (talk) 14:01, 2 June 2020 (UTC)

Added Mateusz Konieczny (talk) 17:50, 2 June 2020 (UTC)
Is this important enough that we should add it to the "description=" field along with "agricultural use, forestry use", e.g. "agriculture use, forestry use, recreational ATV use, etc"? --Jeisenbe (talk) 00:40, 28 February 2021 (UTC)

Proposed revisions by User:Bhousel

https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/w/index.php?title=Tag%3Ahighway%3Dtrack&type=revision&diff=2118630&oldid=2118437 shows some major proposed revisions by @Bhousel:

1) Change the description to "description = Roads suitable for off road, high clearance vehicles, for agricultural, forestry, mining use etc." with comment expand description to include off-road, high-clearance.

2) Remove "Note that forestry use includes not only logging, but also access for firefighting, hunting, fishing, birdwatching, gathering mushrooms, and so on." with the comment "Forestry use does not include this whole list of stuff. If we ever have any hope of having this page agreed on by everyone and translated for everyone to read, it needs to be MUCH simpler"

3) Remove two sections: https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Tag:highway%3Dtrack#Problematic_tagging with the comment "Problematic Usage literally overlaps with Regional Usage below - it said the same stuf"

and https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Tag:highway%3Dtrack#iD_Editor - About the last, User:Bhousel wrote " I will not accept any version of this page which contains the picture, nor Roland's conjecture that he posted to the mailing list without talking to me first. the iD preset text is localized and it says different things in different languages. In en-US it says "Unmaintained Track Road" because that is how the tag is used here. in German it says "Forestry and Farm Road" because that is how it is used there. Please stop attacking iD - it's bordering on harassment at this point."

I believe these proposed edits need discussion. --Jeisenbe (talk) 21:21, 27 February 2021 (UTC)

> Remove "Note that forestry use includes not only logging, but also access for firefighting, hunting, fishing, birdwatching, gathering mushrooms, and so on." with the comment "Forestry use does not include this whole list of stuff. If we ever have any hope of having this page agreed on by everyone and translated for everyone to read, it needs to be MUCH simpler"
Already discussed a bit at https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Talk:Tag:highway%3Dtrack#Purpose:_agricultural_.2F_forestry_.2F_recreation_.2F_firefighting this was discussed. It comes down to what you mean by forestry, and since forestry has different meanings (eg. is it use of forest areas, or roads for timber harvesting), we should list out these other uses. I much prefer to include firefighting because in Australia we have many designated "Fire Trails" which are tagged as highway=track but many not used for forestry (where forestry here means harvesting timber) as the fire trails may be through national parks. They could also be used as maintenance tracks or emergency access tracks to areas of national park. --Aharvey (talk) 21:50, 27 February 2021 (UTC)
I agree with Aharvey comments above. Also, since the United States-specific section was removed, the specific discussion about ID's localized preset text that only applies in the US is out of scope here, and should go in a US-specific page if there are US users that believe this preset is problematic. Personally I think that localization is fine and matches the vast majority of US usages. --ZeLonewolf (talk) 22:18, 27 February 2021 (UTC)
Here in Oregon there are a number of paved, tracktype=grade1 highway=track roads used for forestry, often in lands that are closed to the general public, for example, in the Bull Run watershed, and in privately owned forest lands in the Coast Ranges (Note that I did not personally map any of these): https://overpass-turbo.eu/s/14fP (search for all highway=track with surface=paved/asphalt/concrete or tracktype=grade1 and surface not unpaved) finds 394 ways, most of which look like agricultural or forestry tracks which happen to be paved. --Jeisenbe (talk) 00:56, 28 February 2021 (UTC)
Thanks for the overpass query, Jeisenbe. I took a look at a number of these roads tagged as 'track' in Oregon. A lot of them have names and look wide enough for two vehicles to pass. Seems to me like they might qualify for 'service' or 'unclassified' rather than 'track'. Others looked like they might have the wrong surface tag and didn't look paved to me. Easy to misjudge this sort of thing from aerial imagery though. Do you have any on the ground photos you could share of paved roads in Oregon (or anywhere in north America really) that you feel should be tagged as 'track'? This just doesn't seem to be a thing in the areas I'm familiar with and I'm trying to understand what the commonalities are between a two-track road, and a narrow paved or graded road that should be tagged with 'track'. -- Ezekielf (talk) 03:45, 7 March 2021 (UTC)
Is that preset text localized, or is it shown in the British English version too? I also saw it in Indonesia, but perhaps I had not changed my setting from US English? --Jeisenbe (talk) 00:15, 28 February 2021 (UTC)
I just checked in transifex (which is not very user-friendly), and the en_GB localization is simply the word "Track". It did not seem to have an Indonesian translation. --ZeLonewolf (talk) 01:33, 28 February 2021 (UTC)
Re: addition of "mining use": this does not seem common here in Oregon or in Indonesia. Most roads in surface mines, or to access underground mines, are mapped as highway=service. If we are going to add a 3rd category of usage, a more frequently used option would be recreation ATV/4WD/Off-road-vehicle tracks, or recreational tracks for bikes/hiking, which might originally have been built for forestry or agricultural use but now are exclusively used for recreation. --Jeisenbe (talk) 00:47, 28 February 2021 (UTC)
Regarding mining use, that is probably regional, but Colorado is riddled with them. Many of the roads tagged as tracks here are either literal agriculture roads, old (no longer used for harvesting timber) logging roads, and old (no longer used for mining) mining roads. They are now in national forests and other places, and are used for recreation or other land management that isn't the original industry. The theme to me is that it isn't maintained for any specific purpose anymore, but is still there and usable (by the right kind of vehicle). I agree that roads serving active mines are probably best tagged as service. --Phidauex (talk) 02:09, 28 February 2021 (UTC)

