[Tagging] Reference numbers for UK Public Rights of Way

Ben Laenen benlaenen at gmail.com
Sun Aug 22 18:34:53 BST 2010

This sounds a lot like what could be translated as "vicinal roads" in Belgium 
(French: "sentiers/chemins vicinaux", Dutch: "buurtwegen"). It's from an atlas 
made in the 1840's that summed up all public roads and paths in each 
municipality, and in it they also gave numbers to all public paths and roads. 
Unfortunately this atlas wasn't kept up to date (even though it should have, 
as the atlas and the law that came with it is still valid today, e.g. farmers 
can be forced to reopen a path on their field if it's in the atlas), so most 
streets built since then never got a number, and many streets or paths from 
the atlas have disappeared since.

Anyway, since it's still valid today and because you can see traces of these 
numbers (sometimes the street sign just says "voetweg 35" (footway 35)), and 
some municipalities even have special signs with these numbers, and because 
they can be referred to in official decrees, it has some value to be tagged.

The tagging scheme I chose was: "vicinal_ref" for the number, and 
"vicinal_type" for telling whether it is designated as a path or a road. Using 
"ref" is a bad idea IMHO, because often the roads with road numbers we tag 
with "ref" also have this vicinal ref.


Robert Whittaker (OSM) wrote:
> 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
> highway=*
> designation=public_footpath
> ref=Bredon FP 17
> At the other end of the scale we could have something more like
> highway=*
> designation=public_footpath
> county=Worcestershire
> parish=Bredon
> ref=17
> 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
> better?
> (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.
> Thanks,
> Robert.

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