WikiProject Belgium/Conventions/Slowroads

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Trage wegen (tagging proposal)
Status: Draft (under way)
Proposed by: talk-be
Tagging: highway=*

Drafted on: 2016-01-28

Trage wegen / Voies lentes / Slow ways DRAFT

A slow road in Belgium that is a part of a GR (Grote Routepad), aka. Long distance walking trail

This page aims to aggregate the current conventions and uses of the Key:path, Key:track and document additional tagging, concerning local paths/tracks in Belgium.

This is still a draft page, created to help clarify open issues mentioned in this mailing list thread [1]


In recent years, the term "trage wegen / voies lentes" (literally "slow ways") is increasingly mobilized as a policy item in Belgium. Slow ways are commonly understood to be public roads intended for non-motorized use. As such, they encompass tracks of all widths, sightlines and surface, both rural and urban. People use slow paths for a multitude of activities; walking being the most straightforward (both for utility reasons and leisure). Other activities associated with slow paths include cycling, mountain biking, horse-riding, jogging en running, carriage driving, roller blading, nature study, play, etc.

Vicinal roads and the Atlas of Vicinal Roads / Atlas der buurtwegen / Atlas des chemins vicinaux

File:Atlas of Vicinal Roads stored in a shelf.jpg
Nowadays, the atlasses are archived after being scanned and georeferenced.

Quite of lot of these slow ways are "vicinal roads", an extensive network of pathways and country roads, tiny alleys and shortcuts in Belgium. Grown organically as the shortest routes between origins and destinations, slow ways have remained inscribed into Belgiums' vernacular landscapes for centuries. Many of today's existing slow ways reveal a century-old usage and are the remnants of these ancient desire lines. In order to formalize the road network of the newly formed state of Belgium, a vast cartographic operation was carried out in the period 1841-1845. Publicly used footways and cart tracks were mapped. This comprehensive mapping effort resulted into a nation-wide "Atlas of Vicinal Roads" / "Atlas der buurtwegen" / "Atlas des chemins vicinaux". Each local community in Belgium (except from the German speaking municipalities, which were no Belgian territory at the time of the making of the Atlas) possesses a physical extract of the Atlas, covering the total territory under their authority and jurisdiction. Still today, these somewhat worn out map sheets can be freely consulted in every town or city hall in Belgium. SInce a few years, all the Atlasses in Flanders have been scanned and are available on the internet. The use of the Atlas of Vicinal Roads as a mapping source is filed under "open data".

Legal reference, public right of way

The Atlas of Vicinal Roads continues to stand as a key legal reference document for the protection or rehabilitation of slow ways today in Belgium. A public right of way is imposed for paths and roads within the Atlas. Many vicinal roads are also the public property of the municipalities. Most of these vicinal roads are nowadays the actual streets.

Gradual decline

However, this legal foundation has not prevented the gradual decline of the slow ways network throughout the twentieth century. The boosting of automobile traffic from the mid-twentieth century on has formed a lasting pressure on slow ways development. Car culture in general decreased the use of footpaths and cycleways. Many ancient pathways were surfaced to cater for motor vehicles and the remaining tracks for non-motorized use became split up or obstructed by motorways, as well as by other modern, linear infrastructure elements (canals, motorways, railways, etc.). Formerly functional loops or connections got cut off, accelerating their dereliction. The traditional net of pathways in Belgium further thinned out due to the intensifying and scaling up of agricultural land-use and to a sprawlling urbanization, combined with a permissive planning system. For decades, local authorities neglecting the maintenance of their public slow ways infrastructure were all but an exception. Many slow paths got out of use, privatized, fenced off, ploughed in, blocked, neglected, abandoned ... or simply forgotten. As a result, the web of slow paths existing today only represents a tiny share of the potential network.

What to map / what not to map

Openstreetmap generally only maps things that are verifiable on the ground by non-specialists. There are some exceptions, for example administrative boundaries. However, these need a strong motivation. See Map Features and Good practice for more examples.

Trails can be something of an exception too. For example, a hiking route might contain a section where you cross a meadow, without there being any visible marks on the ground. But normally, something like the simple fact that it is possible to cross a forest does not get added to Openstreetmap.

