[Tagging] Proposed rewrite Of highway=track wiki page

Kevin Kenny kevin.b.kenny at gmail.com
Tue Mar 9 00:43:51 UTC 2021

On Mon, Mar 8, 2021 at 6:10 PM Bert -Araali- Van Opstal <
bert.araali.afritastic at gmail.com> wrote:

> Why do we need unclassified ? Look at it from the point of view from an
> ant, walking on the tree.  The ant only knows that it walks on a road, it
> can't see that far to see if that road is a minor branch or a major branch,
> or even a shallow trunk.  It does however know that it is something that
> belongs to one of these, because sap runs through it.  It's like a mapper
> in the field without a satellite imagery. The ant can only find out what
> the road exactly is, by walking all the way from one end to the other, or
> by asking other ants who already acquired that knowledge.  In case they are
> not there, it should call it unclassified, to indicate it needs more
> information to assign a final judgement.

That's not how it's used in OSM.  What you described is tagged in OSM as
`highway=road`.  `highway=unclassified`, misleadingly, is a formal read
classification in the UK - the road is classified as an 'unclassified
road'.  What 'unclassified' means is that the road has a lower importance
than 'tertiary', but is not 'residential', either because it is more
important than the residential roads or because it serves another purpose
such as accessing an industrial district. (If we were to start from a
non-UK-centric perspective, we'd have probably chosen a tag like
'quaternary' to describe this in a more neutral fashion.)

A service road, at least as they are tagged around here, can serve more
than one dwelling. `highway=service` is routine for driveways in apartment
complexes, and for shared driveways that serve multiple rural
establishments but are not public highways.

> Remains, what are tracks: all roads that have no specific socio-economic
> purpose and where no intervention has taken place to separate traffic that
> moves at significant different speeds.

Most tracks have very specific economic purposes. They serve forestry,
agriculture, possibly access to wilderness trailheads, possibly combating
wildfires, possibly prospecting, Or they may be ways that were originally
planned for something else, have outlived their purpose, and fallen into
disrepair (but remain passable to wheeled vehicles).   NB: The only non
controversial interpretations in this paragraph are agriculture and
forestry. Those who interpret 'the rules' most rigidly reject the 'track'
classification if the road serves any other purpose (even if the primary
purpose is agriculture or forestry), or the mapper has been unable to
discern the purpose. The presence of a hiking trailhead, a small gravel
pit, or a cabin has been held to be sufficient to make the way something
other than a track.

I personally do not construe 'track' as narrowly, but I also don't believe
that I should have to use 'highway=road' for a road that I personally have
traveled _part_ of, and observed the characteristics, merely because I
don't have complete information - and perhaps have no way to obtain
complete information about what's at the other end. If it has 'access',
'surface', 'smoothness' and 'tracktype' catalogued, the differences to
rendering or routing among 'track', 'service' and 'unclassified' will be
trivial; for the roads that consist of two ruts disappearing out of sight
into the forest beyond where I stopped walking, 'track' is as good a
classification as any.

73 de ke9tv/2, Kevin
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