All translations from transifex:

Locale Native Text Translation
ar مسار طريق غير ممهد An unpaved road path
ast Pista ensin mantenimientu
ca Pista forestal sense manteniment Track and maintenance
cs Lesní, polní cesta Forest, dirt road
da Uvedligeholdt markvej Unmaintained dirt road
de Feld-/Waldweg Field/forest path
dv ނުހަދާ މަގުތައް
el Αγροτικός/Δασικός Δρόμος Rural/forest road
eo Vojo kampa Country road
en_GB Track
es Pista o camino no mantenido Track or path not maintained
et Mittehooldatav tee
fa مسیر جاده خاکی رسیدگی نشده Dirt road route not addressed
fl Maatalous-/metsätie Agricultural/forestry road
fr Piste agricole ou forestière Agricultural or forestry track
gl Pista ou carreiro sen mantemento Maintenance-free track or trail
he דרך בלתי סלולה An unpaved road
it Strada ad uso agricolo / forestale Road for agricultural/forestry use
ja 農道・林道(自動車通行可) Farm roads and forest roads (cars are allowed)
ko 농·임도 Agriculture and forestry
lt Neprižiūrimas Kelias The Unattended Road
mk Неодржуван неасфалтиран пат Unsupported unpaved road
ms Jalan Rintis Tidak Diselenggara Pilot Road Not Maintained
nl Veld- of bosweg Field or forest road
no Traktorvei Tractor road
pl Droga prowadząca na pola lub do lasu Road leading to the fields or to the forest
pt Estrada florestal / agrícola Forest / agricultural road
pt_BR Estrada agrícola Agricultural road
ru Полевые и лесные дороги Field and forest roads
sk Neudržiavaná lesná cesta Unmaintained forest road
sl Nevzdrževani kolovoz Unsupported cart track
so Jidka Jayga aan la Dayactirin Unpaved Jayga(?) road
sv Jordbruks-/skogsväg Agricultural/forest road
tr Tarım Yolu Farming way
uk Путівець Byroad
vt Đường gom Frontage roads
yue 無修道
zh_CN 未铺设路面的车径 Unpaved car track
zh_HK 無保養道路 No maintenance road
zh_TW 農路·林道 Farm road

Clearly, this tag is localized differently worldwide. --ZeLonewolf (talk) 01:47, 28 February 2021 (UTC)