When mapping slow roads, the Atlas of Vicinal Roads is sometimes used as a source. Keep in mind that some of these trails only exist from a juridical point of view. Most Openstreetmappers would say that these do not belong in Openstreetmap. However, if a trail from the Atlas of Vicinal Roads is clearly visible in reality, it does have a place on the map. It might be useful to add extra tags indicating how difficult it is to use the trail. See Slow roads/Useful tags for more info.

In practice however, this means you actually need to get out there and verify the situation on the ground - you can't just map things because they are in the Atlas of Vicinal Roads. Openstreetmap does not intend to collect as much information as possible. It strives to get as much verified information as possible. Sometimes external information sources can provide that, but sometimes they don't.

Since the start of the corona crisis, the Belgian OpenStreetMap chapter started recieving many complaints about paths mapped in OpenStreetMap that according to the complainy are illegal to use. We also often spot new contributors simply deleting these paths. The core policy of OpenStreetMap is that what is verifiable on the ground always comes first. If a path is visible on terrain, it can be mapped. The fact that it is not allowed to use it, is an attribute of a path - not a reason for deletion. Unfortunately, since we do not map for the render, that means that some maps will show these paths without making it very clear to the user that they should not use them. The Belgian chapter actively engages data users to improve their practices.

Deciding what to map

Laarzenpad Stipstappenpad Hoogstraten: this path is accessible all year round, but not always visible. Verification in the field is necessary.

Since it's hard to understand what to use depending on all the information you have, we will describe some typical consideration and observations you make in order to determine the correct tags and/or if it even belongs in OSM.


  • visible and accessible year-round: in OSM
  • invisible and totally inaccessible (e.g. going through building): not in OSM


It gets a bit more tricky in the border cases

  • visible and inaccessible (e.g. due to fence): in OSM, with access=no or whatever is appropriate and mapping the barriers.
  • sometimes visible and year-round accessible: in OSM, with detailed trail_visibility=no for those stretches that are not visible.
  • visible and sometimes accessible (due to fences): in OSM and lots of fun with the access tags
  • visible and sometimes accessible (due to vegetation): in OSM, with detailed trail_visibility=bad for those stretches that are likely to be inaccessible due to vegetation. Is there by now a seasonal tag that can be used?
  • invisible and year-round accessible: this is probably the most controversial one. Consensus is that there should be some sort of local verifiability before mapping them. For example a signpost or a waymarked path using the section.
  • year-round invisible and year-round inaccessible (e.g. due to fence): not in OSM (motivation: "we map what's there, this isn't a thing"). Of course, if you can get the reality to change, you can map this new reality.

If a path has been mapped before, and you feel it does not exist anymore, it is recommended to retag it using the lifecycle prefixes. This makes it disappear for almost any data user, but keeps the history of the object easily visible for other mappers.

Physical appearance determines tagging

Attention, we try to establish an uniform way for tagging slow ways in Belgium. Therefore, a topographic approach is handled: a path is a small way, a track is generally wider and often combined with service or agricultural traffic. We pledge to pay attention: people make a difference between track/path, but often it's the same thing, or the other way around. See highway=track, but highway=path might be useful too.

Animal trails

Some trails are made by animals, by making the same trip again and again. We usually do not map them, unless they can be used by humans. In that case, just tag it as a normal highway=*. if you're really sure it is an animal trail, add animal_trail=yes.

In most cases, these paths are not suitable for humans. They might change a lot, they often have dead ends, you're not allowed to use them. For example, think of vague trails within nature reserves, made by resident cattle. Often these should not be used by humans. To avoid them getting mapped as a "real" paths, just map them as not:highway=path + animal_trail=yes . This is of course only possible when you have extensive terrain knowledge.

General information

There are different customs, rules and signs in use in Belgium. Tagging them has been varying. We have to devise a standard way in tagging our unique needs. Keep in mind the implicit tags these different Key:highway types have. User Eimai wrote a nice overview of tagging conventions in Belgium [2], including relevant traffic signs.

Standard tagging

  • highway=path This is the default tag. However, there are other options too. This section intends to help you choose the main tag of the way you're editing. This is the most important tag you'll add. Without this, your way will be useless to data users.

