escada's diary

Recent diary entries

Belgian Mapper of the Month: Guy Roman

Posted by escada on 2 January 2015 in English (English)

Nederlandse tekst

Texte français

Guy Roman


Since five years Guy Roman is retired. Before that he was technical electrician for a engineering company. He mainly followed up projects for energy distribution and automation. So he was already "drawing" during his career.

How and when did you discover OpenStreetMap?

I accidentally discovered OpenStreetMap in 2008.

What kind of mapper are you and where are you mapping?

I map a lot, mainly in Hainaut, a province in Belgium, but I also map abroad. Partly based on trips I make during my vacations, but I also base my mapping on photos that appeal to me. An example is a photo of St Rambert-en-Bugey in France that I found in a magazine about railways. I looked up the area in OpenStreetmap and then mapped it based on the picture and Bing arial images.

What do you map and do you have any specialisation?

I mainly use the aerial images from Bing, but I combine this with the available GPS traces for ways that are invisible on Bing, e.g. in forests. Further I also do surveys, to determine the type of the roads for example. Quite regularly I go cycling 50 or 70 kilometers, where I verify my database of geographical data and if necessary I change things on OpenStreetMap.

Why do you map?

It is fun, and it allows me to explore the world without leaving my house!

Guy's contributions Guy's contributions

Do you do other things related to OpenStreetMap?

I try to convince possible "passive" users to use OpenStreetMap, such as organisers of hiking trips.

How can OpenStreetMap be improved?

I hope that the rendering of some details can be improved on the default map. An example are areas tagged as "natural=scree" for example near mountain rivers. It could be rendered similarly to beaches, but in grey. Another example: it would be nice to have a rendering for a stream on a bridge. At this moment it is only possible for a canal. Unfortunately I do not have enough knowledge to help out to improve this.

To conclude, is there something else you want to share with the readers?

Only change an object when you are sure that it will be more precise or closer to reality than the current version. Also, when you have doubts about something, please contact the previous mapper to ask more details about the current mapping! Furthermore, please respect the classification of the roads. The classification of a road does not suddenly change to residential, because there are few houses.

Editing with Overpass and Level0

Posted by escada on 20 December 2014 in English (English)

Recently I noticed that the links that I have been using for heritage:website in Flanders were broken. Since this has been going on for a couple of weeks, it is not just a temporarily hiatus, but a permanent problem. So I have to update them all.

The old format was<relict-number>

The new URL is<relict-number>

First, I use an Overpass query to find all those listed buildings.

Result of Overpass query

Overpass allows you to open the result in an editor, e.g. Level0.

Export from Overpass

Level0 is a "simple" editor that allows you to edit OSM data

The data in Level0

The editor is so simple that there is no find+replace functionality. So I copied all the data into a text editor on my computer. There, I replaced the wrong URLs with the correct ones. This is a straightforward operation on any text editor. Then I copied all data back into the Level0 editor.

I logged into OSM. You can find the login button just above the data section, on the left. I confirmed the OSM dialog in order to allow Level0 to use my account

Level0 account confirmation

The result is that Level0, now knows who I am Level0 knows how I am

After filling in a changeset comment the data is ready to be uploaded Updated data and changeset comment

is this a mechanical edit ? Not for me. I added at least 90% of those URLs myself. I checked several URLs myself and found that none of the old URLs were working anymore. So for me this is just a resurvey of data.

I also used this principle to update some fire hydrants that I added without specifying the type of the hydrant. This mechanism was also used to add some wikidata numbers to administrative boundaries in Belgium. Since I manually looked up the wikidata, this was not a mechanical edit neither.

I admit that this can be used to perform mechanical edits, but nevertheless I consider it as a powerful tool to quickly edit some incorrect data.

Lanes and turn:lanes

Posted by escada on 17 December 2014 in English (English)

One of the projects I have been working on since April this year, is adding lanes & turn:lanes information to all motorways, trunk roads and primary roads in Flanders.

