[Tagging] Feature Proposal - RFC - bike safety

Richard Fairhurst richard at systemed.net
Wed Sep 28 20:47:25 BST 2011

Toby Murray wrote:
> The argument that more hard-core riders can't judge the 
> bicycle friendliness of a road is ridiculous. Any bicycle 
> friendliness tags will obviously be targeted at average 
> commuting cyclists.

It might seem "obvious" to you, but something else seems "obvious" to me!
And that's the rub.

The issue isn't that "hard-core riders" are unable to see things from the
point of view of "average commuting cyclists". It's that no two people, no
matter their level of expertise, agree on what is friendly.

Here in the UK, the debate is polarised between those who believe "roads are
naturally bike-friendly" (traditionally the CTC, many local cycle campaigns,
commentators such as John Franklin) and those who believe "roads are not
naturally bike-friendly and targeted infrastructure is needed" (Sustrans,
some newer local cycle campaigns, the Cycle Embassy of Great Britain).

There is absolutely no way you are going to get the two to agree on which
road is bike-friendly and which isn't, nor on the criteria for how
bike-friendliness is measured. FWIW, I'm very much of the second opinion,
and I know a mapper 15 miles down the road who's very much of the first: so
I can't see how it would work on OSM within my locality, let alone globally.

(I'm not even sure how you define "average commuting cyclist". I'm faster
uphill than my wife, and slower than her on the flat. Which of us is
average? Do you tag a road with a steepish gradient for me, or for her?)

> The fact that *I* ride along a road regularly in padded 
> lycra shorts

I'm a pretty hard-core cyclist. I've never worn lycra in my life. Like I
say, no two cyclists have the same opinions. :)

> And yes, it would be nice to have every minute detail of a road 
> tagged in OSM. But let's be realistic here.

Objective tagging does not have to be user-hostile. Quite the opposite.

Firstly, objective facts are much easier to record. Take Wikipedia. The
learning curve for Wikipedia is incredibly steep, because you have so much
knowledge to learn before you can make a significant contribution - so many
rules (the "WP:ABCD" type of thing), so many templates, so much markup.

By contrast, simple OSM tagging requires much less prior knowledge. You want
to tag a 30kph limit, you just click the way and enter "30" into the "speed
limit" box. It's a simple objective fact. You don't have to read up on
policies and guidelines before tagging. Obscure multi-factor scales don't
work like that: you have to read up on the criteria, then do a whole bunch
of thinking as to what value the way merits, then someone else disagrees
with your reasoning, tags it differently, and you end up with an edit war.
Sounds like Wikipedia? It does to me.

Secondly, you can structure the tags in easily comprehensible ways.
"Vehicles per day" is a really difficult number to get a handle on. A
"traffic=1500vpd" tag is never going to catch on, unless by import. But
"vehicles per minute" is much simpler. Anyone can say whether, on average,
there's more or less than one car per minute outside their front door. But
it's just as useful - it so happens that 1 vehicle per minute actually
equates to a very commonly used measure of road quietness anyway... :)

And thirdly, editors can and do abstract away a lot of the burden of
tagging. One of the things I've noticed with Potlatch 2 is that,
increasingly, people on help.osm.org say "I want to tag a <random obscure
thing>"; someone replies with "use the tag thing=obscure"; and the original
questioner comes back saying "er, how do I do that?". The Advanced panel is
unknown to new users, and that's absolutely how it should be; because we've
made it easy to tag the majority of things.

Saying "users can't cope with adding all these details" rather assumes that
the OSM community isn't smart enough to build tools to make it easy, and I
can assure you we are.


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