In the case of footpaths and cycleways that are not independent of a normal traffic road, they might be mapped as a tag of this road. This page is focused towards independent slow roads.

Type Comment

Generally unpaved roads with traces of motor traffic or accessible to motor traffic. Usually associated with agriculture or forestry. Unpaved roads can be something else than a track, if they are important enough. For example if they are the main access road to some houses. Some people would argue that paved roads can be tracks, for example if they are quite small and only accesible to agricultural vehicles.


All paths which are not passable by agriculture or similar vehicles|| Including streets 'designed' for vehicles but where access is restricted to pedestrians


Paths designated for cyclists. In Belgium, that means there's a blue sign with a bicycle. Other users, like pedestrians, might be allowed too. More details about cycleways here [3]


Paths 'designed' for pedestrians where vehicles have no access.

pedestrian Roads designated for pedestrians. Usually traffic free zones in city centers, like shopping streets. Bicycles and motor vehicles might be allowed too, often conditionally.
File:Descriptive table of the Atlas of Vicinal Roads.jpg
Descriptive annexed table of the Atlas of Vicinal Roads of Oordegem, Lede


  • name=name of slow way This is the official name. Preferably, this name appears on a name plaque at the start/end of the road. But a lot of public footpaths that are listed in the Atlas of Vicinal Roads have an official name. The name can be found in that case in the annexed tables to the Atlas of Vicinal Roads.

If no name is found, do not just include descriptions like "Path to the Church" here.

Sometimes the only available name is the number given in the Atlas of Vicinal Roads. There is some discussion as to whether and when to include these names. If you find a signplate "Voetweg 10", you can argue that it is the official name.

Often, the name in the Atlas of Vicinal Roads has been replaced by a new official name. Most of the time, it is only about spelling, bus sometimes there is a new name. The old name in the atlas can still be put under this tag.

File:Zoom of the annexed descriptive table of the Atlas of Vicinal Roads.jpg
Zoom of the annexed descriptive table of the Atlas of Vicinal Roads of Lede, Oordegem. Sentier nr. 12 is the Hazaertweg.
(fragment of a) Detail plan of the Atlas of Vicinal Roads- vicinal_ref="sentier 117" / vicinal_ref="chemin 12".


  • vicinal_ref="Vicinal road 123" This is reference found on the plans in Atlas of municipal roads, or also on street signs. This tag can be combined with the nametag to be rendered on Belgian tile layers. Eg. 'Voetweg 44', 'Sentier 66 bis', 'Chemin 87', 'Pad 42', 'Baan 105' are all possible situations.
  • official_vicinal_ref=XXX_123_1 This is the official ref number. XXX stands for the "Atlas municipality", 123 for the number of the road in the Atlas of Vicinal Roads and the last number is by default 1. If the road in the atlas is, eg. Sentier 123 in Wolvertem (Meise), the ref nr. will be = WOL_123_1. If it is Sentier 123 bis, use WOL_123_2, and so on. Not every slow way is a vicinal road. Not every vicinal road is slow, so this tag can also apply on other Key:highway in Belgium.
  • vicinal_type=path We use path when the way on the atlas appears as a sentier, as a voetweg, voetpad or pad. (The terms differ from atlas to atlas) Attention: what was once a smal sentier (footpath) of 1 m width can now be a field track of more than 4 meters.
  • vicinal_type=road We use road when the way on the atlas appears as a chemin, as a weg, rijweg or baan. (The terms differ from atlas to atlas) Attention: what was once a field road of more than 6 meters can now be a tiny footpath of merely 1 m width.

Do not use ref=1234 for this information. This is used for roads, like ref=N60 or ref=E40. The problem is that references to the Atlas are not in the same government systems as the main roads. That might result in a query for the E40 resulting in both a freeway and a footpath.

Legal designation

Slow roads might have a specific legal designation (a 'statute'). We use the designation tag for it.

In Brussels there are 3 possible designation values.

  • designation=vicinal_road The road appears in the Atlas of Vicinal Roads or in its modifiyng documents.
  • designation=communal_road_ss The road is property of the municipality AND it is destinied for public use AND it does not appear in the Atlas of Vicinal Roads.
  • designation=right_of_way_ss The road is a public right of way, but does not show up in the Atlas of Vicinal Roads. One should clarify this value by citing a source through a source:designation=http://... tag. A source for this category is most likely a link to a ruling conceding the public right of way.