Current tone of page

The current lede remains inappropriately pejorative towards actual usages and represents a Euro-centric definition of this tag. Discussions on talk-us and later into tagging have shown that highway=track is not simply a tag for agricultural and farming roads. Surely it is in some places, but it's not an acceptable definition that applies everywhere. Track roads are simply the lowest classification of road in a road system, and the exact usage varies by region. Maintaining this "farming and forestry" definition is imposing a European interpretation on worldwide tagging. --ZeLonewolf (talk) 22:36, 27 February 2021 (UTC)

To clarify, by the "Lede" do you mean "the first sentence" in the main body text: "This tag represents roads for mostly agricultural use, forest tracks etc.; often unpaved (unsealed) but may apply to paved tracks as well, that are suitable for two-track vehicles, such as tractors or SUVs." or do you mean the "description=" in the InfoBox which says "Roads for agricultural use, forestry use etc." --Jeisenbe (talk) 00:36, 28 February 2021 (UTC)
I was referring to the first sentence, but the description is similarly problematic. The sentence structure implies that everything to the right of the semi-colon is further describing "agricultural and farming" roads. The inclusion of "etc." is also not useful here and doesn't solve the problem. --ZeLonewolf (talk) 01:44, 28 February 2021 (UTC)
Re: "Track roads are simply the lowest classification of road in a road system" - I would disagree, because minor highway=service roads like service=driveway are usually less significant for the road network and area also unlikely to be publically accessible for through travel or maintained for public use. --Jeisenbe (talk) 00:24, 28 February 2021 (UTC)
Re: farming and forestry - the page also mentions leisure or recreation use, and it's been clarified that forestry includes many woodland activities (e.g. including firefighting in the Australian bush), while agriculture is also a broad category including lightly used rangeland (e.g. BLM lands in the western USA). What widely established uses of highway=track are contrary to these options? --Jeisenbe (talk) 00:26, 28 February 2021 (UTC)
The issue is that it contradicts the opening. We say "it's used for farming and forestry" and then go on to say "oh, actually it's used for all these other things. That means the intro needs to be fixed to be properly inclusive. If it's not a classification thing, then the intro needs to say, simply, "This tag represents track roads, and the text can follow from that. It needs to say that the exact meaning and usage of track roads varies from country to country.
Further, we need to take out language that talks about which mappers disagree with the usage by other mappers in other countries. It's not relevant. Who cares if a mapper in the Netherlands thinks that a mapper in Brazil is using it wrongly? Not relevant. Something isn't "tagging for the renderer" just because mappers in country A don't like the way mappers in country B use a tag. THAT is pejorative. --ZeLonewolf (talk) 01:44, 28 February 2021 (UTC)
I don't see any pejorative language in the description text or the first paragraph. The section further down says "Do not use tracks to represent unpaved streets in built-up areas [1], that would be considered tagging for the renderer", is this what you consider contemptuous or excessively disapproving language? I am not aware of any countries where the local mappers consider it correct to use highway=track in that way. --Jeisenbe (talk) 05:18, 28 February 2021 (UTC)
Two main issues. One: "In some regions the tag highway=track has been used in other ways which are not always accepted by the global community." The idea that "these are only used on farms/forestry" is also not accepted by the global community -- that's a regional interpretation. Problem two is that the article still leads with "roads for mostly agricultural use, forest tracks" which implies disapproval of other usages, such as recreational areas, fire roads, [...list...] etc. Hence my suggestion for simply having the lede say that the tag is "for track roads" without commentary on function, unless we're prepared to create an exhaustive list of all functional usage in that sentence. --ZeLonewolf (talk) 05:34, 28 February 2021 (UTC)
But it doesn't say "these are only used on farms/forestry". It says these are "roads for mostly agricultural use, forest tracks, etc" and then goes one to mention "various leisure or recreation activities" and the definition of "forestry" and "agricultural" use are also broad. In the American West, most "tracks" on BLM land were built for agricultural use: for ranchers to access seasonal grazing lands. While no one would mistake the high desert scrublands of Nevada for "farmland", low-intensity grazing is still agricultural use. --Jeisenbe (talk) 05:54, 2 March 2021 (UTC)
The word "mostly" does offer more flexibility than "only", but it still significantly narrows the focus of the statement. While "foresty" and "agriculture" can be interpreted broadly, I'd say the average North American English speaking mapper will think that means logging and farming and won't spend the time to think through the full scope of meaning. To avoid this misinterpretation I think the phrase "roads often used to access agricultural land, forests, or other undeveloped land" would be better. This focuses on the use of the land around the track rather than the use of the track itself which is similar to how we use the term residential for roads. The road isn't used as a residence, it provides access to a residential area. If I drive down a track through a grazing pasture, I'm not engaging in agriculture, but I am passing through an agricultural area. -- Ezekielf (talk) 14:48, 2 March 2021 (UTC)
Now that I've seen the list of localized translations, I'm increasingly convinced that there are plenty of places that interpret the tag more widely, and in particular, many places where English is not commonly spoken and thus are not well represented on our mailing lists. While we might be able to source the tagging for the renderer comment to mailing list discussion threads, it's increasingly out of place as we continue to understand the breadth of differences in usage. --ZeLonewolf (talk) 05:34, 28 February 2021 (UTC)
Re: "Now that I've seen the list of localized translations..." It looks like your list is created from an automated reverse translation service, and this is not very reliable for understanding the meaning. For example the MS (Malaysian) literal translation of "Jalan Rintis Tidak Diselenggara" is listed as "Pilot Road Not Maintained" above, but it really means is something like "pioneering paths/small roads in the jungle which are not owned/maintained" based on my reading (I speak Indonesian which is closely related to Malay, also see https://educalingo.com/en/dic-ms/rintis). And the catalan "Pista forestal sense manteniment" doesn't mean "Track and maintenance Forest", but rather "forest track without maintenance". --Jeisenbe (talk) 05:54, 2 March 2021 (UTC)
The other problem with these translations is that they are not translations of this wiki, but of the iD preset, which was defined as "Unmaintained Track Road", so it's not surprising that some of the "translations" sound the same as that. If you instead compare translations of the defintion of this tag in other languages on this wiki, they are more consistent: see https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Item:Q4929 and click "in more languages". --Jeisenbe (talk) 05:59, 2 March 2021 (UTC)

