Talk:United States/Trail Access Project

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Collaborate with iD and osm-carto maintainers?

I think it might make sense to work with the maintainers of the iD and osm-carto projects once tagging standards are in place.

  • For iD, we could add presets for "Trail", "Official Trail", "Social Trail", and "Closed Trail". These presets would set the relevant access=* and informal=* tags, and would prompt the user for other important information like operator=*.
  • For Carto, we could introduce different renderings for official trails and social trails. Trails with access=no are already rendered in grey (other trails are rendered in colors depending on what modes of transport are allowed on them). I don't believe there's any visual distinction based on the informal=* or operator=* tags though, and perhaps we could add one.

The iD presets would help mappers learn about appropriate ways to tag trails. I know that when I was getting started I learned a lot about what tags are useful in combination with other tags based on the iD presets (for example, I recall first learning about the intermittent=* on the Stream preset). If trail presets suggested to mappers that access=*, informal=*, and operator=* were useful things to add to trails, I bet a lot more people would start including those tags when mapping trails.

I think that having different top-level presets for different kinds of trails (rather than just one Trail preset with different options shown inside it) would help emphasize that the distinctions between different types of trails are important, and mappers should consider them. One analogue that exists today is the Marked Crossing and Unmarked Crossing pair of presets: they help emphasize to mappers that whether or not a crossing is marked is important information that they should include when they're mapping one.

The Carto changes would help mappers see the impact of their work when tagging trails with access information. I think it's a common and natural tendency for mappers to want to see the results of their edits on the map (and even to think that they've done something wrong if they don't see any difference in the Carto tiles after editing). What I think we should not do (not that anyone is proposing this, as far as I know) is to hide social trails or closed trails on the Carto tiles. Most people aren't using Carto in the backcountry, but they are using it to verify that their edits have been successful. Hiding social/closed trails in Carto would encourage mappers to mis-tag these trails as official ones just to get them to render the way they want them to.

A good time to take these steps might be after we've agreed on a set of tagging conventions, but before we start recruiting volunteers for a nationwide tagging campaign to apply the new conventions to existing trails. That way mappers who are interested in helping out in this area will have good tools for making these sorts of edits and for seeing the results.

Jake Low (talk) 02:07, 14 October 2021 (UTC)

All good ideas, Jake. In case you aren't aware, osm-carto is a very difficult project to collaborate with to due to lack of consensus among the maintainers, and the world-wide, cross-cultural target of the style. See this open issue to mark forbidden paths/highways more clearly. Anyway, we shouldn't count on changes happening there any time soon. The iD project may be easier to collaborate with. It was without any maintainers for some time, but now has one interim maintainer at least. Tagging presets are handled in the id-tagging-schema repository.
The good news is that (as you say) "Most people aren't using Carto in the backcountry". So focusing on the most popular OSM based hiking maps will be a better use of our time initially. -- Ezekielf (talk) 13:13, 14 October 2021 (UTC)
I linked Organic Maps issue. Note that there is no mention here about impact on safety and damaging natural areas caused by hiding this critical info Mateusz Konieczny (talk) 15:56, 23 August 2022 (UTC)

Recommend owners provide authoritative geo data

Ideally, there would be up-to-date geographic information for OSM mappers to refer to when mapping. For large landholders, like NPS, USFS etc it would be most helpful if these could be turned into backgrounds like the Tiger data that could be used in ID and JOSM.

SAC Scale probably not so often a good fit

Please do not recommend to set sac_scale=* on informal paths. SAC scale is a hint for people planning tours, so they can do some calculations upfront, especially on suitability, equipment, and not the least duration. Informal paths, where there is no one in charge of maintenance, may quickly get out of spec. Additionally, it may prove contrary to what you long for: Some people may seek out sac_scale graded paths for the challenges they pose. Also, hiking apps show them more prominently than ungraded ones, which might not be, what you wish for. If you do set the tag, please be as accurate as you can: No exaggerations for the mere sake of deterrence or routing software avoidance, this will instil a false sense of ability in the public. --Hungerburg (talk) 19:47, 3 January 2022 (UTC)

