[Tagging] track smoothness/quality

Mark Wagner mark+osm at carnildo.com
Wed Jul 3 08:09:08 UTC 2019

On Tue, 2 Jul 2019 19:10:24 -0600
brad <bradhaack at fastmail.com> wrote:
> Unfortunately, the wiki for highway, in the section for track says: "
> To describe the quality of a track, see tracktype 
> <https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Key:tracktype>=*. "
> But, as described in the wiki,  tracktype is not very relevant to the 
> western US, since the first sentence of the description is 
> Solid/Mostly*/Soft.  Perhaps relevant to the English countryside, but 
> the roads around here are usually Solid, but could be 
> smoothness:very_horrible.   It seems redundant with surface=* also.
> It looks like the common usage is to just use tracktype intuitively 
> (grade5 is 4wd even if it's Solid), and ignore the wiki & the
> smoothness tag.  Unfortunately its usage is inconsistent.  I see
> roads that are clearly (by onsite inspection) 4wd, tagged as grade2
> and some graded gravel roads tagged as grade2.
> Tracktype could be sufficient if clarified, and if we were starting
> from scratch that's what I would prefer.
> As I see it, two paths forward to improve this situation.
> 1) Change the wiki for highway so it mentions Smoothness=*, and 
> de-emphasize  tracktype=*
> 2) Take the leading sentence mentioning Solid/Soft out of the
> tracktype description (or de-emphasize it), and add more verbage
> about high clearance or 4 wheel drive.    There is some discussion on
> the key:tracktype discussion page about adding grade6+.
> 3) Ignore the wiki, and just use tracktype.   I see in the discussion 
> page that is what many are doing.

Option 3 won't work.  Locally, tracks come in two basic types:

1) A logging road created by a work crew with a bulldozer.  Cut down
any trees, scrape off any remaining vegetation, level the road
side-to-side, and call it done.  These roads range in quality from
"easily passable by a passenger car" to "high-clearance
four-wheel-drive vehicle required".

2) A ranch road created by a truck driving the same route repeatedly
for years.  These are generally fairly smooth, but the older ones are
only passable by a high-clearance truck because of the central ridge
between the tracks.

According to the wiki, these are uniformly "grade5" ("Almost always an
unpaved track lacking additional materials, same surface as surrounding
terrain."), although calling them "soft" is misleading, since the local
soil produces a rock-hard surface during the summer and fall (and a
muddy one during spring melt). They're tagged pretty much at random as
anything from "grade1" to "grade5".


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