[Tagging] Proposed definition for cycleways

Lauri Kytömaa lkytomaa at cc.hut.fi
Wed Jan 6 14:26:21 GMT 2010

Anthony wrote:
> highway=cycleway means highway=path, bicycle=designated.
> bicycle=designated means bicycles are explicitly allowed (generally, by
> signage)
> highway=footway means highway=path, foot=designated

For all practical purposes, yes.

But to be exact, the meanings were defined only in the other direction:

a path with bicycle=designated can be considered equal to a cycleway
a path with foot=designated can be considered equal to a highway=footway

Since the older tags cycleway and footway were UK based, they (presumably) 
often had corresponding signs and knew well enough their surroundings
to choose between the two when there wasn't any sign present.

highway=cycleway tells nothing more than "it is signposted as a way for
cycling, or it is similar in construction to such ways nearby _and_
cycling is legal." Nothing of "bicycles are more welcome than

highway=footway tells nothing more than "I may and can(*) walk there,
either it's signposted so or otherwise legal".

For drawing the map these were and are sufficient, given the knowledge
of default access restrictions and the guideline to "tag the highest
traffic category allowed, since if you can cycle on it, you can walk on
it, too" - except for the "bicycles only" ways.

*) Say, outside the city, I'm allowed to walk across the bogs (and it's
even open and level ground) but that doesn't make them a footway +
area=yes. Unsigned ways are either constructed for traffic, or wear
induced, which seems easy to spot and a suitable criteria when there's
no signage.

Just as a highway=path without any other tags tell nothing more than
"way where motor vehicles aren't allowed" but leaves everything else
to additional tags. With any =designated, a path turns into a something
descriptive ("Ah, it's for snowmobiles/bicycles").

When refining the definitions, I find that, given similar construction/ 
physical characteristics, a signposted shared use path (bikes and pedestrians 
"must use") is not significantly different from a light traffic way without any 
signs or with a "no motor vehicles" sign (both implying, at least in some 
countries, "bikes and pedestrians allowed"), to warrant being a distinct 
highway type.

All of them benefit from additional tags, most notably wheelchair=no,
surface=paved/unpaved/grass/mud ...

The rendering of original highway=cycleway should have been altered
before introducing highway=path, altered in a way to distinguish those
tagged additionally with a foot=no from all the others. But I guess no
one proposed that, nor did anyone mention that in the talk list, trac,
or in the wiki.

But all the points have been somewhat summarised here already:


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