In relation to this: draft of a tagging scheme for path categorisation.
I’ve been mapping actively now for 4 years, and I’ve tended to concentrate on paths, tracks, footways and cycleways. I think that one of the very best features of OSM is how people map these with almost as much attention as they do roads. That’s something which really makes OSM stand out as different.
BUT… in mapping these features there’s one thing I’ve really really struggled with. In places where main paths are well mapped it is possible (and desirable) to add secondary (and more) paths. When we do this all and any mapping (or data) currently becomes confusing. That’s because there really isn’t a well established way to record the important relationships between paths, and because ‘path’ covers such a huge range of features.
I’ve resorted to using ‘tracktype’ on occasion. I’ve done my best to map surfaces and widths, and several other features. I’ve used ‘footway’ to distinguish good quality tarmac from ‘path’. All these are work-arounds… trying to solve what ought to be a simple problem. And worse, even these work-arounds cause issues. There doesn’t seem to be firm agreement that ‘tracktype’ is properly valid on paths, that the difference between ‘footway’ and ‘path’ is as I’ve used it, and there’s certainly no agreement on tagging things like ‘smoothness’.
So while in theory I get the idea that surveying for facts is better than trying to categorise things I’m very firmly of the opinion that paths must be categorised in some way…. and yes I have looked at what’s already out there. We have ‘smoothness’, ‘tracktype’, ‘surface’, ‘incline’, ‘width’, ideas about ‘accessibility’ and ‘access’ (e.g. wheelchair = no), there’s ‘sac_scale’ and ‘trail_visibility’, and ‘mtb:scale’, and I’m sure I’ve missed lots out…
Even if I properly map just one of the larger local urban green areas/parks using each and every one of these tags I think it’ll still not be possible to say for certain which are the main paths and which are the informal desire lines. Many of the main paths won’t be wheelchair accessible, might not be very flat, might not be very wide, and so on… in fact some of the less formal paths might be wider than the formal ones, the informal desire lines will sometimes be flat and the formal paths steep… and those are just a few of the issues.
Of course in a bid to avoid categorising things I could not map the smaller or more informal paths at all. But that makes no sense at all… currently because I’m trying to stick to mapping facts not opinions I end up applying my opinion even more strongly… avoiding mapping some features altogether just so that maps/data remain usable.
So here’s a draft of a tagging scheme for path categorisation. It’s an alternative to the existing pathtype definition which doesn’t seem to have much use… and this is why I’ve titled it with the word ‘alternative’ for the moment. Maybe the proper thing would have been to add it to this initial page, but this system seemed like a good way forward.
I hope at this stage to hear from people whether this scheme would work (more than any further thoughts about why this is or isn’t necessary - something you’ll see that I’ve already made my mind up on personally).