[Tagging] [OSM-talk] Path vs footway vs cycleway vs...

Richard Fairhurst richard at systemeD.net
Sat Nov 28 13:14:54 GMT 2009

> I'm doing a lot of mapping of pedestrian and bike paths around my
> area, and am having trouble deciding when to use path, when footway,
> and when cycleway. I'm particularly troubled by the way Potlatch
> describes "path" as "unofficial path" - making it sound like an
> unpaved line of footprints carved through the grass.

highway=footway -> a path intended for pedestrian use
highway=cycleway -> a path intended for pedestrian and cycle use
highway=bridleway -> a path intended for pedestrian and horse use[1]

Useful tags you can add to modify the above:

* "access" tags such as foot or bicycle. (So highway=cycleway, foot=no 
would cover the rare case of a cycleway from which pedestrians are banned.)
* designation=whatever - for the official status of a path. (For 
example, in the UK, you might have highway=bridleway, 
* surface=tarmac | grass | dirt | gravel | whatever

highway=path is an invention of the wikifiddlers and not needed in 99% 
of cases. The one case that isn't adequately covered by the above is 
what some people call "pathways of desire" - informal shortcuts that 
were never really laid out as a footpath. Like you say, an unpaved line 
of footprints carved through the grass.


> 1) In the parks near me, there are lots of paths, which I guess were
> probably intended for pedestrians, but cyclists use them too.

highway=footway. You could add cycle=yes if bikes are permitted to use 
them; or upgrade to highway=cycleway if they have the width/surface etc. 
that characterises a cycleway.

> 2) Multi-use paths, like in new housing developments. Usually paved,
> and connecting streets together.


> 3) Genuine multi-use paths along the sides of creeks or freeways.
> Frequently with a dotted line down the middle. Most people think of
> them as bike paths, but plenty of pedestrians use them too.

highway=cycleway. If there's a dotted line you could add segregated=yes.

> 4) In Albert Park (home of the grand prix) near me, there are lots of
> sealed paths that are wide enough for a car. They're normally blocked
> off, and used mainly by contractors before and after the grand prix.
> The rest of the time, they're used by pedestrians and cyclists. I had
> marked them "highway=unclassified" but now I think "highway=track
> surface=paved" would be better?

Without knowing the exact place, probably something like:
highway=service, access=private, bicycle=permissive, foot=permissive

> 5) Non-existent paths, but places where access is possible. For
> example, a bike path passes close to the end of a cul-de-sac. There's
> no actual paved or dirt path, but a cyclist could easily cross a metre
> or two of grass (possibly dismounting). It seems crucial for routing
> to make connections here. So I've been adding "highway=path". Is there
> a better tag?

highway=path is well-suited for this.

> 6) Places where a bike is probably permissible, but most people
> wouldn't ride. (But I would :)) I'm not sure where the division of
> responsibility for correctly handling bike routing lies, between the
> OSM data, and the routing software. Is there any software smart enough
> to give options like "how far are you willing to push the bike" or
> "are you willing to cut across grass?" etc.

cyclestreets.net is an OSM-based routing site with an option for pushing 
your bike, so yes, there is.

> 7) Big open concrete spaces that are eminently navigable by
> pedestrians and cyclists, but aren't exactly pedestrian malls.

I have no idea about landuse types so will leave this to others!

All IMO, of course. I've cross-posted this to the tagging@ list which is 
better suited for this kind of discussion.


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