Usefulness of images

The photos currently show two examples of "not a track" and one example of "a track". This is not terribly useful given the current composition of the page and intense regionalization that exists for the use of this tag. The page should only show "examples of a track" and should explicitly state the country where the photo is from, so we have the proper context. E.g. "example of a track in Belarus", "example of a track in Africa", etc. Track/not a track are only relevant for specific locales. --ZeLonewolf (talk) 14:37, 28 February 2021 (UTC)

There are currently 2 examples of tracks - one unpaved in a meadow (at the top) and one paved in woodland (bottom), though it's true that there are also 2 negative examples of unpaved roads/streets. Please feel free to add a short gallery at the end with e.g. a couple of more positive examples of roads which are current tagged highway=track in OpenStreetMap, perhaps a nice gravel tracktype=grade2, and a tracktype=grade3 or tracktype=grade4, plus a really rough tracktype=grade5 which would demand an off-road vehicle, not just an SUV. There might be some on the Talk:Key:smoothness or Talk:Key:tracktype pages which could work. --Jeisenbe (talk) 05:40, 2 March 2021 (UTC)
Some updates below. Of course the challenge is that these types of roads also tend to be less often driven and therefore less often photographed with Mapillary. But I think there's a reasonable cross-section below. I'd be happy to expand the search if you think there's a missing class of road here. --ZeLonewolf (talk) 00:24, 4 March 2021 (UTC)


Here's what I came up with from trawling Mapillary and finding imagery taken on currently marked track roads in OSM:


--ZeLonewolf (talk) 02:55, 3 March 2021 (UTC)

