What constitutes a track ?

Posted by mwbg on 12 June 2011 in English (English)

Around the area that I am surveying, a lot of roads seem to have been entered as tracks. These show up as dashed lines on the slippy map and make it very difficult to see that there is a through road in certain places. Other mapping providers don't do this. What's the difference between a track and a road ? For an example, try the coordinates in this diary entry.

Sorry, clicking on the diary entry doesn't point to any specific coordinates. They are: 52.0436051,-2.3317704


Location: Castlemorton, Malvern Hills, Worcestershire, West Midlands, England, United Kingdom

Comment from RichardB on 12 June 2011 at 15:14

see here for some examples

There's no hard and fast rule, and there can be some overlaps between roads and tracks, but I'd say;

tracks are usually unsealed or of lesser quality build to a road - only wide enough for one vehicle - often for agricultural use or for property access - won't have road markings - usually privately owned etc.

Roads will usually be sealed, will usually have some road markings or road signs, usually maintained by the council (except for some private residential roads).

I've had a quick look at the Bing imagery, and the tags for the ways - and it looks like the way leading north-west from that junction has a partially gravel and partially paved surface. Also see that there are no road markings at the junction (like there are with the road to the south-east). highway=track is probably reasonable, but perhaps a tracktype=grade1 or tracktype=grade2 would be appropriate.

Comment from 42429 on 12 June 2011 at 15:50

For routing purposes, tracks have a default setting

If motoring is explicitly permitted (though not recommendable due to bad surface) on this track, please add

Comment from z-dude on 12 June 2011 at 16:55

For me, a track is a wide path that can fit a car, or horse drawn cart, but normally excludes standard motor vehicles. (I went by the picture of an old doubletrack on the wiki page)

I've been tagging overgrown logging roads as tracks, as you need four wheel drive for those. A car can fit on a track, but you wouldn't normally drive a standard car on one, or if you can, there's probably a gate that makes the service road into a bike path, horse path, or recreational greenway, and only parks board vehicles drive on it to service the park.

And the difference between a path and a track is that a track is wide enough for an ATV for a Jeep to drive on.

Comment from Sanderd17 on 12 June 2011 at 17:53

If the maximum speed you can get on that road is very small because of the surface, I tag it as a track.

So a track is something where a car can ride, but normal people don't want to ride there because of the bad road conditions. Most routers will avoid tracks or only use them for the last meters.

Comment from c2r on 12 June 2011 at 18:22

to add to the mix, there is also highway=byway in the UK....

Comment from marscot on 12 June 2011 at 22:23

I think I have tagged most tracks right LOL,
you can get sealed tracks which at tracktype grade1
and near grass tracks grade5
some tracks are lit and most unlit, some used for logging and some for access to buildings. using the tacktype helps with the map showing the right type of track that you will find on the ground.

Comment from dcp on 13 June 2011 at 11:18

All the above comments are on the right "track" (just a pun)
Seriously it is a difficult question because a track in the Australien outback will be used by HGVs, trucks, SUVs, etc. It Germany, where I live, tracks are very well defined and can be described in most cases by tracktype=grade1-5.
Then I went to Portugal where, so it seems, anyone can drive on any track i.e. no road signs forbid cars, lorries etc. to use them.
So, I set my own standards:
Tarmaced surfaces became highway=unclassified when no classification was visible
and unsurfaced became tracktype=grade2-5
grade2/3 could take cars
grade4 could take 4-wheel drive vehicles
(If the gradient was too steep I used grade4)
grade5 could take tractors and of course construction vehicles
(The go anywhere there are needed)
I saw no grassed over tracks in Portugal. The sun is merciless.
The point is: The tracktype definition will be different in each country.
Just a little anecdote from Portugal:
While I was in Portugal I was using OSM-Data for the very first time.
Some highway=unclassified which I wanted to take with the car turned out to
highway=path. So I contacted the OSMer in question to explain the error. He had used Bing to make these classifications. The Bing imagery was of course outdated and due to the population decline in the remote areas nature was reclaiming the land for itself. So be careful when using OSM-data in Portugal!

Comment from Vclaw on 14 June 2011 at 01:47

In UK terms:
If its a public road, that anyone is allowed to drive a car etc along, and maintained by the local council (and usually paved), then its probably highway=unclassified (or highway=tertiary/secondary/primary etc).

If its just for access to a single house or business / car park etc, (so you may be allowed to drive along there if visiting that house/shop, but not have a right to), then highway=service (plus service=driveway for driveways).

If it is for access to fields/forests, so usually unpaved, and the public are not allowed to drive there, then its probably highway=track.

If it is too narrow to drive a car etc along, then its probably highway=path (or highway=footway/cycleway/bridleway).

For rights of way in England and Wales (public footpaths, bridleways, byways etc), they can be tagged with designation (as well as a highway tag):

The tag highway=byway is deprecated. Byways should be tagged as highway=track / highway=path as appropriate, plus designation=byway_open_to_all_traffic or designation=restricted_byway.

Comment from stevage on 14 June 2011 at 12:09

Btw it's good to ask these quetsions on the official question site, .

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