[Tagging] Proposed definition for cycleways (was Re: bicycle=no)

Alex Mauer hawke at hawkesnest.net
Mon Jan 4 17:14:47 GMT 2010

On 01/04/2010 06:42 AM, Steve Bennett wrote:
> On Wed, Dec 23, 2009 at 7:17 AM, Roy Wallace <waldo000000-Re5JQEeQqe8AvxtiuMwx3w at public.gmane.org> wrote:
>> Err no. "highway=cycleway indicates that the used way is mainly or
>> exclusively for bicycles"; "the route is designated for bicycles"
>> (http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Tag:highway%3Dcycleway)
> After much thought, I think I've finally decided that the definition I would
> like for cycleway would be something like "the way is especially well suited
> to use by bicycles". Forget what it was designed for, 

The definition given above doesn’t say anything about what it’s designed
for.  Designated is not the same as designed.

> forget who it's used
> by, all that matters is whether it is an efficient means for a bike to get a
> reasonable distance and cannot be used by cars.

Cannot be used legally, or physically?  Around here (Wisconsin, US) most
designated bike paths are easily wide enough to allow a car to go on
them.  It is illegal, however.

> So, a footpath is not a cycleway, because it's not "especially well suited"
> - it's only as well suited as your average footpath, by definition.
> Things that make a cycleway well suited:
> - good surface: smooth asphalt is better than compacted gravel
> - smoothness: few bumps such as tree roots or kerbs
> - gentle curves: few sharp turns
> - signs or legislation giving priority to bicycles
> - navigability: signs allowing a cyclist to follow the route for many
> kilometres
> A cycleway doesn't have to have all the above, but it should have most. We
> can perhaps argue about the minimum standard.

Your criteria for a “well-suited” cycle way are inapplicable to many
cycleways.  One big example is mountain bike trails, which fail nearly
all of them: good surface, smoothness, gentle curves, signs giving
priority to bicycles, and possibly navigability.  Yet they are cycleways
nonetheless.  I realize that you said that a cycleway wouldn’t need to
meet all of the criteria, but this is a pretty bad mismatch.

They are also so loose that nearly all paths would end up being
classified as cycleway.  Certainly “your average footpath” meets them.
If all but a few footways are classified as cycleways, it makes the
distinction between the classifications nearly useless.

> - routers should give strong preference to highway=cycleway over alternative
> roads, and some smaller preference over highway=footway.

I agree with this.

> Corollaries of the above:
> - Naming is almost irrelevant. "Foo bike path" is slightly more of a
> cycleway than "Foo trail" but not much.
> - Lack of bicycle signs or paint is not important, but counts for something.

IMO, these are important ways to distinguish between them, given that,
as you say, the physical difference are often otherwise small.

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