[Tagging] Cycle lanes & cycle tracks - my findings and a proposal

Rob Nickerson rob.j.nickerson at gmail.com
Sat May 26 15:03:47 BST 2012

Hi All,

Sorry for the late reply after starting this thread a few days ago.

I was surprised to see how far this topic has expanded (even into OSM
should have fault lines so we can re-align after earthquakes!), so I just
want to refocus on cycling.

1. A Quick Recap
>From the countries that I have researched so far (UK, Netherlands, Germany)
there is a consistent difference between a cycle LANE (Fietsstrook,
Radfahrstreifen), and a cycle TRACK (Fietspad, Radwegen).

In all countries a cycle LANE is a area within the main roadway
(carriageway) that is allocated for cycle use. It is indicated by a painted
line on the road surface. For all purposes in OSM it can be considered as a
'lane' as there is no separation from the other lanes that form the road
and therefore nothing physically stopping a cyclist from changing to a
different lane at any point along the road. Motor vehicles may be
prohibited from using this lane (UK: "Mandatory cycle lane") or not (UK:
"Advisory", Netherlands "Fietssuggestiestrook").

Contrast this to a cycle TRACK, which is physically separate from the main
roadway. The separation may be a kerb, barrier/wall, strip of grass or just
a row of parked cars. In different countries the TRACK may be one-way or
two-way, shared with pedestrians, mandatory for cyclists, and so on.
Irrespective of all of these things is the key fact that the cycle TRACK is
physically separated and therefore the cyclist cannot simply move from the
track to the main roadway at any point / at will.

2. The cycleway=* tag
The current cycleway tag attempts to cater for both of these and as a
result it is not particularly clear for new users. I believe the fact that
renderers and routing software haven't picked up the cycleway tag with any
widespread enthusiasm is evidence that improvements can be made.

3. So what is important
For a cyclist I feel that the most important thing is "I am travelling from
A to B with my child. How _safe_ is it for cyclists? Will there be cycle
lanes and/or cycle tracks to use in the _direction_ of my travel?"

Based on this question the useful things to know are:

* Direction
* Safety

3a. Cycle LANES

By having a tag specifically for cyclelanes we can indicate both direction
and type of lane (an partial indication of safety). For example:


Exact lane positioning can then be picked up by the lanes fans (

3b. Cycle TRACKS

As these are physically separate from the other lanes of the main roadway
(and therefore a cyclist is not free to switch back and forth between cycle
track and roadway), my personal preference is to map them as a separate

Our German mappers raised the concern that cyclists must use the cycletrack
and are not allowed to use the roadway unless the cycletrack is obstructed,
for example. They have pointed out that they do not like the use of
bicycle=no on the main highway as cyclists are not legally banned from
using the road in all circumstances. Although I think they are being
hopeful that bicycle=no is only being used when it is illegal, can I
suggest bicycle=secondary, bicycle=non-primary, or bicycle=alternative for
this case (another suggestion already made is bicycle=destination)?

For cases where it is difficult to draw a separate way then consider:


Any feedback will be much appreciated, but please keep in mind the ease of
the system for new users and long-term maintainability.


p.s. In my opinion "no" is not a strong enough word to ensure that it is
only used when access is illegal/prohibited, especially when shown in
Potlatch2's drop down menu with no explanation. Much better would be
access=illegal -> please start a new thread if you would like to discuss
this :-)
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