Talk:United Kingdom Tagging Guidelines

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This page was created with the intention of being a quick unambiguous reference for newcomers looking for advice on tagging.

It was created through the frustration of there being a) multiple UK specific pages with inconsistent conflicting advice. b) endless discussions that had withered away with no conclusions or real action. c) lack of movement with no obvious sign of progression.

I encourage you to:

  • Improve this wiki entry for the use of newcomers
  • Keep petty remarks to yourself
  • Keep all discussions, questions, disagreements off the page itself.
  • Remove the unnecessary fluff left over from concluded or outdated talks.

Rather than using phrases like 'some think this and some think that', any inconclusive issues of contention should be impartially summarised and presented in a factual basis.

If there is something you disagree with then don't spit the dummy, deal with it, improve it, make it better, add to it, condense it, summarise it, whatever, just keep it concise and factual and always keep the newcomer in mind. Do they really want to sift though endless back and forths; reading though petty bickering, or do they just want to get answers (or at very least concise facts to conclude their own answers).

If you feel patronised by this at all then my apologies, it just means you are already doing the right thing. --Bobious 03:10, 3 March 2011 (UTC)

How did we get here?

This page has gone through several major iterations. Initially Public rights of way in England and Wales and UK Countryside mapping were merged. As the page evolved it became difficult to understand and was therefore marked for cleanup in April 2012. After a period of consultation the page was updated on 30 May 2012. The changes were made following the key points:

  1. Copyright - The first section replaces the current "Obtaining the data" section and promotes the existing "Copyright" section to a more prominent position. Info most relevant to helping new UK mappers is highlighted
  2. Classic vs Alternative - The wiki guidelines state that we should "Provide a place for people to discuss new tagging proposals". I have therefore kept both schemes. So as to not excessively confuse newcomers I have split the page so that it reads as (a) tag the fact that the way is there, (b) tag its legal status if applicable.
  3. Public Rights of Way - As discussed on the talk-gb mailing list a public right of way may run along a track, road, etc.. I have therefore removed as much as the UK Classic vs Global Alternative debate out of this section into (a) - "tag features presence". Following Achadwick suggestion that the right of way should be signified using the designation key (see table below). I have heavily refocused the page to emphasis this. This greatly simplifies things for newcomers & data consumers. In a way it also reduces the UK Classic vs Global Alternative debate.
  4. Scotland - Now has a separate section ready to be filled in.

--RobJN 13:53, 20 April 2012 (BST).

Sections 3 and 4 were subsequently moved onto a separate UK access provisions page. --RobJN 22:26, 16 May 2012 (BST)

This talk page was also cleaned up to match the content of the new page. Relevant sections were moved as appropriate, with the old page still available in the wiki archive.

JOSM presets now available

This section moved to the UK Access Provisions page.--RobJN 13:31, 30 May 2012 (BST)

Bicycle-only sign

This section moved from the United Kingdom Tagging Guidelines Consultation 'talk' page.--RobJN 13:45, 30 May 2012 (BST)

This sign is used on roads that have been closed to all traffic except bikes (and is very rare). It in no way implies foot=no in the UK. Foot=yes applies for everything except motorways and roads where there's a pedestrian-in-a-red-circle sign. --RichardMann 23:32, 20 April 2012 (BST)

Seconded. This advice needs to be dropped from the consultation page.

I'm hoping we get some preset-worthy definitions of cycle tracks out of this process. One thing which would really help there are some officialese/legislation-derived designation values for the different kinds of tracks in the design booklets and law. Current categories on the main consultation page look good though even if foot=no is never right.

--achadwick 11:40, 30 April 2012 (BST)

UK Roads

This section moved from the United Kingdom Tagging Guidelines Consultation 'talk' page.--RobJN 13:45, 30 May 2012 (BST)
  • I would add that the primary roads have a black & white sign as opposed to the trunk roads having a green and yellow sign. Photo examples would be good (I'll try to find some good ones).
  • In the service road section I would include unmade or paved roads behind houses, especially terraced houses, as highway=service, service=alley. Chillly 16:57, 21 April 2012 (BST)

Lose the "vs." section entirely

This section moved from the United Kingdom Tagging Guidelines Consultation 'talk' page.--RobJN 13:45, 30 May 2012 (BST)

It's completely unreflective of the way things are actually done, and it makes for a main page which is less suitable for newcomers. Let's take the opportunity to rewrite it in a way that's more newbie-friendly. Succinctly, we need to lose all of the nonsense about an "alternative, global" tagging style. Instead let's encourage new users by presenting advice at three levels:

New mappers
Just lay down a highway=footway, for example, using the presets in Potlatch. Avoid mentioning the fancy access tags at this level.
Intermediate mappers
As above, but add a suitable designation=* if you can find evidence supporting it. Stress Verifiability primarily.
Experienced mappers
As above, but use JOSM presets to do it (more than one advanced editor can use presets written for JOSM). State that it can be done manually too, and present the big table, but don't necessarily encourage that approach.

