OpenStreetMap logo OpenStreetMap

How should I tag paths suitable for off-road wheelchairs and mobility scooters?

Posted by nickjohnston on 24 May 2023 in English. Last updated on 14 February 2024.

A section of the Cotswold Way National Trail on Leckhampton Hill was recently improved to make it suitable for off-road Tramper wheelchairs and mobility scooters.

The path has been widened and resurfaced:

Resurfaced path on Leckhampton Hill

Steps where the path meets Hartley Lane have been replaced with a ramp:

Ramp providing access to and from Hartley Lane

I’m not sure how best to tag this. Using wheelchair=yes doesn’t seem correct as a more rugged chair or mobility scooter is required. Looking at Taginfo for wheelchair I don’t see “off-road” or similar. The Key:wheelchair wiki page doesn’t help either.

Even the experts on the #osm-gb IRC channel seemed unsure how to tag this, but pointed out that such paths are becoming more common (see Rambles on wheels), so I thought I’d ask the wider community.

Better accessibility tagging is also useful for people who don’t use wheelchairs, but have restricted mobility. Someone at the volunteer group which helps look after the hill told me that the ramp has opened up the hill to people who have been unable to walk there for years.

Location: Shurdington, Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, England, United Kingdom


Comment from DarkDays on 25 May 2023 at 20:58


I don’t know if there is an answer, I’ve got some ideas though:

  1. Make a tag, an access tag, something like motor_wheelchair as a cross between motor_vehicle and wheelchair? However, nothing will use the data.
  2. Just tag the physical and hope a router will use it. It looks like surface=fine_gravel, in theory a router for mobility scooters could route down it, while avoiding it for traditional wheelchairs.

Comment from tyr_asd on 25 May 2023 at 21:30

The smoothness tag would probably be a of good use here.

Comment from SomeoneElse on 26 May 2023 at 08:20

I’d agree that wheelchair=yes doesn’t help here, and it’s certainly not appropriate for access tags (there’s been no change to the legal status), so I’d just tag what you see - width, surface, smoothness, tracktype etc.

Other things to think about are the incline along the path (which sometimes is tagged in OSM) and the (here, lack of an) incline perpendicular to it, which can make paths challenging for mobility scooter users, which may have a narrow track and relatively high center of gravity.

You can also add some sort of description or note. That won’t get picked up by routers but might very well be by a human vetting the results that a router returns.

Comment from dudone on 4 June 2023 at 14:11

For information there is a widely available scheme in the SW of the UK to hire “all terrain” mobility scooters. (Trampers)

All the locations have marked routes. I had a go at putting a wiki page together for this type of rental.

The type of mobility scooter for rental was defined by the surface tag so I would suggest this. I would put most “wheel chairs” under the “pavement” type.

There is an “off road” type of mobility scooter that will get you up mountains so it does depend on the surface and type of scooter.

Perhaps having a way to tag these types of routes would be the best way forward. There are relatively few people that own and transport their own Trampers but the hire of these with specific routes does seem to be increasing in the UK and it is very useful to know where these routes and locations are.

Comment from hypo808 on 5 June 2023 at 12:04

Hi, Sebastian from Wheelmap here :) I’d suggest using wheelchair=limited, even if Wheelmap doesn’t show ways (yet). This way the traffic light scheme would continue to work for these trails.

The tag isn’t enough though: I’d +1 that the following tags would be essential and helpful for any kind of accessible routing:

I can’t say exactly when Wheelmap is going to support these, but it’s certainly on our ideas-for-the-future list.

To see why these detailed tags can make a big difference, is a good proof of concept of different routing profiles. The app shows that detailed tags are more valuable than making assumptions about a single user’s needs – that’s something we learned when we designed A11yJSON: If you can, describe physical objects, not people.

Comment from nickjohnston on 16 June 2023 at 17:44

Thank you for all the comments, they’ve been helpful and interesting. I’ve added smoothness=intermediate and wheelchair=limited.

Log in to leave a comment