Could you also provide links to the OpenStreetMap way features where these were taken? The one in Nevada looks like a good example of BLM land in, though it would be nice if it could be rotated a bit. The road in the National Park in Australia seems a pretty good example, but it's quite high quality and wide - I wonder if it actually a track, or rather something like a tertiary road which is the main route through this area. The image from Boliva is too low-resolution to be a good example. I'm also curious about the context in Kenya - is that tea growing beside the road?--Jeisenbe (talk) 05:16, 3 March 2021 (UTC)
Thank you for the links. way 265866201 in Nevada is a very nice example - it has wilderness on both sides and is clearly only for recreation or access to the wilderness. I also liked the other example from Nevada before. way 541803023 in Australia is probably a good example based on the context, it appears to be used for access to the State Forest. way 792410055 is among a number of small 2-track features in an area where there seems to be a lot of recreational off-road vehicles, so it seems like a good example (though unfortunately the image is not great). way 236592106 is a little iffy, since it has a bus stop at both ends and is a direct continuation of way 236592106 which is highway=unclassified - but there is a paved highway=track right next to this which is clearly for access to the forest and other undeveloped land nearby: way 236592103 - but perhaps there is no imagery for that? I also wonder about way 267717481 because at one end there are two slip roads (way 267717482) tagged as highway=unclassified which lead to this road from a reception gate, and the other end leads to the "Camp" as the sign says, where there is a reception, shop, hotel and restaurant - this looks like a driveway to a tourist facility. --Jeisenbe (talk) 06:23, 4 March 2021 (UTC)

Here are three additional images I found as better replacements for the South America, Africa, and Europe examples above:

--ZeLonewolf (talk) 04:40, 5 March 2021 (UTC)

Suggested lede text

Normally I just shoot for the hip on edits, but in the spirit of avoiding conflicts, below is my proposed re-write of the lede which should satisfy all cases and not impose parochial viewpoints.

New text

This tag represents track roads that are suitable for two-track vehicles, such as tractors or SUVs.

Common usages for highway=track roads include agriculture, forestry, access to leisure or recreation areas, or as SUV/ATV trails. Agricultural use includes tracks in rangeland, and lightly developed land used for grazing. Forest usages include not only logging, but also access for firefighting, hunting, fishing, birdwatching, gathering mushrooms, and so on.

While track roads are usually[1] unpaved, they are also used on paved roads. See tracktype=*, which is used to indicate the surface quality of a track road. Likewise, the fact that a road is unpaved does not make it a track road. Mappers should consider the functional use of the road and local conventions.

Track roads are not used for:

  • Paths that are too narrow for two-track vehicles; these should be tagged highway=path instead
  • Service roads, including driveways, which are tagged highway=service
  • Residential roads, which are tagged highway=residential

--ZeLonewolf (talk) 16:31, 28 February 2021 (UTC)

I'd add "Minor roads that connect small communities, which are tagged highway=unclassified" as a bullet point. Otherwise I like this lede.

-- Aweech (talk) 16:41, 28 February 2021 (UTC)

I like the way this reads. Makes it very clear where I should and should not use highway=track. A definite improvement over the current text which I find rather confusing. I think some more example pictures would help this page too. The tracktype=* page has better examples of things that are tracks than this page does. -- Ezekielf (talk) 16:58, 28 February 2021 (UTC)
The first problem with the proposed text is that it is defining highway=track as a "track road", but that term does not really exist in Britsh English (or North American English). If you search for the phrase "track road" you won't get much. You might find "track-road" which is a canal towpath. If you search for "track" in a dictionary then you might get "A rough path or minor road, typically one beaten by use rather than constructed" - which is probably similar to the English idea where we got highway=track, but note that it includes pedestrian (or bike) paths which would be "single-track" in US English (Bike jargon?), not only "double-track". --Jeisenbe (talk) 05:35, 2 March 2021 (UTC)
Fair enough. I hadn't heard the term "track road" until recently either, though it makes perfect sense to me. Clearly the term does does exist in some areas as attested by various North American mappers, but perhaps it is a regional term and not appropriate for a global definition. -- Ezekielf (talk) 14:07, 2 March 2021 (UTC)
I'm familiar with the term two-track road which apparently means the exact same thing as a single track road in the UK, so that's all confused as heck. I'd support MK's proposed description below that describes access to undeveloped land, as that's really a more apt description that covers a lot of cases that we're struggling with here. --ZeLonewolf (talk) 19:05, 2 March 2021 (UTC)

definition starting from "Roads suitable for"

re https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/w/index.php?title=Tag:highway%3Dtrack&oldid=2118893 + @Bhousel:

"Roads suitable for off road, high clearance vehicles, for agricultural, forestry, mining use etc." - which ones of interpretations you intended?

