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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)

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)


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 " 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)