I'd go so far as to present only the basic and intermediate levels next to each example picture in "Tagging Legal Status", and move all discussion of access tagging to a separate "Detailed Access" section. The rationale for this is that you need a rather complete set of tags on an object to fully represent access to England and Wales ROWs in a granular way, and new/intermediate mappers are more likely to make mistakes. Even experienced mappers will make mistakes too of course, which is why it's best to just maintain and use a good set of presets.

--achadwick 10:56, 30 April 2012 (BST)

Resolving the "Classic vs. Global tagging style" mess

We refer several times on the page to a great rift between the "classic" tagging style and a "global" tagging style. I don't think this is really a fair assessment of tagging in England and Wales (at least), and it makes for a main page which is less suitable for newcomers.

Case in point: the whole "vs." section. This in itself is off-putting to new mappers. There should be no "vs" sections in high-visibility documentation like this; instead we should offer consistent straightforward advice and avoid too much conflicting detail. Save boring historical details like h=path vs. h=footway for subpages linked in "Main article: Foo" form under the header of a summary section as Wikipedia does, or use footnotes/refs liberally. Or you know, just resolve the issue.

The least appealing facet of the current pain page to me is that I don't think there really is any rift in current UK tagging practice at all, or any controversy any more. Everyone seems to just use highway=footway or some other appropriate tag describing the rough duck-appearance or usage of a path or track; I don't think I've seen any instances of highway=path with access tags for public footpaths in the map at all. Perhaps I'm not looking in the right places though, example areas and map links would be very welcome! In any case, "classic" tagging, or classic tagging with access tags and/or designation=* seems vastly more prevalent.

So how do we resolve this mess? This is going to need effort and a rewrite rather than a repack. I'm thinking of:

  1. Blowing away all traces the whole "classic vs. global" debate.
  2. Reworking the advice given: simple advice for new mappers, extended with detailed advice for experienced mappers:
    • Just tagging as highway=footway/etc. for new mappers, or if the legal status is clear. No mention of designation.
    • As above, but add designation=<whatever>: for new mappers when the legal status is clear.
    • As above, but use the presets for new users when the legal status is clear. For intermediate mappers; gains full access tags.
    • Well, if you insist... doing precisely what the presets implement manually, i.e. add access tags in detail - for very experienced mappers only ... and they probably shouldn't due to the risk of error.
      • Possibly even hive this off to a "scary RoW details" page containing the table above.
  3. No suggestion that simple or intermediate level mappers should add access tags at all because you need to add a rather full set to mirror UK legislation accurately.
    • Keeps things simpler. Well-meaning people in the past have either tried to verbosely represent access on ordinary highway=footpaths (before the advent of vehicle=*, motor_vehicle=*, or access=designated), or flag exceptions to earlier implicit tags. You can't always tell what they were doing, and the result is typically... messy.
  4. No mention of highway=path, unless it's for worn unwaymarked trails or paved unwaymarked paths across open-access land, say. See [1].
  5. Clarify that ways lacking designation=* carry no implications of rights of way categories. You can't add a designation based only on other tags.
  6. Clarify what implications are made by the various levels, and what inferences software can draw. This probably all wants to go on a sub-page, possibly the "scary RoW details" one.
  7. Lots of friendly, good-quality images of the various signs and physical way appearances on the main page.
  8. Restrict example photos to little thumbnails if they appear in tables.
  9. References to definitions in UK legislation, via footnotes.
  10. References to definitions in Wikipedia, via footnotes.
  11. Tedious rationale footnotes on the "scary RoW details" page.

Time to write a draft replacement for the main page, I think. Would anyone be willing to review it? And please, do correct me, and correct me quickly if highway=path + access tags are used significantly for anything other than for "worn unwaymarked trails or paved unwaymarked paths across open-access land" in areas near you.