  • highway=track is something either usable by off road or high clearance vehicles AND it is not usable by other vehicles OR traffic there is for agricultural, forestry, mining use
  • highway=track is something either usable by off road or high clearance vehicles OR for agricultural, forestry, mining use
  • highway=track is something either by off road or high clearance vehicles AND it is for agricultural, forestry, mining use
  • or maybe something else and I am confused

? Mateusz Konieczny (talk) 12:46, 1 March 2021 (UTC)

I think the intent is the first of those interpretations. Roads that require a rugged vehicle OR are agricultural etc. --ZeLonewolf (talk) 13:00, 1 March 2021 (UTC)
I would clarify the statement as "Roads suitable for rugged, high clearance vehicles that provide access to areas of agricultural, forestry, mining, or undeveloped land. Well maintained tracks may be usable by other vehicle types as well (see tracktype=* and smoothness=*)." How does that read to you, Mateusz? -- Ezekielf (talk) 13:56, 2 March 2021 (UTC)
It still is not handling well cases of well maintained tracks (for example paved, kept in good repair). And focuses on road quality, rather than on function. Maybe "roads that provide access to areas of agricultural, forestry, mining, or undeveloped land. May be not passable for regular cars and usable only by rugged, high clearance vehicles"? Mateusz Konieczny (talk) 14:36, 2 March 2021 (UTC)
I think that revision works well too. I intended this statement to account for the well maintained, paved, kept in good repair case: "Well maintained tracks may be usable by other vehicle types as well". I suppose "are usable" or "are suitable" would be better than "may be usable". I was trying to avoid stating that a default track is unusable by a certain vehicle type since that really requires a smoothness tag to determine for sure. Even a regular car should be able to drive slowly on a 'tracktype=grade5' through a flat, mowed field as long as 'smoothness' is not 'very_bad' or worse. I think the words "suitable/unsuitable" fit better than "usable/unusable" since it implies a bit more flexibility. My thinking is that, with no other tags present we should assume a tracktype and smoothness somewhere in the middle which would mean a track that is suitable for somewhat rugged vehicles, and normal cars or other less rugged vehicles should avoid or at least use caution as the road may not be suitable for them (not necessarily unusable). Then if a smoothness value is present that clarifies exactly which types of vehicles the track is usable by. -- Ezekielf (talk) 15:28, 2 March 2021 (UTC)
Yes, this is much better -- the "access to undeveloped land" really gets at the missing element here. Instead of "may not be passible", I'd leave that a bit more ambiguous and say "may or may not be passable.. (rest of sentence)" in order that the reader understands that they can make no assumption about the passability of such roads. --ZeLonewolf (talk) 19:03, 2 March 2021 (UTC)
One more thing to check: what about roads between villages/towns suitable for rugged, high clearance vehicles unsuitable for regular cars that will fail on massive potholes or in mud? (in some place "rugged, high clearance vehicle" may be considered as regular and standard car) Mateusz Konieczny (talk) 00:10, 3 March 2021 (UTC)
Indeed. In some areas of the world even a major road may require a rugged vehicle, but it doesn't seem to me that using track for that would make sense. I imagine primary/secondary/tertiary with appropriate surface and smoothness tags would be the way to handle that. In regions where typical road conditions require a rugged vehicle and that is the standard, the fact that a track is suitable for rugged vehicles doesn't distinguish it from other minor road types. So in these areas the function of the road is the more important factor for deciding the correct tag. In regions where typical road conditions are much smoother, a road looking suitable for rugged vehicles and perhaps not others provides a strong hint that track may be the correct tag even if the function of the road isn't 100% clear. -- Ezekielf (talk) 02:08, 3 March 2021 (UTC)
Perhaps "access roads for land used for agriculture, forestry, ..." is clearer. The phrase "other undeveloped land" sort of makes sense to me as an American, but I'm not sure if farms, orchards and plantations are considered "undeveloped" everywhere. Certainly they are "non-urban", and not developed in the same way as a residential area or industrial zone or retail centre. Perhaps there is a way to express that we are talking about semi-natural areas, used for conservation or off-road recreation? I'm not sure what the right term for "off-roading" (4X4ing?) is in British English - it's a bit of an oxymoron since these are "roads" being used for "off-road vehicles." I also would not include "mining", since access ways in quarries and mines are usually mapped as highway=service, as with service roads in other industrial facilities. --Jeisenbe (talk) 06:30, 4 March 2021 (UTC)
No I don't think farms, orchards, or plantations are considered undeveloped. I specifically wrote the phrase "areas of agricultural, forestry, mining, or undeveloped land" without the word "other" so it would be clear that "undeveloped land" is in addition to the other types. So four types of land: agricultural, forestry, mining, and undeveloped. Perhaps not clear enough though! I think mining was included because a mapper from Colorado chimed in on this discussion to say that many things he tags as tracks are mining roads. I'm sure for a major, industrial mining or quarry operation highway=service makes more sense, but I got the sense he was talking about older, less used or maybe abandoned mines up in the mountains. If we could define a track without specifying agriculture, forestry, mining, or any other specific activity I think that would actually be preferable. Here's a phrase: "...access to land that is conserved, undeveloped, or used for resource extraction and production." I think it covers all the bases, but it's probably too abstract and technical for a good definition. -- Ezekielf (talk) 03:57, 5 March 2021 (UTC)