sac_scale=* is useful regardless of the path being formal or informal, if I'm planning a route I'd like to know about demanding sections which require hands or are very exposed to the cliff edge. What do you mean by "get out of spec"? --Aharvey (talk) 03:40, 11 January 2022 (UTC)
Informal paths (for example, shortcuts on hiking trails, stray paths in the forests or such, that people create to walk their dog or walk their souls) in my opinion must not be SAC Scale graded. The local alpine clubs or tourism offices, that grade the trails they maintain, take great care, so the paths stay in a state, that aligns with the grading. For Informal paths, by definition there is nobody there to exercise that care. If you plan a journey there, you just do not have the right to expect a certain condition. If would be wrong to advertise such. There may be other tags, hazard=* perhaps? --Hungerburg (talk) 21:28, 11 January 2022 (UTC)
If the sac_scale=* is only for use on trails with an officially assigned SAC scale grade then fair enough, but in practice sac_scale=* is used on trails without any official SAC scale grade as as assessment of the current on the ground suitability of the trail for different levels of preparedness, skill and walker condition regardless if the trail is maintained or not. The same way you can tag surface=* regardless if it's a natural surface or man made and regardless of it being actively maintained or not. Rarely have I seen a track been changed to go to a higher sac_scale, but sometimes with serious track works it could come down. My rule of thumb is if I need to use my hands on the trail then it's sac_scale=demanding_mountain_hiking. --Aharvey (talk) 00:53, 12 January 2022 (UTC)
I do not have much of a problem with ungraded paths. If I venture into informal grounds, I see that as taking a risk. Perhaps I am not the typical user of a tourist agency. Only recently, I coined the term osmonaut for myself on some of my wanderings. Going out, looking on the ground, which paths in openstreetmap are missing, which ones are justified, and which ones simply are not there.
Apparently, there are "social trails" that are so widely used, they took on a life of their own, and in fact are maintained: Not by some club or office or the land managers, but by the hikers themselves. In my area, the public is legally allowed to e.g. cut branches from trees, where they hinder use of existing paths, even in places, where they are not allowed to create new paths. This stretches the meaning of informal, as documented in the openstreetmap Wiki. I am not sure, whether these still qualify as "informal" at all. Personally, I tagged a very limited number of those with an sac_scale attribute, if I considered them well trodden, showing signs of maintenance, worthwhile a hike and creating a nice connection in the official trails network, even where there are no guideposts or trail blazes.
To not get too much off-topic: With my "caveat" above, I mostly just wanted to point out, that using SAC Scale as a deterrent might run contrary to the goals stated in the fine article.
PS: If you need your hands in order to advance, that would make the trail alpine_hiking, not just demanding_mountain_hiking. --Hungerburg (talk) 21:02, 12 January 2022 (UTC)
Using `alpine_hiking` in the desert just seems wrong, that's why no matter how technical the trail is and if it requires you to pull yourself up a steep near vertical rock face with a rope (though not rock climbing since it's only a short distance) the maximum I can tag is `demanding_mountain_hiking`. --Aharvey (talk) 01:12, 20 January 2022 (UTC)
Just wanted to thank everyone for the thoughtful input above. I personally agree that there are problems with applying sac_scale=* to trails in the U.S. where no club or agency has given an official difficulty rating. I think mappers in the U.S. are drawn to inventing a SAC rating for trails when those trails are noteworthy in their difficulty, because it feels like something that ought to be tagged somehow, and SAC scale seems to be the only established option (I'm guilty of using it this way myself, despite my misgivings). But the SAC scale was developed for use in the Alps, and the official descriptions of the levels T1-T6 reference specific alpine features like glacier travel. Without consensus in the OSM community on how to interpret and use these ratings in other environments, any use of these tags elsewhere is bound to be subjective. I don't know what the right solution to this is, but I hope that as a community we can come up with standards for tagging trail difficulty that are applicable worldwide, since I think this will benefit both mappers and data consumers. — Jake Low (talk) 23:55, 29 January 2022 (UTC)

Suggest foot=designated on official hiking trails

Suggested tagging for official hiking trails should include foot=designated to indicate that the path is specifically designated for access by foot. --Aharvey (talk) 03:24, 11 January 2022 (UTC)

Plus additional tagging when necessary to show that bicycles &/or horses are allowed on that trail --Fizzie41 (talk) 23:17, 25 January 2022 (UTC)
Thanks Aharvey, I think that's a great suggestion and I've added a note about that to the suggested tagging table. — Jake Low (talk) 23:20, 29 January 2022 (UTC)

Suggestion to use stages of decay lifecycle prefix

Myself and a few others have been making use of the stages of decay lifecycle prefixes for trails which have been closed and have begun restoration. This helps still record in OSM accurately the situation on the ground but makes it clear the feature is not for active use. I would like to see this more widely adopted. --Aharvey (talk) 03:33, 11 January 2022 (UTC)

Great idea. I think the suggested tagging table was initially drafted with most of the focus on unofficial or social trails (and the types of access policies that different land managers have with regard to such trails), but I think that accurately describing official trails which have been closed (either temporarily or permanently) is also important. I've added a reference to lifecycle prefixes to the relevant row in the suggested tagging table; feel free to elaborate further if you have additional suggestions. — Jake Low (talk) 23:20, 29 January 2022 (UTC)

@Jake Low: Looks good, not sure if you saw but I used this project page is inspiration for something Australian focused Australia/Walking_Tracks. --Aharvey (talk) 09:41, 30 January 2022 (UTC)