[HOT] Highway=residential in Africa

John Whelan jwhelan0112 at gmail.com
Tue Jun 14 22:52:55 UTC 2016

First you are using OpenStreetMap and so anything can be tagged any 
value no ifs no but about it.

Second when you view OSM you are never looking at the raw database.  You 
are looking at what a rendering system shows.  On my machine JOSM shows 
unclassified and residential in different colours.

Maperitive for example can be used to display anything in any way so how 
the roads are displayed to you is irrelevant.  Routing software may take 
into account the highway classification.

Before the African wiki was done a very wide range of inconsistent 
values where used to tag highways in Africa.  It was people working in 
HOT who struggled to come up with a more consistent way to classify 
highways and the African wiki is what they arrived at.

I think Pierre was involved and a lot of discussion including locals 
took place over the issues.  I think the final outcome was more let's 
classify the highways according to their function, ie if it leads only 
to a field its a track.  That's probably why the use of path rather than 
footway was chosen, as Suzan has mentioned motorcycles use these paths.

I don't think you are aware of why unclassified is used as a tag.  It 
goes back in time to the roots of OSM which started in the UK and 
Germany.  Ordinance Survey set up shop in the UK with the idea of 
creating maps for military use.  They classified the major highways as 
A, B, so A1 led from London North to Scotland etc.  The minor roads 
which weren't given a number were labelled quite simply unclassified and 
that's the origin.  In the UK it means a minor road and its use to mean 
the same has been widely adopted within OSM.  There are error checking 
systems that throw errors up if a residential highway does not have a 
name by the way, unclassified highways don't get flagged the same way.

There are definite advantages to using a standardised approach but it 
isn't mandatory at all, in fact its only in HOT with its tiling and 
validation system that the rules as such are followed and even then if 
the highway has been mapped outside of HOT ie before the HOT tiles I 
will leave it exactly as it has been mapped when validating.

I think you have to take into account different points of view, a dutch 
mapper mentioned to me that he would never map a dirt road as anything 
but a track in Holland, true enough but in Africa some dirt roads are 
much more important than others and so what is relevant in Holland or 
the US is not so relevant in Africa.

In OSM what the locals decide is correct is taken as gospel, and their 
views were taken into account in the wiki.  If the Peace Corp chooses to 
use OSM then I think it should abide by the very few OSM rules there 
are. You are always free to set up your own servers and create your own 
mapping database but I think you'll do better within OSM than outside 
it.  If you're interested in tagging highways that a Peace Corp van or 
car can use then car=yes is an option etc. Certainly within JOSM, with 
iD you may have to live within the limitations of the software.  If you 
do so tag the highway by the way you'll need a rendering system to show 

Again the Peace Corps may come up with its own set of instructions that 
do not follow the wiki.  Fine but remember you're working with 
volunteers and old fogies like me have got used to the wiki so we're 
quite likely to quietly drift off and map / validate other projects.

Have fun

Cheerio John

> Alex Bogedain <mailto:alex.bogedain at gmail.com>
> June 14, 2016 5:51 PM
> Hello All,
> I am one of Chad Blevins' interns, and have been one of the more vocal 
> ones about being in disagreement with the Wiki and would like to do my 
> part to rationalize out why I am thinking this way.
> In terms of the Unclassified/Tracks/Paths debate, in these rural areas 
> especially, I believe tracks should almost always win out.  I say this 
> because if these indeterminable lines pass by and connect houses/huts 
> or fields, then the road type is clearly not unclassified, as it has a 
> classification of connecting residential or agricultural areas.  
> Further, it is indistinguishable for us at a distance to determine 
> between tracks and paths because one day a family could get a 
> motorbike and start traveling what could have been considered a path 
> with a motorized vehicle, or anyone for that matter could drive down 
> the path/track on a motorbike to access the houses or fields.  From my 
> understanding, out in rural areas, especially Africa, there are no 
> controls on the modes of transportation as transportation is limited 
> to what any person is able to acquire within their means.  Going 
> forward into the future this means that the modes will be changing as 
> more families get motorbikes or 4 x 4 vehicles, thus, classifying a 
> road as a track covers all the bases for now and moving forward.  The 
> local population will be the ones to make the distinction and things 
> will change as time progresses.
> To wrap up my thoughts on this, when viewing OSM (not logged in for 
> editing) residential and unclassified roads appear the same, but 
> tracks appear differently as how unmaintained roads would appear on 
> nearly any map around the world.  In terms of the PMI and other 
> humanitarian initiatives, it would be disingenuous to classify these 
> narrow roads as unclassified as the users of the map should be ready 
> for a track, or possibly something untraversable for their vehicles.  
> If we are to map in terms of an areas actual use of roads, to my 
> understanding unclassified would not cover these types of roads and 
> would not describe them accurately at all for actual drive-ability.
> Please let me know what you guys think!
> Thank You,
> Alex Bogedain

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