The work is far from finished, as you can see on Missing lanes in Flanders

This is the Overpass Query I used:

Location: Keibrekerspad, Terhagen, Rumst, Antwerp, Flanders, 2840, Belgium

Belgium: Mapper of the Month December 2014

Posted by escada on 2 December 2014 in English (English)

The second article in this series. Nederlandse tekst - Texte français

Mapper of the month: Guy Vanvuchelen

Guy's username is GuyVV. He is 70 and lives in the area around Tienen. He has worked all his life for a bank. During the last years of his active career he made a lot of statistics, using tools such as Framework, DBase, Excel and Access. He bought his first computer, a MSX, in 1988. A few years later he switched to a "PC". Although he lost track, he assumes that he already owned 20 different models. He is an amateur photographer since his 16th birthday. Later on, he also made digital videos and recently he is into digital photography. Since his retirement he started to walk, slightly pushed by his wife. After buying a Garmin Etrex, he enjoyed it more since he had something to do; namely recording tracks!

How and when did you discover OpenStreetMap?

While I was looking for free maps for my Garmin, I discovered OpenStreetMap. Almost immediately, I realized that those free maps were often better than the official, expensive maps from Garmin. For this reason I use OSM on my Garmin and with OsmAnd.

What kind of mapper are you and where are you mapping?

Wherever I go for my walks, typically signposted walks with a club, I make notes. I do not really make structured notes. For this purpose, I use OsmAnd with voice recording. At the moment I try to "write down" the width of roads, the maximum allowed speed, the surface or type of track, the start and end of villages. Furthermore I am interested in all chapels and wayside shrines, so I mark them as well. From time to time I also encounter footpaths ("Trage Wegen") that are missing. After a walk of 10 kilometers, I have 30-50 minutes of voice recorded notes. From time to time I get some unexpected help from my walking buddies when they let me know beforehand when we are approaching a wayside chapel. They do not really know what I am doing and they think I am only interested in taking a picture.

What do you map and do you have any specialization?

When I started, I thought we should only map roads. I know better now. I'm not specialized in a certain topic, but I will never pass a little chapel without making a note! For awhile, I also collected some address information. I started around my house and walked all the street in the neighborhood. After the arrival of AGIV, I did some couch mapping of house numbers. At this moment I am not sure whether I should continue or now. There has been a lot of discussion on the Belgian mailing list and I do not know whether it is worth the effort to collect the data by surveying.

Why do you map? What motivates you?

I would love to make the map better than the commercial maps, especially around Tienen. I hope that this will make it easier for me convince family and friends to use OpenStreetMap. One of the problems I see at the moment is that the data for car navigation are not complete enough and therefore people do not start using it. Most mappers are mapping from walking or cycling perspective and seem less interested in that type of data. Let me explain this a bit more. I drive with a caravan behind my car. Therefore I do not want to drive along small roads where it is difficult to pass a car from the opposite direction. My TomTom does not help me in this case. Therefore I want to add the width or the number of lanes in OpenStreetMap, so that in the end the map is better than the commercial ones.

Do you do other things related to OpenStreetMap?

Not really, only an occasional attempt to convince friends.

What are your ideas about expanding the OpenStreetMap community? How can we motivate more people?

It is still to difficult for people to start contributing. This is partly due to the lack of documentation in Dutch. I think that meeting on a regular basis for small groups of people could be very helpful. We could stimulate, learn together, etc.

What is in your view the greatest strength of OpenStreetMap?

The data that is available for hikers and cyclists, e.g. via Garmin maps

What are the biggest challenges for OpenStreetMap?

To bring the car navigation on the same level and to keep all data up-to-date

To conclude, is there something else you want to share with the readers?

Start simple. Take one topic, study the documentation and focus on that for awhile

Location: Hakendover, Tienen, Leuven, Flemish Brabant, Flanders, 3300, Belgium

Being a newbie

Posted by escada on 21 November 2014 in English (English)

This is story is based on real stories. It is not my story as a newbie, but I decided to write in the first person to avoid she/he discussions. Also, since English is not my native language, so I apologise upfront for mistakes.

