Classification of Cycle Paths

I have been in Germany for some time and OpenStreetMap helped me so much for finding my way, so I’m trying to contribute to it (though it is almost perfect)! :smiley:

I want to improve the bicycle/pedestrian roads of the town where I’m currently in, because it seems there are some inconsistencies in bicycle roads. For example, as far as I see, these 4 roads are similar - sidewalks for bikes and pedestrians, segregated by color/line. But,

*One is a separate cycle path (Paul-Gossen-Straße:,
*One is a generic path (bicycle=yes, foot=yes, segregated=yes. Koldestraße:,
*One is a footpath (bicycle=designated, foot=yes. Äußere Brucker Straße:,
*One is not seperately shown but the main road is marked that there is a parallel track bike lane (Äußere Brucker Straße again:

And also some paths are primarily for bikes, some are not a part of pavement but a lane of the main road etc. I don’t know German so I can’t read the documentation of classifications for Germany, can anyone summarize the classification of cycle&foot paths in English? :slight_smile: So I wouln’t ruin the map with wrong corrections.

To cut a long story short: There is no rule, telling you how it should be done, but all possibilities you have mentioned above are correct. The only hint I can give you is: Take a look in the surrounding area and try to use similar taggings. If there is no clear tagging, then choose your favourite one. Take care of access-Tags. You can find the default values for Germany in the wiki:

Sorry for this answer, but this is the confused situation with bicycle- and footways in Germany.

With cycle-/footway along roads are two problem areas:

  • map as its own way or as attributes of the road?
  • what to use for a seperate way? cycleway, footway, path + access?
  1. Use a seperate way if it is divided by some space from the road it is running along.
    This means you may not change to the road at every point.
    Division can be grass, trees, brusches, fence/guardrail etc.

    A curb is for OSM-purpose not considered a seperation.
    In this case footway/sidewalk=left/right/both/none and cycleway=track/…
    as attribute on the road are the preffered way to express the situation.

  2. When having combined ways for bicycles and pedestrians you have to decide to use
    either highway=cycleway or highway=footway and give access to the other transportmode
    with bicycle=yes/designated resp. foot=yes/designated. But there is no clear preference
    which of the two to use.
    Because of this uncertainty people startet to use highway=path together with explicitly
    stating the access rights.

    All three version are accepted forms to express combined cycle-/footways in OSM.
    bicycle/foot=yes means it is allowed
    bicycle/foot=designated express a legal designation. Cyclist/pedestrian must use this way,
    other transport modes are not allowed to use this way.

I hope, that my explanations above, are sufficent for the mentioned roads. I don’t know this area, so I’m not able to give any specific advise.

The english versions mainly explains the same as the german version.
If a cyclepath is part of the roadsurface, in other words a lane on the road, then you should use either

  • cycleway=lane separated by a continuos line → other vehicle are not allowed.
  • cycleway=shared_lane separated by a dashed line → other vehicle may use this lane.

PS: Welcome to OSM and the forum

Edbert (EvanE)

Thanks for the comments! Okay, then I will try my best to contribute to the map! :smiley:

Like topic starte I am also a foreigner who likes to ride a bicycle in Germany. I’ve also seen that in Germany people use “path” for cycleway or combined cycleway/footway. I find this very confusing. Why? A path is very oftend used for an unpaved way. Most cycleways and footways (blue shields) are paved. If a surface tag is added it is better ofcourse but still… why use path?

The other thing I find confusing is that for an official cycleway (bleu shield with bicycle sign) the combination of highway=path and bicycle=**YES **is used. Bicycle= yes is meaningless because in Germany a Path implies that you are allowed to use a bicycle. If you want to indicate that it is a cycleway it is better to use bicycle=designated but still… why use path?

So my suggestion is:

If it’s a blue shield with a bicycle:

If its a combination of cycleway/footway
highway=cycleway + foot = designated OR
highway=footway + bicycle=designated

The other thing I do not understand is that in Germany I see highway=cycleway + bicycle=designated. Could someone explain why the bicycle=designated is added because it seems to me that a highway=cyleway implies a bicycle=designated? If I understand this wiki a bicycle=designated is not neccesary for a 237 sign. (round blue shield with bicycle)

Cheers PeeWee

You’re right with your confusion :wink:

The legal situation about cycleways in germany is a bit confusing too, so most people don’t even know when it is allowed to ride a bike on a way, when it isn’t and when one has to drive on this cycleway (instead of a nearby street). This, accompanied by contradictory definitions on how to tag them even if you know the difference, reflects in unclear tagging as you’ve noticed it.