In Wallonia and Flanders, you only have one value:

  • designation=communal_road The road appears classifies under the Decree of Communal Roads, that integrates all former legal categories. However, since the Atlas of Vicinal Roads has not (yet) been abolished, the reference-tags might still stand for Wallonia and Flanders as well. Replacing the atlasses will be a task for the Wallonian municipalities, it is not expected yet. In Flanders, the atlasses will not be replaced, individual roads might be modified or abandoned.


Not all trails are clearly visible. A path might be overgrown or plowed away. But later in the season, it might still re-appear.

One could use trail_visibility=bad or even trail_visibility=no for it.

Physical accessibility

Some tags are in use to indicate if a path is accessible in a wheelchair. These are used most of all by the Wheelmap project.


All these can be improved probably. < please suggest edits for those track, not all tags make sense >

More examples via overpass

Using a broad overpass query, we can check for more slow ways, tagged highway=path, highway=track or highway=footway. It's possible you will encounter ways that need corrections.

Different kinds of tracks/paths

The first big question as always, do I have to use highway=path, highway=track or even highway=footway ?

When to use path

For narrow roads (in general, narrower than 1,75 m, no car can pass). When there is evidence that it is a public footpath (Atlas of Vicinal Roads of signposted), preferably highway=path should be used, together with the proper designation=vicinal_road

When to use footway

For narrow roads (in general, narrower than 1,75 m, no car can pass) that are clearly built for pedestrian use.

When to use track

For wider roads (in general, wider than 1,75 m, so a car can pass).


See below for tag values for 'tracktype':

Key Value Element Comment Rendering Photo
tracktype grade1 way Solid.
Usually a paved or sealed surface. See  Sealed road.
Cesta od Leštiny do Lipnice nad Sázavou (2).jpg
tracktype grade2 way Solid but unpaved.
Usually an unpaved track with surface of gravel. See  Gravel road.
Tracktype grade2.jpg
tracktype grade3 way Mostly solid.
Even mixture of hard and soft materials.
Almost always an unpaved track.
Tracktype grade3.jpg
tracktype grade4 way Mostly soft.
Almost always an unpaved track prominently with soil/sand/grass, but with some hard or compacted materials mixed in.
tracktype grade5 way Soft.
Almost always an unimproved track lacking hard materials, same as surrounding soil.
Tracktype grade5.jpg
tracktype <no value> way If no tracktype tag is present, the track is rendered with a dot-dash line style (as shown right).
Photo not applicable

This table is a wiki template with a default description in English. Editable here.


In a lot of changesets, you will discover that the mapper did more than just map the slow road. When surveying an area, you have more information at your disposal which you could introduce in OSM. Things like barrier=* could easily be encountered on a hiking trip. Make sure to tag them in a consistent way.

Linear barriers

LOADING TAG LIST... (If you do not see this tag list, you need to enable Javascript)

This table is auto-generated. See Taginfo/Taglists for a documentation on it. This table is a wiki template with a default description in English. Editable here.

Access control on highways

LOADING TAG LIST... (If you do not see this tag list, you need to enable Javascript)

This table is auto-generated. See Taginfo/Taglists for a documentation on it. This table is a wiki template with a default description in English. Editable here.


For barrier=fence you can go into detail using fence types:

Fence type

Describes the properties of a fence.

