Ed Avis's Diary

Recent diary entries

Spent an interesting time yesterday trying to travel on London's Docklands Light Railway to a station that does not exist yet... I wondered why it didn't seem to be on the railway map...

There are some unmapped roads round there, but next time I'll know to take the bus.

Location: Canning Town, Stratford, London Borough of Newham, Greater London, England, E16 1EW, United Kingdom

Tracks and rights of way

Posted by Ed Avis on 22 February 2009 in English (English).

I am staying with my folks in the countryside ( and took the opportunity to walk a few footpaths. A question which arises is whether to map the physical features on the ground or the rights of way. For example, Goyle Acre Lane is a public byway, meaning not only pedestrians and horses but even motor vehicles have a right to use it. Yet for some of the route there is no physical road at all - at best some muddy tyre tracks through a field. For now I have mapped it all as highway=track ('Track road' in Merkaator). Similarly I have added a highway=footway for a public footpath that similarly goes through a field.

On the other hand, in London I often find physical roads which are not rights of way, such as tracks to garages.

What's the correct way to map this distinction?

Location: Membury, East Devon, Devon, South West England, England, United Kingdom

Recently I bought my first GPS device. I got a Garmin Vista HCx, so I can upload the Garmin format map made by Cloudmade, and the electronic compass seems like a cool gimmick even if not that useful. I still went out and mapped in the usual way, by printing out the NoName map and taking notes, but the GPS track gives a useful check that any newly added streets and paths are in the right place. Next time I'll get more advanced and mark waypoints, but yesterday it was too cold to be pressing buttons with my hands.

The trace is here and I particularly used it to map a new housing development here . I was pleased to see that the roads and paths I had guessed before without using GPS mostly lined up with the real world.

When I uploaded my trace, however, I got an error message back from the site:

loaded successfully with 2583 out of a possible 3992 points. Of the failed points, 1409 lacked

Is this normal for gpx files generated from a Garmin device? Should I do something to add the missing

(For editing I use Merkaator which can load the traces directly, but I like to upload the traces to the server to keep a record.)

Location: Beaumont Estate, Leyton, Walthamstow, London Borough of Waltham Forest, Greater London, England, United Kingdom

Occasionally I've found streets which have particular land uses or addresses on either side of the street, but where I haven't wanted to set up a whole 'area' near the street to mark the feature.

For example, here on Chingford Road there is something odd with the house addresses. One side of the street has one postal street name and the other side has a different name. Yet the road in the middle is still called Chingford Road. I resolved this by creating a closed area with landuse=residential on each side and attaching the pseudo-street-names to that. But I wonder if there was a better way.

Now I am wondering what happens when the street itself has a particular land use. What about nearby Walthamstow High Street ? This is a street market and the way has been tagged with landuse=commercial. However, is it allowed to attach landuse to a way, or must it be a closed area? Is the right answer to create a fairly arbitrary area either side of the street as I did above?

Similarly, there are some odd roads which belong to industrial estates. I am tempted to tag those with landuse=industrial but I fear this is only allowed for areas. What's the official policy here?

Location: Rowden Park Gardens, London Borough of Waltham Forest, Walthamstow, Greater London, England, United Kingdom

Fixing incorrect level crossings

Posted by Ed Avis on 24 December 2008 in English (English).

In an area I recently mapped I see that the railway line is marked as crossing the roads. In fact the railway is above the road level and crosses them on bridges. How do I enter that in OSM?

Location: Forest Gate, Stratford, London Borough of Newham, Greater London, England, E7 0NF, United Kingdom

The mystery street

Posted by Ed Avis on 19 December 2008 in English (English).

Today I tried to tidy up a few missing names in the City of London. I came to this small street: which has no street sign. There are businesses on the street but nobody working there knew what the street was called! I've asked the Corporation of London to fix the missing sign, so I hope to find out the name.

I tried Googling for the two adjoining streets (Queen Street and Pancras Lane) to see if there was some web page describing what this street is called. I didn't find anything, but I did discover that between Pancras Lane and Cheapside is the former Gropecunt Lane, where the medieval Londoner could find whores. It is a shame that historical or obsolete streets cannot be added to OSM (a map will sometimes give the former name of an existing road, but here the whole street has disappeared).

If it turns out the street I found is truly unnamed, I will know what to suggest.

