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

Greg Troxel gdt at ir.bbn.com
Thu Aug 6 12:45:10 UTC 2015

Lauri Kytömaa <lkytomaa at gmail.com> writes:

> 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
> vehicles.

Around me, most things tagged as track are not legally open to all
vehicles; they are usually private.   That's the nature of a track vs an
unpaved residential or unclassified road.   A public way (open to all,
owned by the government) and a private way (also open to all, but not
owned by the government) are more or less by definition not tracks.

>> 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.

Absent bicycle=no and horse=no, I don't see what is different.  And the
default renderer does treat them the same.

People keep saying that "path" implies some sort of rough unmaintained
state (or rather that footway does not), but I don't think that really
exists in current practice.  The world is too complicated, both globally
and locally, in order to have a small number of neat divisions at the
primary key level.  The various notions of paved/not, width, well
maintained (whatever that means), etc. should just be tagged separately.

> 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.

I agree that's a mess.  I think the biggest issue is that path and
footway render very differently, e.g.

   highway=path foot=designated  bicycle=yes  (== highway=footway, with
   bikes allowed))

is almost the same as

  highway=path foot=yes bicycle=yes

but looks very different.

> 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

I don't think it implies either way that biccyles are allowed.  Only
that there is some strong notion that walking is the primary purpose.

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

I don't think we should be using country defaults.    if not tagged,
walking is not known to be allowed and not known to be not allowed.

> 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.

I agree that highway=path implies (if not tagged) foot=yes biccyle=yes
horse=yes, and I also think it more or less implies that vehicles are
not permitted, and probably not really feasible.

I think part of the issue is regional difference in practices.  I have
the impression from comments that in Europe there is a big divide
between in-city built cycleways and trails in the forest, and people see
them as two completely different things.  In the US, we do have both of
those, but there is also an old railroad grade near me, which is perhaps
2m wide and fairly rough gravel (ok for mountain bike, tough on a road
bike).  It's not really a cycleway, because there's no official notion
tha bicycles are a higher use than walking.  It's not signed either way
about horses, and really it isn't signed at all, exccept for perhaps no
motor vehicles.

The other regional difference is that in the US, we don't have (in the
northeast) cycleways that ban foot traffic, and that definitely would be
odd.  There are cycleways, where arguably bicycles have higher status
than foot, and some of them allow horses and some don't.  Those closer
to the city don't explicitly talk about horses (people with horses have
enough sense to stay out of the city anyway :-).

So all of this comes down to a wide variety of realities and the only
sensible way out that I can see is to tag the details that matter and
not to insist on tight clustering into two labels.  And to fix
rendering of path vs footway.

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