I love to ride by bicycle and for plannng my trips I found those great free maps offered by OpenFietsMap. I used them during my vacation in The Netherlands and now I want to improve the map for cyclists in my hometown in Belgium.

I created an account on OpenStreetMap and quickly found out how I could launch the iD-editor. It seems pretty simple to add a separate cycleway, just as I saw on the map in The Netherlands. I think it is important to see the difference between street with and without those separate cycleways. So let's try to add them.

O great, there are arial images that I can use, so I do not have to upload tracks that I recorded with my GPS. OK, let's see, the cycleway starts here, in front of those houses. So I start drawing the line there and continue here, cross the street and it ends here in front of this parking lot. Now add some tags to it...mmm .. a name... mmm maybe "fietspad" (Cycleway in Dutch).

Ok, now the other side. Mmm, the houses that the previous mapper placed are on top of the cycleway. I'll move them so I can draw the cycleway in the correct place.

Hey, that was easy, let's save this so the others can enjoy my work. O, do I need to add a comment... mmm ... "Fietspad" will be ok I hope.

So far the first editing session from an newbie user as I see it. The user honestly tried to improve the map. But could you spot some mistakes ? Here are some

  • the cycleway is not connected at start or end
  • The cycleway has no intersection with the street that it crosses
  • It's tagged with a name that indicates its function
  • the user did not put bicycle=use_sidepath on the main street
  • the user did not remove any cycleway= from the main street
  • the user is unaware of relations for cycle routes on the main street that have to be placed (and splitted for the different directions) on the cycleways
  • the user did not add oneway=yes on the cycleway
  • using Bing images which have an offset, in Flandres we can use AGIV, much better

Not all of those mistakes are made by all newbies and maybe they make some I forgot to mention here. But that is not important for the message I want to bring. One can make many mistakes and none of the editors protect you from making no errors. Some editors protect you from some of the above errors, but many mistakes pass unnoticed.

But now dear experienced mapper,

How do you react when this happens in your neighborhood ?

Do you

  • yell "vandalism" ?
  • contact the DWG ?
  • start complaining on a local maling list about this user that destroys all this hard work ?
  • send a angry private message or changeset comment ?
  • do you ally with your friends to send multiple scaring changeset comments ?

or do you take a deep breath, relax and try to write a friendly, polite message to help this newbie navigate through all the pitfalls and unwritten rules from which the editors do not protect you ? Even if you have to do this for the tenth time ?

So think for a moment how it feels to be a newbie and receive a message from some stranger about something you honestly thought was a good addition to OpenStreetMap, next time you write a comment about someone else work. Heck, even when that person is a more advanced mapper.

Happy mapping & communicating

p.s. I fear that the real story that was the basis for this one does not have an happy ending

Rose garden

Posted by escada on 15 November 2014 in English (English)

After having mapped all sculptures in the Middelheim museum, umap of scultptures

I decided to start mapping the rose garden of the Vrijbroekpark in Mechelen. Rose garden Vrijbroekpark, Mechelen

However, there is no established tagging schema for this yet. I found e.g. landuse=flowerbed, a few landcover=flowerbed and natural=flowerbed. There are perhaps a few other schemes in use, but I could not find something that was really used a lot. So I decided to go for the following for the moment:

  • landuse=flowerbed
  • genus=rose
  • genus:nl=rozen
  • group:nl=...
  • variety:nl=...

it is pretty easy to change this in case someone points me to a better tagging schema. I have also made a small JOSM preset for personal use with those tags.

