[Tagging] surface=ground/dirt/earth

jonathan jonathan at bigfatfrog67.me
Thu Mar 13 09:34:24 UTC 2014

Here's my take from an Englishman!

While the term dirt road is used here, it is much rarer as all public 
(adopted) roads in the UK are paved in some way shape or form.  Most 
dirt roads are probably private roads, farm tracks or paths.

Now, back to the original question.  I totally agree with Fernando, 
these classifications are confusing. In English English they pretty well 
mean the same thing. We should look to rationalise them.

However, remember the surface tag is used elsewhere other than 
roads/tracks where there may be some distinction, although I can't 
imagine what the distinction may be.

In general English usage there meanings rely on context but in this 
context of describing a base surface to something I would go with dirt 
to mean a loose surface, unpaved, water permeable, degradable surface.  
Ground and earth are just too vague to be of any use.



On 13/03/2014 08:57, Dave Swarthout wrote:
> I'll weigh in with the common American conception of "dirt road". It 
> is a general term meaning unpaved. As Jaakko correctly pints out, some 
> "dirt roads" are really quite well built. For an example close to my 
> Alaska home, the long lonely road leading to the Prudhoe Bay 
> oilfields, see these images of the Dalton Highway:
> https://www.google.com/search?safe=off&site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=2133&bih=1185&q=dalton+highway+alaska&oq=dalton+highway
> In my neighborhood of Homer, Alaska, indeed in most of rural Alaska, 
> residential roads are generally unpaved. Due to the severe winter 
> conditions, paving roads in Alaska is very expensive and once paved 
> they require frequent, expensive maintenance. I tag them as 
> surface=gravel to agree with OSM definitions but in everyday 
> conversations they're called dirt roads.
> To construct such a road involves removing all the topsoil above the 
> frost line, piling truckloads of gravel base over the subsoil, putting 
> down a layer of geo-textile fabric to keep the road base stable during 
> spring "breakup", and then putting more truckloads of a specially 
> formulated mixture of clay, gravel and sand on top and grading it 
> smooth. Once the highway is open for use, this grading process is 
> repeated several times during each "summer season" as rain and traffic 
> regularly pound potholes into it. The best time to drive on these 
> roads is in winter after the first snow has hardened into a smooth 
> layer  --- no potholes, no dust, smooth running.
> As for "earth" or "ground" --- I've never encountered those terms as 
> descriptions of road surfaces. Many dirt roads in the United States 
> are not as good as those in Alaska because of the expense involved and 
> because winters are so much less severe. They are really just dirt --- 
> an unpaved track whose composition is a mix of clay and sand and 
> gravel, whatever is there to begin with plus some topping to make it 
> less slippery in rain.
> Regards,
> AlaskaDave
> On Thu, Mar 13, 2014 at 12:05 PM, Jaakko Helleranta.com 
> <jaakko at helleranta.com <mailto:jaakko at helleranta.com>> wrote:
>     My (non-native) English understanding / ear says that dirt is a
>     general name for all unpaved roads. This may include any loose
>     material, really ranging from soil that just happened to be there
>     to natural or processed sand to industrially produced gravel,
>     possibly with an added layer of "loose" material spread on top of
>     the gravel to make it less loose (eg rock ash). So, as far as I
>     classify / understand, dirt roads _may_ be quite well built.
>     Now, earth and ground both give me a strong connotation of a road
>     (or a borderline track) that is practically not built. Or at least
>     the surface material is not processed sand or gravel and certainly
>     it doesn't have a "finishing layer" such as rock ash.
>     This said I would also consider earth=ground surfaced roads as
>     being clearly more prone to bad condition after rains (or melted
>     snow, etc).
>     So, I would say that earth and ground are synonyms but dirt is the
>     broader concept. In fact I would see dirt pretty much synonymous
>     to unpaved - but would hesitate to nuke one of those over another
>     as I would not be surprised if a bunch of people would see this
>     differently.
>     How do others here understand these terms?
>     Cheers,
>     -Jaakko
>     .. Whose family's summer cottage in Finland has a pretty well
>     self-constructed 1.5km strip of dirt road leading to it with sand
>     base, gravel top, rock ash finishing layer.
>     --
>     Sent from my Android device. * +505-8845-3391
>     <tel:%2B505-8845-3391> * http://about.me/jaakkoh
>     Hello,
>     There are 3 values for surface (ground, dirt and earth) that are
>     described as "probably equivalent" in the wiki. The pictures tell a
>     slightly different story: ground seems to allow the presence of
>     "grass" along with "usage marks" (car or pedestrian tracks), as does
>     earth, whereas dirt seems to include no grass and include the
>     possibility of "mud" after rainfall.
>     TagInfo shows that "earth" is significantly less used than the other
>     two. Could we officially recommend against that value then? Having so
>     many equal things makes translation (and teaching) much harder than
>     necessary, and I don't see when an application would differentiate
>     between these values.
>     I tried searching for their definitions in English dictionaries, but
>     they point to each other as synonyms. "Earth" is sometimes cited as a
>     "poetic description" of soil. "Ground" could describe anything from
>     "soil" to harder surfaces. I believe the most accurate description
>     would actually be something along the lines of "bare soil" (confirmed
>     by comparing results in Google Images).
>     --
>     Fernando Trebien
>     +55 (51) 9962-5409 <tel:%2B55%20%2851%29%209962-5409>
>     "The speed of computer chips doubles every 18 months." (Moore's law)
>     "The speed of software halves every 18 months." (Gates' law)
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> -- 
> Dave Swarthout
> Homer, Alaska
> Chiang Mai, Thailand
> Travel Blog at http://dswarthout.blogspot.com
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