[Tagging] highway=footway - Advanced definition: Distinction footway vs path

Lauri Kytömaa lkytomaa at gmail.com
Thu Aug 6 07:06:42 UTC 2015

Oh well, the yearly path discussion is here again.

On Thu Greg Troxel wrote:
>   as vehicle types default to no on all of these), but it will not
>   physically fit.  If it did fit, the way should be tagged as a track.

Most of the time "track" is not a relevant value: a track can not
be too narrow that a two tracked motor vehicle can't get through,
but even most cycleways are much wider than that. All of
footway, path, cycleway, bridleway can be much wider than that.
Track is a way primarily used for forestry or farming, with no or
very little other usage, and legally open to those or all motor

> highway=footway and  highway=path foot=designated
> which are defined to be the same.

The original discussion made the *one way* equivalence that
if a way has path + foot=designated, consumers that didn't
care about the extra details, could consider that tag
combination equal to footway. Most sidewalks don't have any
traffic signs, but they are footways, and most footways in
parks don't have any signs designating them, but they still
function as a footway and look like a footway, especially
when the mapper compares them to the combined or
segregated footway and cycleway nearby. This is to say
that not all footways are equal to path+foot=designated,
but in the other direction the implied equivalence holds.

I'd say we have to live with the current practices, even if some
ignored the arguments at the time the path proposal was
discussed (that path is only needed when footway, cycleway
or bridleway are misleading, and the value designated is
_only then_ needed to tell consumers for whom the way is
intended - that's usually given with a sign). I'd say the best
suggestion is to encourage extra descriptive tags for some
cases that could be mistaken because different countries
have adopted varying practices; some prefer cycleway and
footway over path (I do), others try to use path unless it's a
"bicycles only" cycleway with a sign.

The only real problem is that some use plain highway=path
even for urban combined cycleways and footways, where
others use the plain tag only for "not-built" forest trails that
can be anything from a smooth meadow edge to a steep
rocky hillside. AFAIK the other cases are just different tags
for the same feature and condition, which is easy (even if
means extra clauses while parsing), but without anything to
go by those two can't be distinguished. I've tried to remember
to always use informal=yes + surface=ground (or similar) +
wheelchair=no for the forest paths, so that routers could
give those a much higher cost (In general, the sac_scale or
mtb:scale and what have we would likely have the same value
for both). Adding surface=paved to any designated with a
cycleway traffic sign (including combined/segregated) should
be enough to verify that those paths are in fact equal to a
"good" cycleway.

I believe the following properties are uncontested, even if such
ways for which these desriptions fit can appear in many different
forms, with different signage or without any traffic signs at all:

highway=footway: physically good for walking, and no
bicycles unless tagged otherwise

highway=cycleway: physically good for cycling and walking,
cycling legal, walking allowed if in country defaults or tagged.

highway=bridleway: horse riding allowed and the surface
mostly suitable for that. country defaults apply to pedestrians
and cyclists, or might be tagged.

highway=path: unless otherwise tagged, walking, cycling and
possibly riding is allowed. look at other tags (if they're present)
to see if suitable for your mode of transport.


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