Since the dogs do not like the very slow pace needed to make notes and pictures, I only did a small part. No problem, we come there quite often, so next time we continue this work. One of the surveys in Middelheim, with the dogs

In the meantime I already made another map showing all the flowerbeds I mapped so far umap of Rose garden

Please drop me note in case you know a better way to tag the flowerbeds

Location: Vrijgeweidestraat, Mechelen, Antwerp, Flanders, 2800, Belgium

Interview: Mapper of the Month (Belgium)

Posted by escada on 7 November 2014 in English (English)

The Belgian community wants to put each month another mapper in the spotlight. The reason is that OSM would not exist without mappers. This mapper receives the title "Mapper of the month" and gets the chance to herself/himself through a small interview. There are not really criteria to become a "mapper of the month", besides that you map.

On the Belgian website you can find the article in Dutch and French together with some pictures.

Since we do not have an English section (yet) and I made the translation anyway, I decided to post it here. I hope you enjoy reading it.

Mapper of the month: Ben Laenen

Ben Laenen, in OpenStreetMap known under the username Eimai (pronounce /ˈimɛ/ like the Greek word είμαι), lives in Antwerp and is in his daily life a train conductor. During his studies he became active in the FOSS-world, now already a time ago. He is for example one of the people responsible for DejaVu Fonts, one of the standard fonts in several Linux distributions. The same font is also used in the main rendering engine of OpenStreetMap, Mapnik. As such, he is also active in the Libre Graphics community, more specifically in the typographic aspects.

How and when did you discover OpenStreetMap?

Suddenly OpenStreetMap was one of the projects that got additional attention from the open source community, which I already followed because of my involvement in DejaVu Fonts. I started to map in 2007, when there was almost nothing mapped in Belgium and the OpenStreetMap community was only a handful of people. As a little boy I was already interested in all kinds of maps. I could spend hours looking at atlases and printed maps. I even drew imaginary street maps myself. OpenStreetMap must have stirred up my interest in maps again!

How do you use OpenStreetMap?

Of course I use OpenStreetMap to plan my trips on a desktop computer, and with OsmAnd on my mobile phone, in Belgium and abroad. Professionally, it comes in handy, as railway installations can have quite complex structures and mapping those structures helps me to visualize them. Of course, we have the technical plans, but a view with the exact location of the rails is also very useful.

What kind of mapper are you and where are you mapping?

Currently, I belong to the category of armchair-mappers, so mainly using aereal imagery to map. But I try to verify what I map! When I go outside, I mostly go by bike, armed with a GPS and a voice recorder. Normally I edit within Belgium, although I edit abroad as well when a trip brings me over the border.

What do you map and do you have any specialization?

In the beginning there was not much choice, we had to start with the roads. After a while, when almost all roads in Antwerp were done, I started mapping bicycle routes and later on walking routes. The latter is especially interesting, you discover new, small paths, which would otherwise remain unknown. More recently, I am working on railway infrastructures, of course influenced by my job. I have been mapping a lot of different things over the years, but never really spend time on mapping points of interest (POIs).

Why do you map? What motivates you?

Why I map, simply because it's fun! And of course because it fits in my philosophy that FOSS and open data is a step forward. However, if it was not so enjoyable, I would have done something else. It is also rewarding that you discover interesting places, even close to home, places where you have never been and did not know they existed.

Do you do other things related to OpenStreetMap?

In the beginning I participated in a lot of discussions on the mailing lists. I also contributed a lot to the OpenStreetMap wiki to define how objects have to be tagged. Since most topics that interest me, have been sorted out, I became less active. But I still have some hobbyhorses , such as the mapping of paths in Belgium.

What are your ideas about expanding the OpenStreetMap community? How can we motivate more people?

The main question is how you can attract people that have never heard of open data or open source. Most people stop looking for solutions once they encountered Google Maps. They often do not realise that alternatives exist, even those working with Google Map Maker. The only way to reach out to those people, is by increasing the visibility of OpenStreetMap in their world and in the media. Another possibility is to convince sites to use OpenStreetMap instead of Google Maps, but it is almost impossible to fight against a giant with completely integrated services.

What is in your view the greatest strength of OpenStreetMap?