Location: Cheap, City of London, England, EC2V 7JE, United Kingdom

Injuries in the line of duty

Posted by Ed Avis on 7 December 2008 in English (English).

So a few weeks back I had laser eye surgery at the London Vision Clinic. This is great, because it means I can read street signs from a distance and I don't have to wear glasses. I do have to avoid contact to the eyes for a few weeks, so no swimming, boxing and so on.

I've been walking the streets near my home in Leyton, London, adding street names and the occasional missing road. When I find an unnamed road I like to walk all the way along it looking for features like pubs and footways not on the map. Often there are whole side streets to add, which you wouldn't spot if you didn't walk the whole length of a street before naming it.

Sometimes this means following a maze of footways round a council estate. Yesterday I turned a corner and came across a group of teenagers. I walked past them and one jostled me as I passed; then they started hassling me. I didn't speak, which seemed to annoy them more. One of them punched me in the eye, which was a bit worrying, but I don't think it tore open the flap cut for the laser surgery. I would have liked to hit back, but they were eight, and I really didn't feel in the mood. I walked away while they tried to find some weapon in people's front gardens. In the end one of them followed me as I walked away and threw a traffic cone! (It missed.)

Fortunately I caught the eye of two blokes driving past in a car as this happened. They jumped out and chased off the gang ('YOU LITTLE ****!'). Perhaps it is not a great idea to go off down the side streets, even in bright daylight. Somehow, I seem to attract this kind of trouble.

(this was in the middle of Farmer Road here: )

Anyway, to get back on topic, there are a few questions I have:

- How do I get Merkaator to show the satellite imagery as background?

- I am playing with an Acer Aspire One netbook. It's great, but I wonder if there is one with built-in GPS? Or a suitable combination of netbook plus GPS receiver plus software to record traces under Linux?

Trudge, trudge, trudge...

Posted by Ed Avis on 16 November 2008 in English (English).

Over the past couple of weekends I have filled in more of the street names near where I live. Often I find mistakes in the mapping, usually small cul-de-sac roads which are missing. There are also many footpaths cutting between residential streets and round the back of houses which aren't in the map. I try to add them but it becomes easy to get lost. In general these missing features aren't easy to discern from the aerial photographs.

More street name updates

Posted by Ed Avis on 19 October 2008 in English (English).

Equipped with a pen and a colour printout with 'NoName' highlighting, I have been writing down and adding some more street names. It is a slow task; I have nothing but admiration for Phyllis Pearsall for mapping the whole of London single-handed. (By the way, are the early A-Z maps out of copyright?)

I found a couple of short roads (probably private ones) which have no name as far as I can see. I would like to mark them somehow as 'no name' so they don't get flagged by the NoName plugin, to spare someone else the effort of going to the same spot and still not finding a name. Also some roads have gates in front of them; how should that be marked?

I am using Merkaator to update the map and being an early version it is a bit limited. It won't allow you to split roads, for example. In some cases I have deleted nodes from a road and recreated it. Uploading a couple of my changes failed with 'precondition' errors, but I hope the rest got through.

A few more street names

Posted by Ed Avis on 6 October 2008 in English (English).

I just bought a printer, so I've printed out a map with the NoName plugin and added a few missing street names: the four streets in the centre of . I uploaded them with Merkaator but strangely they do not appear in the site, not even using Osmarender. I guess I'll wait a bit longer.

I have one question: what to do when a single street has been added in two sections, as the northmost of the four streets in the centre of the above map. Should I attach the street name to both sections, or should I try to edit the street in Merkaator to make it a single line?

I'm inclined to just label both halves of the street with the same name and let maplint or some other tool search the map afterwards for possible tidying up. Is that okay?

First map update

Posted by Ed Avis on 13 September 2008 in English (English).

A long time ago I walked the streets near my house with a colour printout from OSM and wrote down the road names. After various adventures with Gnash, Potlatch, Qt and so on I have installed version 0.11 of Merkaartor on my Fedora box. It has many rough edges, but works better and is easier to use than the other clients I tried.

I've uploaded my changes (street names plus one missing lane) and I hope to see them appear in the map soon. I'm wondering now how I can use my Blackberry handheld with OSM - it has some kind of GPS and a keyboard for typing in street names. Any suggestions?