[Tagging] what is the meaning of bicycle=yes on highway=path

Greg Troxel gdt at lexort.com
Fri Apr 12 16:32:56 UTC 2019

Joseph Eisenberg <joseph.eisenberg at gmail.com> writes:

> "an armchair mapper should add access=unknown to the tagging"
> I certainly don't do this when mapping from aerial imagery, and
> neither of the editors that I've used (ID and JOSM) have suggest
> adding "access=unknown" to a newly mapped path.

I only add access=unknown when even when being local and visiting the
access situation is unclear.  I view it as a clue to other mappers that
work needs to be done.

> My understanding is that highway=path is rather problematic if there
> are no additional tags, because it's not clear if all paths are open
> to bicycles or horses. See

Well, it's certainly less precise than having horse/bicycle explicitly,
but I don't think people should refrain from adding a highway=path
because they don't know about horses or bicycles.  One always has to
view default access (for other than legal roads) with at least a tiny
bit of skepticism.

If you mean "given a highway=path without horse/bicycle tags, it is an
improvement to the map to add them, even if they are yes", I agree.

> And https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Tag:highway%3Dpath says:
> "highway=path is a generic path, either multi-use or unspecified
> usage, open to all non-motorized vehicles and not intended for
> motorized vehicles unless tagged so separately. The path may have any
> type of surface."

I think the 'open to all' is a bit much.  I would read that as "unless
tagged explicitly, the default assumption is foot=yes bicycle=yes
horse=yes".  Which is also true on highway=tertiary, for example.  So
it's not so much an assertion that to be a path it must be open to all,
but a statement that when interpreting a path, if there are no access
tags for bicycle/horse, then a router should assume they are implicitly

> "This includes walking and hiking trails, bike trails and paths, horse
> and stock trails, mountain bike trails as well as combinations of the
> above."


> "This tag is used for paths for which all and any of highway=footway,
> highway=cycleway and highway=bridleway would be inappropriate or
> inadequate (or simply not sufficient), but which are nonetheless
> usable for travel or navigation. They might be not intended for any
> particular use, or intended for several different uses. Intended uses
> can be indicated with the various access keys; e.g.,
> bicycle=designated and foot=designated."

This is where it gets to be a non-useful distinction with multiple
schools of thought.

One school of thought is that "highway=footway" has exactly the same
semantics as "highway=path foot=designated".  The default render more or
less works this way.  Note that both leave bicycle and horse as
implicit.  I think pretty much everybody agrees with this, even if they
disagree on which is preferred.

Another school of thought, while not disagreeing with the above, says
that highway=footway means in addition a city/town kind of path that is
typically paved.  This school says that a trail in the woods, or
anything that isn't super well maintained, should be highway=path.  (I
have had nearby mappers ask me to follow this distinction because there
are "trail maps" that include path but not footway, because we do not
have trail tags.  Or if we do, it's path!)

But all of this does not bear on the horse/bicycle issue.

More information about the Tagging mailing list