[Tagging] Once more: the village_green - increase in misuse.

Marc Zoutendijk marczoutendijk at mac.com
Thu Jul 18 13:40:59 UTC 2019

In 2017 [1] I posted here about the use of the landuse=village_green tagging.
Mainly because it was used against it's definition, which is:

"A village green is a distinctive part of a village centre. It's an area of common land (usually grass but may also be a lake), in the centre of a village (quintessentially English - defined separately from 'common land' under the Commons Registration Act 1965 and the Commons Act 2006)."

The wiki also has 2 additional uses:

"In Spain the tag has been used consensually to map Paseos: often rather different in appearance to English village greens, but sharing the functional purpose of a common shared space for inhabitants and their activities."

"The German page compares such spaces with the (de)Dorfanger in the East and with the (de)Brink in the Northwest of Central Europa."


Because I found out that the tag is greatly misused (mainly to tag all sorts of grass in villages and along highways), I did an extended research to get more details about this type of use.
My research is based on the OSM dataset of 14 july 2019.

The total number of tags for landuse=village_green is: 91645
I then took a selection of 22 countries  (listed below [3], based on the worldwide use on the taginfo map) and compared the uses per country to its use in the UK, because that country seems to be the main reason for the existence of this tag.

In those 22 countries the tag is used 55721 times and there are 5569 unique mappers responsible for using it.

I was surprised to see that in the country where I live, the Netherlands, the tag was used 260% more than in the UK.
Given the original definition that a Village Green is a "distinctive part of a village centre", you could expect in the Netherlands (based on the number of cities/towns/villages where each of those had indeed a Village Green) to find at most 2440 Village Greens. Where, then, are the 2691 others located??

And what about the other countries?
I started first by randomly (worldwide, with the help of overpass) looking at the map to see what people had marked with the tag, but later created a database application which allowed me to load faster the data of the map and inspect it.
My strategy was this:
For each of the 22 countries in my list, I sorted on changeset number to have the data in oldest-newest format. Interesting to see that its first use (12 years ago) wasn't in the UK but in Germany, where the tag is anyway used more than in any other country. The most recent use was 4 days ago.
I took the two oldest uses, the two most recent uses and one in the middle, to create a set (of 110 changesets) for visual inspection of the tag on the map.
The result (based on my earlier look at its use) didn't surprise me at all: 65% of the landuse=village_green tag is NOT used according to the definition!
Because I first couldn't believe the result, I started again, but now taking only one country and visited 20 randomly changesets. That made things worse: sometimes (by being very liberal in my judgement of what a village green could be, even accepting a small area of grass somewehere around the village center) the misuse raised to 80%!

What can we conclude from this?
In the wiki talk-page [2] I already announced this problem and suggested to adapt the wiki to allow for different uses, based on consensus reached per country. We do that already for Spain and Germany, although that use is more in line with the original use. What I see now is a competely different use.

The most frequent (ab)use now are all areas covered with grass (anywhere in a village), the centers of roundabouts, along stretches of highways, and the kind of "green" that you see on the photos in the wiki.
This wrong use is understandable: the word "village" and the word "green" both lead - for those not being native English speakers nor reading the wiki nor knowing anything about the historical context - to using it for the situations I mentioned above.

There are of course more occurences of faulty tags for a given situation, but not to the extent we see with the landuse=village_green tag.

The number of Village Greens is bound to some upper limit, someday we have all of them in OSM, but then people will still use that tag (as they do now) because it fits their definition, neglecting the wiki. 
The situation that we have now: mappers are using a key-value pair (landuse=village_green) for tagging landuse that is not supposed to be tagged that way in at least 65% of the cases I investigated.
In the future that number will rise to the point where almost all use of landuse=village_green is wrong.

Does this situation need our attention? And if so, how do we deal with it?

As a side note it is interesting to see that the village_green taging was approved [4] in 2006 by two votes in favor and none against!
Marc Zoutendijk


[1] https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Tag:landuse%3Dvillage_green
[2] https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Talk:Tag:landuse%3Dvillage_green
[4] https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Proposed_features/village_green

[3] Selected countries for landuse=village_green

1	Colombia	59	
2	Argentina	114	
3	Ireland	178	
4	Denmark	180	
5	India	219	
6	Japan	241	
7	Greece	265	
8	China	293	
9	Turkey	329	
10	Chili		544	
11	Russia	667	
12	Italy		1008	
13	USA		1438	(5535 total use of countries less than UK) 

14	UK		1960	

15	Austria	2173	
16	Belgium	2614	
17	Spain	2856	
18	Brazil	2940	
19	Netherlands	5131	
20	France	6867	
21	Poland	9790	
22	Germany	15855	(48226 total use of countries more than UK)

Total		55721	

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