Value Comment Photo
barbed_wire Barbed wire fence. A type of fencing wire constructed with sharp edges or points arranged at intervals along the strands. Razor Wire Bunch.JPG
bars A fence made of (usually metal) bars. Metal Fence (27820851).jpg
chain You are encouraged to no longer use this tag as the former definition was confusing. Instead use barrier=chain or barrier=fence + fence_type=chain_link.
chain_link A chain-link fence (also referred to as wire netting, wire-mesh fence, chain-wire fence, cyclone fence, hurricane fence or diamond-mesh fence) is a type of woven fence usually made from galvanized or polyethylene-coated steel wire. Chain-link.jpg
concrete A fence made of blocks or special geometry concrete, it maybe opaque or hollow.
Consider using material=concrete instead
Seeboden Kraut Rumpler 2012 a.jpg Waziers - Presbytères français et polonais de l'église Notre-Dame des Mineurs de Waziers (32).JPG
corrugated_metal Light steel sheets with linear corrugated pattern (wavy, trapezoidal, etc). Забор из профнастила.jpg
electric Electric fence. A barrier that uses electric shocks to deter animals or people from crossing a boundary. XN Electrical insulation Electric fence 00.jpg
metal A fence mainly made of metal. This is a broad definition. Maybe in conflict with 'railing'
Consider using material=metal instead
Alexander Garden Gates2.JPG
pole A fence mainly made of simple poles. Zaun Freilichtmuseum Salzburg 02.JPG
railing A railing for example at the edge of a bridge to prevent persons or vehicles from falling down. Often made of metal or wood. Guildford, Curling Vale - - 704434.jpg
roundpole A roundpole fence is a wooden fence typical of Finland, Sweden, Norway and Estonia. It is normally made from unbarked and unsplit youngish trees. Wooden pole fence.JPG
split_rail Split-rail or log fence. A type of fence constructed out of timber logs, usually split lengthwise into rails. Split rail fencing.jpg
wire A fence mainly made of wire. The meanwhile electrified version of 'electric' Spike on welded wire mesh fence.jpg
wood A fence mainly made of wood. This is a broad definition, it may be logs or planks.
Consider using material=wood instead
Wooden Fence - - 1499882.jpgJägerzaun.jpg
krest Typical metalic pedestrian fence PO-1 "Krest". Used in cities of Russia for fencing around crossings. Fence PO-1 Krest. Saint Peterburg.jpg
User defined All commonly used values on Taginfo.

This table is a wiki template with a default description in English. Editable here.

External data

For a quick overview of historical maps with OSM roads overlayed, see this historical map.

Trage wegen Inventory

There is a WFS and WMS server we can use:

There's also a viewer for those who don't like to work with WMS/WFS.

Trage Wegen combined these data with modifications and historical maps >

There is no downloadable file, but adding the WFS in QGIS will trigger a full download, which you can save as a local file.

Balnam viewer

Inventory of slow roads in Wallonia, probably the best actual source >

Atlas der Buurtwegen / Atlas des chemins vicinaux /Atlas of Vicinal Roads



There is now one digital atlas for the whole of Wallonia:

  • Province du Brabant Wallon : Avenue Einstein 2 – Bâtiment Archimède à 1300 Wavre – Tél : 010/23.62.51. Ouvert au public sur rendez-vous.
  • Province du Hainaut :, provincial archive: Site du Clair-Logis, Rue St Antoine, 1 à 7021 Havré – Tél : 065/87.97.02. Ouvert au public tous les jours ouvrables de 8h00 à 12h00 et de 13h00 à 16h00.
  • Province de Liège : Rue Darchis, 33 à 4000 Liège – Tél : 04/230.48.00. Ouvert au public tous les jours ouvrables de 8h00 à 12h00 et de 14h00 à 16h00. Site :
  • Province du Luxembourg : Square Albert 1er,1 à 6700 Arlon – Tél : 063/21.22.59. Ouvert au public tous les jours ouvrables de 8h00 à 12h30 et de 14h00 à 16h30.
  • Province de Namur : Chaussée de Charleroi, 85 à 5000 Namur – Tél : 081/77.54.53. Ouvert au public tous les jours ouvrables de 8h30 à 11h30.

Brussels Capital Region

Scans are available on demand via the documentation centre of the AATL/BROH-administration of the Region. Vooruitgangstraat 80/1,1035 Brussel Tél: 02/204.24.96 Fax : 02/204.15.22

Wegverbindingen GRB

The scope of this dataset is much more limited. However, sometimes a slow road does get mapped in this data. This is open data with a compatible license.

NGI road network

This is the map of all roads and small roads in Belgium. The Flemish AGIV is using and improving the data, and will release as open data. The data contains a lot of slow roads, much more than their GRB. The quality is good enough to warrant a survey when a slow road is missing in Openstreetmap, however preliminary testing suggested that it is not good enough to just copy features.

Other Conventions pages