--achadwick 13:20, 17 February 2012 (UTC)

Each country should have its own sub-page

This section moved from the United Kingdom Tagging Guidelines Consultation 'talk' page.--RobJN 13:45, 30 May 2012 (BST)

(Writing up from an old list post, just wikifying my initial research into the matter. I hope it's useful. --achadwick)

Most of the text discusses English (and Welsh) rights of way. That's a huge shortcoming.

The road (and cycle track?) advice is presumably the same for NI, Scotland, England and Wales. However it is probably a good idea to split out anything which varies or adds to this core across each of the four countries into country-specific subpages. Legally speaking, the starting point for finding out what the differences might be looks to be

--achadwick 11:32, 30 April 2012 (BST)


Country page: Scotland

Road and rail (and air and sea) transport is a reserved matter, and thus not devolved to the Scottish parliament. It should be documented on the central UK page in the same place as the other jurisdictions'. Nonvehicular access to land and inland water has evidently been devolved and has separate legislation which affects how some stuff might be mapped in the form of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, so it needs its own page, or at least a short summary. Scotland has its own distinct concept of rights of way, but that's more of a historical footnote these days. Consider importing, or linking to current OSM advice re. multilingual place names.

Northern Ireland

Country page: Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland has specifically numbered trunk roads. Road and rail transport don't seem to be reserved or excepted matters. Has the NI assembly enacted anything which might affect how highways should be tagged? As for PRoWs in NI, there seem to be 3 kinds: footpaths, bridleways and carriageways[2][3][4], defined separately from their England&Wales equivalents. I'm unclear as to whether you can cycle on all of them, or only ones created in a certain way.


Country page: Wales

This mapper suspects that Wales is identical to England as far as OSM is concerned, save a quick note on bilingual signage as for Scotland, and thus can use the same set of presets for paths and the same advice for road tagging. Have there been any National Assembly measures affecting how one might map in Wales as distinct from England? I'm assuming not for now.


Country page: England

E&W's crazy patchwork access rules tend to end up as lots of wittering on about rights of way (which is irrelevant outside the two countries). It would be best to shove the rights-of-way stuff for England and Wales on a subpage with a brief summary of how deep the craziness goes on the main page. That way the main UK page stays clean and non-intimidating for new users.

England and Wales are nearly identical as far as tagging guidelines go, except for the language differences. Right now, this mapper thinks it'd be worthwhile having a single subpage combining England and Wales, since it's largely driven by jurisdiction and Wales don't yet do mappable things other than signage very much differently from England.

Summary of differences

Right now it looks like the major differences are language and precise definitions of the minor highways, namely tracks and paths. However more major highways definitions and building standards are shared, and use almost the same sorts of notations. Worth having that on a central "common stuff" page, I guess.

A new page was set up with a focus on rights of way/access provisions. This helps with separating out each countries information. See UK access provisions. --RobJN 22:26, 16 May 2012 (BST)

Rewriting this page

Hi all. Given that this page hasn't received much love for a while and the points about removing the Classic vs Alternative mess were never really addressed, I have started rewriting a draft alternative which I have aimed to make more accessible to newcomers especially. Any comments and edits on the draft would be more than welcome and hopefully we can come up with something we agree on to move here. You can find it at User:Jackdpage/UKTagging --Jackdpage (talk) 13:54, 20 September 2016 (UTC)

It looks promising. One thing that could be explained more is the geographical scope of the various advice, for instance some of the path stuff is related to right of way legislation in England and Wales but road classification is also for Scotland and Northern Ireland (but not Guernsey).--Andrew (talk) 16:17, 20 September 2016 (UTC)
It was re-written to provide a balance so that neither the "path camp" or the "footway/cycleway camp" were unhappy. Feel free to propose another re-write but as soon as you remove one of the 2 options I expect you will find somebody reverts it back (assuming anyone is even looking at the wiki now). Don't forget the talk-gb mailing list. --RobJN (talk) 14:29, 2 October 2016 (UTC)
There is so much detail on this page. Personally, I would like to see most of it moved/added to individual 'Roads in the United Kingdom', 'Cycling in the United Kingdom', etc. and the page discussing UK guidelines in general, especially as an introduction to new UK mappers.....or was the non-maintenance of those pages the problem in the first place? Jnicho02 (talk) 08:42, 10 September 2019 (UTC)
I agree with that. The number one barrier to better participation in the map is, imo, the complexity of the tagging and accompanying documentation. I'm in favour of anything that lets new users serve themselves to portion of info in amounts that won't make them ill. Eteb3 (talk) 06:01, 11 September 2019 (UTC)