[Tagging] Reference numbers for UK Public Rights of Way

Robert Whittaker (OSM) robert.whittaker+osm at gmail.com
Sun Aug 22 14:49:55 BST 2010

The official record of UK Public rights of Way (Public Footpaths,
Bridleways, Restricted Byways, and Byways Open to all Traffic) in each
UK County is maintained by the corresponding County Council. They
typically assign a number to each Right of Way (or segment thereof),
with the numbers being unique only within each Civil Parish. The
complete reference given to a given route by the County Council might
look something like this:

Bredon FP 17

where the first part is the Parish, the "FP" denotes footpath (Other
codes would be BR, RB, BY if I recall correctly) and the number is
unique within the parish (ie there's no BR 17 if there's a FP 17 in
the same parish, but there will be other 17's in different parishes).
To completely specify the path within the UK, you'd also need to
include the County name too.

Assuming the information on rights of way is available under a
suitable license, it would be good to tag the ways with the reference
numbers somehow. In particular this would aid checking for completion
and errors in other tagging attributes.

I've seen a few different ways of tagging this information, including
using the name and ref keys, and including more or less of the
information from the line above. So do people have any suggestions for
a common standard for this tagging?

* Should name=* or ref=* be used as the/a key?

* Should the whole line be in one tag, or would it be better to split
the number and parish apart for processing  and searching ease?

* Is the "FP" etc code necessary, given that the information will
(should) already be in the designation=* tag?

* Is the parish necessary, as this could be derived from the location?
(Although we don't have parish boundaries in at present.)

* Should we include the county? This is necessary for a complete
numbering system, but again could be derived (albeit painfully) from
the boundary data if required.

One option would be to have

ref=Bredon FP 17

At the other end of the scale we could have something more like


There's potentially a problem with using ref=* because of the way it's
interpreted by the renderers for road highways. It's quite possible
for a public right of way to run along a road, though much less likely
for primary, secondary, or tertiary roads. Maybe ukprow:ref=* would be

(To complicate things slightly, at least one county I know of seems to
have recently renumbered their paths using a county-wide scheme, so
the Parish no longer plays a part, and each number is unique within
the county.)

Anyway, your thoughts would be welcome.



Robert Whittaker

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