[Tagging] Route names that =?utf-8?Q?aren=E2=80=99t_?=names

Richard Fairhurst richard at systemed.net
Sat Mar 28 18:18:01 UTC 2020

Hello folks,

Route relation names aren’t in a great state, are they?

Let’s say that I want to render cycle route names on a map (because, well, I do). I zoom in on a way along the East Coast of Britain and I find it’s a member of this route:
 name=NCN National Route 1

Hm, ok. That’s not the name of the route, it’s a duplication of the ref (and network) - something we’ve known not to do with the name/ref tags for roads since time immemorial. No matter, there are other relations for the way, so let’s see if they’re any better:
 name=EuroVelo 12 - North Sea Cycle Route - part United Kingdom 5

That’s _definitely_ not the name of a route. “part United Kingdom 5” is some OSM mapper’s shorthand. If I were to tell someone that I’m having a holiday on “part United Kingdom 5”, even someone who works for the route authorities at Sustrans or the European Cycling Federation, they’d look at me blankly. Anyway, this has a parent relation:
 name=EuroVelo 12 - North Sea Cycle Route - part United Kingdom

Nope, that’s not great either. It in turn has a parent relation:
 name=EuroVelo 12 - North Sea Cycle Route

That’s not good. It duplicates the ref and the network; it enforces arbitrary punctuation upon the data consumer. It is, I guess, the least wrong of any of these names. But that’s not saying much.

This isn't just a British thing, or an NCN thing, or a EuroVelo thing. Refs in names are depressingly ubiquitous. Better still: there are hundreds of routes with something like ref=12-83, name=(12) - (83) - with the added brackets meaning you can’t even filter them out based on a simple match. Then there are routes called "Aare-Route (Etappe 3)” and "Alpenpanorama-Route- Etappe 6 (Thun-Fribourg)” and "[D10] Elberadweg [Abschnitt K] Dessau-Roßlau - Elster [linkselbisch]”. I wish I were making this up.

The upshot: bad luck if you want to render the actual names of routes on a map. You can’t.

A modest proposal: let’s use the name= tag in route relations for route names. Let’s use the ref= tag for route numbers. If it doesn’t have a name, it shouldn’t have a name= tag. Same as we do everywhere else.

If you need somewhere for a mapper-facing route description (and I can see that you need that for “part United Kingdom 5”), then I guess the obvious place to put that is the note= tag. But let’s keep it out of the name tag; and let’s have a concerted effort to remove them from existing name tags.

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