(sorry for my bad english)

Yes I understand and JOSM presets do not help either.

A dedicated cycleway : highway=cycleway
A combined cycleway/footway: highway=path
A dedicated footway: highway=footway

I guess EvanE is right when he writes "Because of this uncertainty people startet to use highway=path together with explicitly
stating the access rights. " JOSM could not decide between cycleway and footway so decided to take… “path” :confused: Does not make sense to me.

I guess the English wiki is quite clear on what a path is.

It’s a lot better then my German :wink:

highway=path does not imply an unpaved surface. That’s just one of several subjective interpretations people have tacked onto the value later (and it’s not universally accepted). By design, “path” combined with explicit access tags was supposed to replace the footway, cycleway and bridleway values entirely.

Those occurences of highway=path + foot=designated + bicycle=designated for combined cycleway/footway follow this originally documented intention of the tag. But with said proposal being partially (but not entirely…) rejected, many mappers sticking to the traditional tags, and alternative interpretations emerging over time, there are now several different styles of expressing the same thing.

Well, due to all the confusion about what the highway values mean, the only safe solution is to tag surface and access rights explicitly…

The problem seems to me (not only in Germany) that there are explicit tags for pedestrian and bicyle only, but ambiguities for dual use. I’m not sure whether the approach used in JOSM preset is that wrong. The first sentence for path is: “A non-specific or shared-use path.”
Using path only contradicts the intuitive use of it for unpaved ways outside residential areas.
There is a corresponding disagreement whether to use footway for hiking trails in the wilderness only used by pedestrians.

In Germany there are different cycleways:

  1. cycleways with the blue sign, where you have to cycle (by law), instead the parallel road.
  2. cycleways without any sign, or with a white painted bicycle on the ground. There you can cycle if you want (cycling on the parallel road is also allowed)

1: highway=cycleway + bicycle=designated
2: highway=cycleway + bicycle=yes

The bicycle=designated(/yes) is added, to differ those both ways.

It is a bit confusing about combined foot- and cycleways. I don’t not use path. I choose the best match way. If the way is made for cyclists and suitable, i choose cycleway.

At least, I wonder why we need the implication bicycle=designated? I think it is better to tag the access tags separately from the type of way! This is also the reason why I don’t think a path + bicycle=designated is the same as a cycleway. I think a footway is a more specific path, and a cycleway a more specific path (or footway). I know this is not common on OSM, but it would be nice.

A highway=footway/cycleway may be a way intended for walking resp. cycling but may be not marked by a traffic sign (in the current case for germany a blue round sign with bicycle and/or pedestrian).
Tagging footway/cycleway=designated tell others the way is marked with a traffic sign which has some legal implications.

For a cycleway without pedestrian (and for footways without cyclist) highway=cycleway (resp. highway=footway) is the prefered tagging.
With the ambiguity concerning combined cycle- and footways tagging highway=path + bicycle=designated + foot=designated is in widespread use.
With this example some people think, that always using highway=path for ways below roads is a better way expressing things.

Edbert (EvanE)


Are these really cycleways? I mean no.

Cycleway implies designated (English Wiki). German Wiki differs as often.

bicycle=yes is IMHO nonsens. Is often used to mark other ways with a bicycle route. This is not correct.

Do you know “Schutzstreifen”? And there are other cycleways, without a sign (because in germany don’t exist a sign for a cycleway without the strict law: you have to cycle there). So sometimes a bicycle painted on the ground. A sidewalk with no sign, but the half of the way paved in red color (cycleway-color in germany), it is a cycleway too (where you can cycle)!

I know! But it is better without the implication, because of the different access-rules i explained above.

It is not nonsens! With the implication we need it… The bicycle=yes overwrite the designated to set the correct access tag. This is why I say: the implication is nonsense!

**Why is highway=cycleway + bicycle=yes correcter than highway=cycleway? I don’t understand. **

Sorry for some text in German.

