[Tagging] Help explain the difference between path and track

Mike Thompson miketho16 at gmail.com
Tue Jun 9 23:05:37 UTC 2020

On Tue, Jun 9, 2020 at 4:13 PM Tod Fitch <tod at fitchfamily.org> wrote:

> In my rendering of hiking maps I currently have to look at 13 tags and
their values to make a decision if a “path” or “footway” might be what I
want to render. This is ridiculous. It is neither easy for the mapper nor
the renderer.
> On the motor vehicle side this would be the equivalent of saying all ways
intended for cars should be mapped as highway=road and we can distinguish
them by using surface, width, smoothness, maximum speed, etc.
My understand is that highway=primary/secondary/unclassified/etc. is based
on function.  It says nothing about the physical configuration, other than
it is suitable for a 2-track vehicle.  See my comment below about unpaved
roads in many parts of the world.

> The two major factions seem to be set in their ways: “It is only a track
if it is used for agriculture or forestry” on one side. “It has the same
physical characteristics as a track, so it is a track even if it is
currently used for hiking, bicycling, riding horses, or by ATVs” on the
other side.
I am willing to change my mind, but I would like:
1) Internal consistency within a definition.
2) Consistency over time (from week to week, month to month, etc. obviously
things can evolve over time, but we don't want to "ping-pong" back and
forth)  I don't like having the same discussion over and over again. I
asked this same question about a trail in a nearby park (Natural Area) a
couple of weeks ago on this list and received a largely different answer
from the one I am receiving today.   Perhaps it is just that different
people are reading this list today.
3) Precise. It can't be something like "a driveway is highway=service,
service=driveway, unless it is too long or too rough, or *seems* like a
track, in which case it is highway=track"  One mapper I corresponded with
via change set comments literally told me he mapped a driveway as a track
because it seemed track like to them.

> That also spills into is it a track or a service (driveway)? Depends on
if it goes to a barn or a house! But I can’t tell without trespassing, how
can I map it?
I can generally tell the difference between a barn and a house based on
satellite imagery.

> First step, I think, is to be less pedantic about function on things that
look exactly like a track. Mappers in all the areas I’ve looked at will tag
a way that is unpaved and about the width of a four wheeled vehicle as a
track regardless of current use. Maybe it is being used as a driveway.
Maybe it is being used as a bicycling/hiking/equestrian trail. Maybe it
accesses a field. Maybe it hasn’t been used for a while and just hasn’t
decayed or been overgrown into nothing. Who knows? But it looks like a
track. Saying that the way “isn’t for forestry or agricultural use” so it
can’t be a track is worthless: Real world mappers have voted otherwise with
their tagging.
In many parts of the world, higher classified roads (primary, secondary,
unclassified, residential, service) are going to be unpaved and somewhat
rough.  That includes some parts of the US I am familiar with.

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