The greatest strength is also one of its greatest weaknesses: the freedom you have while mapping. When you want to put a previously unknown concept on the map, you just create your own tags, and there it is! The problem is that others might have different viewpoints and want to map it in another way. This leads to a lot of discussions.

What are the biggest challenges for OpenStreetMap?

The first challenge is to keep the data up-to-date. As a mapper you need to notice that something changes in a street before you can update it on OpenStreetMap. The possibility to add notes on is a nice new tool to allow people, who are not into mapping, to point out changes. However, several blind spots where no one takes care of the necessary updates, they do exist. The second challenge, as already hinted in the previous question, is the issue about how we can come to a world-wide consistent way of mapping.

To conclude, is there something else you want to share with the readers?

Looking back at all those years, I feel proud on what we have accomplished with OpenStreetMap. I was lucky to join the project early, and it was fascinating to see the map growing from an empty canvas to what it is now. Who knows where we will be within 10 years?

Location: Theaterbuurt, Antwerpen, Antwerp, Flanders, 2000, Belgium

Middelheim museum, Antwerp

Posted by escada on 27 October 2014 in English (English)

I have regularly visited the Middelheim museum in Antwerp. It is part of a park, free to visit, dogs are allowed (on the lead) and it's not too far away. Until 2 weeks ago I never bothered to map it. it was just of of those places that I visit.

Two weeks ago, we had a meetup in Antwerp. One of the topics we discussed was mapping the Antwerp Zoo. There I got the idea to map the museum in more detail.

So after 2 visits, I have mapped about 2/3 of the artwork (statues, sculptures, constructions). For each piece I recorded the name, the artist and the "construction" date as indicated on the information panels next to each item.

This is the map so far

I cannot add pictures of all items, as in Belgium we do not have freedom-of-panorama. I could have done it for older work, but I tend to forget the exact age.

I hope to add the last third with my next visit.

Location: Middelheim, Antwerpen, Antwerp, Flanders, 2020, Belgium

A little survey story

Posted by escada on 23 October 2014 in English (English)

The Belgian community is currently looking at some tools to import house numbers from the AGIV CRAB database. We are in an experimental phase, there is no formal go for the import yet.

Using the tool I saw a street in which I didn't collect house numbers so far. It was tempting to just copy the numbers. But since I needed to walk the dogs, I decided to pass through that street. So what did I discover during this short survey ? A zone 30, a memorial for Frans Abels (a composer 1899-1962), a missing path and a waste bin. It was just 10 minutes extra compared to our normal walk.

Conclusion ? For me it is not sufficient to just copy numbers from a database. It's better to go out for a walk with the dogs. Using this method I collect more diverse data en I learn something along the way.

Writing documentation for import

Posted by escada on 15 November 2013 in English (English)

Recently I've been working on some documentation in preparation of a house number import for Flanders. Mapping is more relaxing than this :-) The first version can be found on A more extensive document, with more details for mappers is constructed under

After the first feedback from the Belgian community, I'll try to describe some more complex scenario's for merging the data.

Location: Clemenshoek, Reet, Rumst, Antwerp, Flanders, 2840, Belgium

Google Hangout as communication between mappers

Posted by escada on 4 October 2013 in English (English)

== English version below ==

De eerste sessie is afgelopen. Samen met Eric & Gilbert over een aantal plugins, presets en kaarttekenstijlen gegaan en de building configuration. Verder vooral de nadruk op het toevoegen van gebouwen en huisnummers. We hebben alledrie weer wat bijgeleerd !

Een toffe manier om te communiceren met mensen die wat verder wonen. Voor herhaling vatbaar.

The first session is over. Together with Eric & Gilbert we talked about our JOSM configuration (plugins, presets, map styles, building configuration). Most of the time was spend on efficient ways to draw buildings and housenumbers. There was something new for the three of us.

A nice way to communicate with people that live further apart. Will be repeated.