Width and Traffic Frequency

Here are a few other things that may be useful to differentiate tracks from higher road classifications:

  • Tracks are narrow (just one vehicle width). It seems like if a dirt road is wide enough for two vehicles to pass (even if it's a tight squeeze) then it should be a higher classification even if the condition of the road is quite bad (use surface and smoothness in that case). If two vehicles meet on what I consider a track, one would have to pull almost completely off to let the other by.
  • Tracks have infrequent vehicle traffic compared to higher classifications. A farmer might only drive the tractor out to a certain field once a week. A track in a conservation area might not see a vehicle for months because a wider, smoother service road nearby is faster even though it's a longer distance. This might also mean seasonal usage – more frequent vehicles in the summer but none all winter. However, if highway=track is appropriate for a heavily used off-road/4WD/4X4 trail then perhaps frequency of usage is not good to incorporate in the definition. Or maybe heavily used trails like this are a different thing? I'm not really familiar with areas heavily used by ATVs and off road vehicles and how (or even if) they should be mapped.

-- Ezekielf (talk) 04:50, 5 March 2021 (UTC)


Proposed page re-write

I've taken some time to incorporate all the recent discussions I've read on usage of highway=track into this proposed rewrite of this page: User:Ezekielf/Tag:highway=track. I think it offers a clearer and more globally applicable description of what we use this tag for. Let me know what you think. -- Ezekielf (talk) 03:12, 8 March 2021 (UTC)

First rewrite draft discussed here on the tagging list. Third draft update here, and discussed here on the tagging list. -- Ezekielf (talk) 19:15, 6 April 2021 (UTC)

use for narrow paths

Someone has claimed: "As an exception to the four-wheeled motor vehicle guideline, some locales have motorcycle only trails that may qualify as tracks." I believe this is not a good idea, we should keep the main distinction of path and track by width, globally, and these motorcycle only trails should become highway=path with suitable access restrictions. --Dieterdreist (talk) 10:31, 6 May 2021 (UTC)

