[Tagging] surface=ground/dirt/earth

Kytömaa Lauri lauri.kytomaa at aalto.fi
Thu Mar 20 17:44:24 UTC 2014

David Bannon wrote:
>"Should I use this road or not ?"
> tracktype= does claim to use that approach 

It's a shame that we, the community, don't excel at 
documenting. The part about "how well maintained"
on the Key:tracktype page was added later after
the values. There is a connection, but tracktype
wasn't meant to be about "usable or not", but about
the most influential attribute of the road construction
(or lack of, among the easily observable attributes), 
of all the attributes that are involved in shaping the 
conditions road users see on any ways not up to 
the highway standards of the present day. 

So it's a description of a scale from "hard materials only"
to "soft materials only". The connection to "maintained"
is variable and complex, but usually the grade is also a 
good approximation of the maintenance, but there can
be, and there are, exceptions. One does not usually(?)
maintain a road made of soft sand only, but a track on 
exposed solid rock is "hard materials only" even if nobody
ever raised a finger to "build" the way. 

A user can deduce expectations from the combination
of surface=*, tracktype=*, their vehicle, season, and 
local weather - and in some cases, even smoothness=*
if the rocks, roots and potholes prevent some users.

There can not be anything beyond "soft materials only",
that's quicksand. If many mappers have actively used 
the tag to describe their assessment of "should i use or 
not", the meaning of the tag has diverged from the
use in other regions, and we'll never know which one
was meant. (Luckily, there's seldom any major difference
- it's probably be the rare extreme cases that can be in

If mappers want to tag a subjective "should i use it",
it should be some other tag if the hard/soft materials
scale doesn't suit them. But for which road user?


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