[Tagging] Help explain the difference between path and track

brad bradhaack at fastmail.com
Wed Jun 10 02:15:34 UTC 2020

On 6/9/20 7:27 PM, Warin wrote:
> To me in OSM a 'path' has always been too narrow for a motor car (4WD or not) to pass.
> If it is wide enough for a car then it is not a 'path' in OSM so they must be tagged in some other way.
> Descriptions of 'path':
> On 10/6/20 5:53 am, brad wrote:
>> "If a path is wide enough for 4-wheel-vehicles (wider than 2 m), and
>>      it is not legally signposted or otherwise only allowed for
>>      pedestrians, cyclists or horseriders, it is often better tagged as a
>>      highway <https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Key:highway>=track 
>> <https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Tag:highway%3Dtrack>  orhighway <https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Key:highway>=service 
>> <https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Tag:highway%3Dservice>.
>>      "
>>      to this:
>>      "If a path is wide enough for 4-wheel-vehicles (wider than 2 m), it
>>      is often better tagged as ahighway <https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Key:highway>=track 
>> <https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Tag:highway%3Dtrack>  orhighway <https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Key:highway>=service 
>> <https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Tag:highway%3Dservice>.
>>      "
> Or possibly:
> A path should not be wide enough for 4-wheel-vehicles (wider than 2 m),for these wider ways see highway 
> <https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Key:highway>=track 
> <https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Tag:highway%3Dtrack>  orhighway <https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Key:highway>=service 
> <https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Tag:highway%3Dservice>.
> <https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Tag:highway%3Dservice>
> On 10/6/20 10:29 am, Kevin Kenny wrote:
>> On Tue, Jun 9, 2020 at 6:13 PM Tod Fitch<tod at fitchfamily.org>  wrote:
>>> 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.
>>> 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?
>>> 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 terms of function, 'track' and 'service' (with or without
>> 'driveway') are practically interchangeable - at least in terms of
>> what they provide to the road network. They're both distinguished by
>> the fact that they don't 'go anywhere'. They typically serve only a
>> single establishment - public roads that serve multiple establishments
>> are typically at least 'unclassified'.
> In Australia the word 'track' is used in a much broader sense than that used in the OSM wiki.
> The OSM tagging practice in Australia uses 'track' in that same broader sense - so not just agriculture and forestry but also other operators/uses e.g. National Parks.
> Some of these 'tracks' were put in to enable fire fighting - usually locally called 'fire trails'.
> Maps generally show these in the same way as forestry trails hence the preference to tag them the same way in OSM as 'we' are used to seeing them rendered that way.
In the western US, most of the rough, 4wd, or high clearance roads on 
federal land are also tagged as track.   They meet the definition in a 
loose way.    It is established practice.
We're never going to get consensus on this since many of us mappers and 
users think the definition is wrong.  It was written for some other 
locale with different conditions.
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