[Tagging] Proposed rewrite Of highway=track wiki page - Third Draft

stevea steveaOSM at softworkers.com
Thu Apr 8 20:18:38 UTC 2021

On Apr 8, 2021, at 1:39 AM, Florian Lohoff <f at zz.de> wrote:
> But we do agree that access tags are only applicable where explicitly 
> posted right? 
> I see a lot of problems with "randomly" tagged access tags where
> people simply "feel" something is out of bounds.

This can be a bit tricky, and can also depend on local law.  Some jurisdictions (many in Europe, for example) allow hiking / access on or across even private property, in the spirit of "walking about the land freely."  I'm not sure that's the exact legal phrase, but as I understand the philosophy behind it, that's the general idea.  Some jurisdictions with private property mean that there is NO legal access on or beyond an even invisible property line, even when it is NOT posted as such, otherwise, even if such traversal is inadvertent, it is illegally trespassing.  Though some property owners go the extra distance to post a sign at or near a boundary to make this explicitly known to would-be trespassers in the sense of a warning of "you have now been explicitly notified to not break the law should you continue past this point."

California has an interesting case on what is known as an easement THROUGH private property:  if members of the public (who do not own the property) continually, habitually use an easement (a trail, path...) through private property, and the owner of said private property does nothing about this (fence, gate, fence-and-gate, signage...), the easement may actually BECOME "public access" by this repeated, habitual use by the public, even though it was and is on and is surrounded by private property.  California has a law called "Civil Code 1008" which requires that a sign with this language be posted if such a proto- or potential easement is in the process of being created (by public traffic):

"Right to pass by permission and subject to control of owner: Section 1008, Civil Code"

If that is done (with certain admonishments, like must be posted by the OWNER or his/her agent, a new sign posted every 200 feet / 60 meters...), then the law says sufficient legal protection by the property owner has been established, even if trespassing continues, the owner cannot have the easement "convert" to public use, even if traversal continues despite all other efforts by the owner to prevent it.

So, it is not always clear that people are "randomly" tagging access tags, although I'm sure this does happen on occasion in OSM, which certainly CAN be problematic.  Other times, people are not "simply feeling that something is out of bounds," they might actually know (even without signs or "on the ground" evidence) that something IS (or is NOT) a certain, legal access of one value or another.  So, "problems" of access are not always so apparent.  Let's not second-guess extant tagging, as if we do, the entire project collapses.  We might agree that access tags that are in the map are something we can trust, but they don't always arise from explicitly posted access:  they might, they might not, since the reality of how an access tag became established in the mind of a mapper who entered it (let's assume accurately) both can be and is more complex than simply seeing a sign on the ground.


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