[OSM-talk] Using OSM as database for nature park hiking routes?

stevea steveaOSM at softworkers.com
Wed Aug 14 21:17:49 UTC 2019

I believe there are some (limited) contexts in which proposed routes can and should be added to OSM.

For example, in the USA, we have bicycle routes in our numbered national bicycle route network (USBRS, see https://wiki.osm.org/wiki/United_States_Bicycle_Route_System, tens-of-thousands of km) after they are selected / maintained by the state ("middle-level," admin_level=4) Department of Transportation and formally proposed to the national body (AASHTO) which designates and catalogs them, but not until they are approved by AASHTO.  This "very high bar standard" which has evolved since 2012-2014 allows these sometimes quite lengthy route data (>1000 km in some cases) to be carefully entered into OSM (route relation tagged state=proposed) while AASHTO takes time (about 2-3 months) to vote them up or down.  (AASHTO always approves these proposed routes, but it might not, in which case OSM would simply delete the entered route data).  OSM-US requested and received from AASHTO specific permission to enter and use the data like this (click the link in the wiki for the formal letter).

As it can take several months to enter these rather substantial data, and AASHTO works its own "ballot" process in the meantime, OSM has reached a consensus to enter these routes as proposed while they are "on ballot, being considered for approval."  After approval, we simply remove the "state=proposed" tag.  Then OpenCycleMap's (OCM's) dashed lines which display for "proposed" begin to render as solid lines, meaning "a real route is here."  Official (national standard, MUTCD) signage usually follows on-the-ground.

Many maps do this or something very much like it.  Often there are even TWO "pre-reality" route designations, "proposed" (which I agree, can be controversial if/as entered into OSM "wrongly") and "under construction."  As the latter is a much more "on-the-ground" reality that most OSM Contributors can agree deserves entry, we have tags for "construction" which do render in Carto (and other renderers).  These "construction" tags accurately convey what is on-the-ground in the real-world.  But proposed, much less so.  As an example of these data being in OSM + useful and in OSM + ignored:  OCM displays proposed routes (as dashed lines), though the Lonvia bicycle route renderer (waymarkedtrails.org) simply ignores them, not displaying proposed routes at all.  This seems correct:  put the proposed route data in the map, let the renderer of your choice decide whether or not they are rendered.

From these USA experiences, I encourage those curious to read the wiki above (especially "high bar standards" in its Proposed section), as well as https://wiki.osm.org/wiki/United_States/Bicycle_Networks, where we recently added an initial "What to map" section saying what TO map (real infrastructure, real routes, especially when signed or on a government-published map) and what NOT to map (routes on a planning map, aspirational routes, unfunded routes, route "recommendations" or "rides" published by a third party, as these may be ephemeral or subjective).

OSM (in the USA, I'm not sure about elsewhere) also has the convention of tagging unsigned_ref=* to designate the number of a route which exists in some legal sense, but which remains unsigned on-the-ground (for various reasons).

For national bicycle routes in the USA, this process of consensus was somewhat contentious, taking several years to fully evolve.  Like any successful compromise (often what a consensus ends up being), not everybody was completely happy with its finality, but because it was discussed (widely and at high levels), is documented and therefore is or can be fully understood, it works well.  There is every reason to believe it will continue to work well going forward.

As Mateusz says "unsigned routes are at best questionable content," I'll only slightly disagree with him:  where unsigned and/or proposed routes can truly parallel a large effort to get substantial data into OSM over a medium- or longer-term time frame (weeks, months, even years, as some projects like high-speed rail can even take decades), there ARE circumstances where state=proposed or unsigned_ref can facilitate good route data entry into OSM.

Thank you for reading,

> On Aug 14, 2019, at 1:29 PM, Mateusz Konieczny <matkoniecz at tutanota.com> wrote:
> 14 Aug 2019, 16:46 by talk at openstreetmap.org:
> not maintained at all
> Note that unsigned routes are at best questionable content in OSM.
> And proposed, gone, planned are even more questionable and something that
> should be deleted rather than added.

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