I disagree, in general my view on paths is that they are primarily for non-motorized use. Of the motorized use cases highway=track is the only realistic fit for my specific need. If I have to chose between overloading what I view as a non-motorized use tag and adding a minor exception to an otherwise perfect fit definition, I'll go for the latter. The specific use case I'm talking about is a legal definition restricting motorized use of a trail to motorcycle only. The actual width of the trail will vary, from meeting the original 4 wheeled width requirements, to barely larger than the tires of a motorcycle. The trails in question are on federal US Forest Service or US Grass Land ground and dedicated to recreational use. In most of the places over 90% of the use of these trails will be for motorcycles. --Monkeyspunk (talk) 15:28, 6 May 2021 (UTC)
There are about 20000 highway=path explicitly allowing motor vehicles: https://taginfo.openstreetmap.org/tags/highway=path#combinationsDieterdreist (talk) 16:12, 6 May 2021 (UTC)
That may be, but I'm saying they are wrong based on content of highway=path. I agree with the content of highway=path. While it does say it *can* be used for motorized vehicles if tagged appropriately, the defaults and implications of highway=path say otherwise. Highway=path really wants to be non-motorized. I believe that there should be a distinction between motorized use and non-motorized use at the highest level. Use of highway=path for non-motorized and highway=track for motorized makes this distinction obvious. --Monkeyspunk (talk) 16:31, 6 May 2021 (UTC)
The path page says: “ highway=path is a generic path, either multi-use or unspecified usage, open to all non-motorized vehicles and not intended for motorized vehicles unless tagged so separately.” It explicitly states in the first paragraph that motorized usage is included, and that you do it with access tags. —Dieterdreist (talk) 19:27, 6 May 2021 (UTC)
The way the sentence is written does seem to discourage the use of highway=path where motorized vehicles are allowed. I'm sure the wording could be improved. -- Ezekielf (talk) 19:39, 6 May 2021 (UTC)
The short description for path is currently "A generic or multi-use path open to non-motorized traffic"; then this should also be improved. --Hufkratzer (talk) 09:55, 8 May 2021 (UTC)
Maybe the image on the page for path could be improved too; the current one can also be interpreted as tracktype=grade5. What is on Pt:Tag:highway=path and highway=bridleway is more clearly a path. --Hufkratzer (talk) 10:23, 8 May 2021 (UTC)
This is a tricky situation and I did think about motorcycle/dirtbike trails when working on the rewrite of this page. The consensus I heard from many people was that highway=track should have a minimum width requirement and ways that are too narrow for a four-wheeled (two-track) vehicle should generally not be tagged highway=track. I agree it feels a bit weird to include motorcycle/dirtbike trails in the highway=path bucket which is mostly for non-motorized use. However ways tagged as highway=path are often used by bicycles, which are two wheeled vehicles just like motorcycles. When viewed that way it makes more sense. -- Ezekielf (talk) 16:57, 6 May 2021 (UTC)
How would you accommodate width restricted trails? The definition as stated does not accommodate ATV trails, yet they are four wheeled vehicles. In my area the Forest Service has 6 classifications for trails: 1) Road legal vehicle, 2) Off Highway vehicle (rock bouncers and unlicensed Jeeps are an example) that are not legal on the general road system, 3) 50 inch max width four wheeled vehicle, 4) Motorcycles, 5) mixed use Bicycle + horse + foot, 6) mixed use horse + foot. The current definition of highway=track only accommodates #1 and #2 (typical vehicle). I know in some jurisdictions that there is also a 60 inch restriction in addition to the 50 inch restriction. I'm specifically asking for clarification on where we make the distinction. Is the distinction width, wheel count or motorized/non-motorized? I'm obviously advocating the motorized/non-motorized distinction. --Monkeyspunk (talk) 17:35, 6 May 2021 (UTC)
I would say highway=track for classfications 1 & 2, with smoothness=* as appropriate for vehicle type. Then highway=path for the rest with maxwidth=* and/or width=* along with access tagging for vehicle types/transport modes (atv, motorcycle, bicycle, horse, foot) https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Key:access#Transport_mode_restrictions. Obviously the OSM classfication scheme is nowhere near as detailed for trails as how the Forest Service breaks things down, but I think the access tagging is rich enough to encode the information. The only thing missing seems like a vehicle type of dirt bike to distinguish from street motorcycles that have no business on an off road trail. I feel like ideally there would be another highway tag between track and path to be used for off road vehicle trails that are never used by typical road legal vehicles. Maybe someone will proposes and popularize such a tag one day. -- Ezekielf (talk) 18:59, 6 May 2021 (UTC)
I'm with Dieterdreist and Ezekielf. Highway=path for everything that can move in one single line (spur), e.g. vehicles with wheels in a line / behind each other. And highway=track if it is possible to drive with vehicles needing more than that one line, e.g. atw, quad and everything bigger. The benefit with this use and definition IMO is when viewing a slippy map you quickly can recognize, if it is a path for pedestrians or single-line /-trail vehicles like bikes or if it is a track for two-line vehicles like cars. In addition think of the growing e-motorized 2-wheel vehicles (e-bikes, pedelecs, e-city-scooter etc.) all using paths or cycleways, although motorized. --Chris2map (talk) 20:48, 6 May 2021 (UTC)
The same, using highway=track where only bicycle or motorcycle may fit seems a clear mistake to me. Where it is happening? Mateusz Konieczny (talk) 07:20, 8 May 2021 (UTC)