Meeting at ESI, Brussels

Posted by escada on 4 October 2013 in English (English)

I gave 2 talks (or 1 big one if you wish :-) ) during the meeting at ESI in Brussels yesterday. I promised to send out the links to the slides, so here they are

The State of the Map Belgium:

The one on mapping:

Feel free to contact me in case you have questions. The first talk gives a long list of websites to get an idea about the completeness and quality of the code, as well as some fun, interesting topic maps. The second one attempts to give an overview of the different mapping types, but the demos where more important.

This evening will try to setup a google hangout (in Dutch) to exchange tips and tricks on using JOSM. It will be the first time that we'll do this so it will be a nice learning experience with hangouts as well. I'll post the URL between 19u30 and 20u00 to the Belgian mailing list. You need to install a browser plugin to follow.

I would like to thank Nicolas and ESI for organizing and hosting the meeting yesterday. I enjoyed meeting the other people (and even giving the talk :-) )

Location: European Quarter, Brussels, Ville de Bruxelles - Stad Brussel, Brussels-Capital, French Community, Brussels-Capital, 1000;1040, Belgium

Python for data creation

Posted by escada on 22 July 2013 in English (English)

Normally I do my surveys with a Garmin GPS and make notes using waypoints. Those waypoints and the corresponding track can be loaded in JOSM. In order to update OSM, one still need to manually create nodes and add tags to them.

So I wrote a Python script that does part of this work. It converts the waypoints that I make into OSM points. I can then easily integrate those nodes with the existing data, without have to create notes or add tags.

The script recognizes the waypoints with the following formats:

- VB  for amenity: waste_basket  (Vuilbak)
- BK  for amenity: bench (Bank or Zitbank)
- FIREH for emergency: fire_hydrant
- M50/M70/Z70/Z30/Z50 for maxspeeds (Z for zones)
- PIKNIK for tourism: picnic_site
- WSS [name] for historic: wayside_shrine
- CDC for power: cable_distribution_cabinet
- ESS for power: sub_station
- STOP/GW  for highway: stop / give_way
- LLI/RLI for highway: street_lamp
      barrier: bollard / kissing_gate, swing_gate, swing_gate, gate, cycle_barrier
- house number notations, e.g. R10, L10-12, L10+-+20, L10+12---13+15
- PB 1445 for bpost post_box with (last) collections_times Mo-Fr 14:15
- GLB for recycling glass bottle container (Glasbol)
- TXT for recycling clothes contains. Some operators are recognized as well WMS, VICT, ...

Since I am also interested in mapping protected buildings in Flanders, I often use the data that wikipedia has on this topic. An example can be found here.

Until this weekend, I manually located the building and added the necessary tags via a JOSM preset. On my previous diary entry someone suggestion using a toolserver service to obtain a kml-file with all the nodes.

It looks nice, but not all data from the wikipedia page was kept. So I wrote another small Python script to parse the wikipedia page, keeping as much data as possible (the image tags, the heritage flag, the URL). Furthermore I added some tags that are specific for buildings listed by the Flemish Onroerend Erfgoed institute.

I'm willing to send the scripts to anybody that asks for it. Note that I'm not going to fix bugs or implement additional features, but you can do that if you want.


Posted by escada on 19 July 2013 in English (English)

Using the heritage list of protected buildings and monuments of wikipedia, I managed to map all such buildings in Mechelen en Lier.

The result can be viewed on the geschichtskarten, e.g. Lier

Up to the next town. Antwerp ?


Posted by escada on 21 June 2013 in English (English)

Did a walk in Ruisbroek yesterday evening. Got even more housenumbers to put in OSM. Also found that 'Leuk' (street) was split in smaller roads with different names. According to some newspaper website, this was already done in Q1, 2011.

Weird that I didn't notice this when I visited the place last summer (or was it the summer before that ?)

Location: Leuk, Ruisbroek, Puurs, Mechelen, Antwerp, Flanders, 2870, Belgium
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