Is used sometimes to say that the tagging of the way is o.k.
All the ways of a bicycle route has this tag.
This kind of tagging is false.

I don’t understand, why experienced mappers offers all the tagging possibilities for e.g. cyleways instead of prefering one, to reduce the chaos in OSM.

We seem to have 2 discussions going.

  1. What’s the best way to tag a combined cycleway/footway?
  2. Why and when to add a bicycle=yes/designated to a highway=cycleway

What’s the best way to tag a combined cycleway/footway?

I aggree that a path does not mean that it is unpaved but… I think most routers will interpret this as unpaved when there is no surface tag. The same goes for cycleway. Most routers will interpret a cycleway without surface tag as paved. So in order to keep things as simple as possible I still suggest to tags these combined cycleway/footway as

A: highway=cycleway + foot=designated (or)
B: highway=footway + bicycle=designated

I prefer A because in many countries it is OK to walk on cycleways where it is not OK to cycle on footways. As a foreigner I don’t know if it is allowed to walk on a cycleway in Germany (but I have seen many do it :wink: ) If the designated tag is missing I think A will give the best results in most routers/renderers.

I aggree that eg a : highway=path + bicycle=designated + foot=designated + surface=asphalt is not “completely wrong” for a normal combined cycleway/footway but… I find it confusing and not neccesary. If we would use the simpeler: highway=cycleway + foot=designated
most routers/renderers will interpret this OK (even without the surface tag)

Why and when to add a bicycle=yes/designated to a highway=cycleway

I do not remember seeing option 2 in Germany (how do I recognise a cycleway without a sign?) but… i guess in NL we have more or less the same situation. We have 3 types of cycleways:

1 cycleway were you may cycle but you do not have to. In case there is a parralel road you may also use this. Moped and mofa are not allowed on this cycleway.

Common tagging: highway=cycleway + mofa=no ( which implies a Moped = no). Parallel road does not need extra tagging or maybe just a bicycle=yes

2 cycleway that has to be used. In case there is a parralel road you may NOT use this. Moped is not allowed but mofa is allowed on this cycleway.

Common tagging: highway=cycleway + moped=no ( which implies a Moped = no). Parallel road gets a bicycle=no

3 Combined cycleway for bicycles and moped. In case there is a parralel road you may NOT use this. This goes for bicycles, mofas and mopeds.

Common tagging: highway=cycleway + moped=designated ( which implies a Mofa=designated). Parallel road gets a bicycle=no (and a moped=no but this is very often forgotten because we have more cycling mappers then moped-mappers :wink: )

Here’s an example of all these three types of cycleways om a mapnik map. (wait a few seconds till the ways show up. clicking the way will give you OSM tagging)

As you can see there is no= bicycle=yes or a bicycle=designated on a highway=cycleway.

If a legal status means different access tags I would say… OK map the acces tags but if in practice there is no difference between the 2 then why add the bicycle=yes/designated tag? Which renderer or router uses this information? This still seems redundant to me.

I am not in favour off mapping legal issues in OSM unless these have a practical use in rendering/routing etc.

Are there any practical differences between the 2?

It isn’t (except where explictly allowed or to cross it (like a regular street)).

I could have guessed since you have combined cycleways/footways. In NL it is allowed to walk on cycleways unless there is a sidewalk/footway next to it. Goes to show that we’re a long way from a uniform Europe :wink:

Yes, that is a problem in Germany. In past all cycleways had the blue circle sign. Now we have also ways without the sign. But we don’t have any other sign, only the painted bicycle symbol or a colored part on a footway.

In Germany there are some options, that you can cycle on the road even if there is a sign like at your No. 2:

  • You can choose to cross a junction on road or cycleway.
  • If the cycleway is impassible.
  • If you have a bicycle which is more wide then normal.
  • etc

I think this is similar in other countries!? So in Germany it is wrong to tag the road with bicycle=no! Bicycle=no is only tagged at

To tag something at the road would be nice for routers, but bicycle=no is wrong by my mind.

I think it is better, to separate the highway tag from integrated access tags. If we use “designated” for a hard restricted way like No.2, and “yes” for a way where cycling is allowed (No.1) we can connect the sign with access tags and the law together and reverse.

I know that in France there are a quadratic blue sign is similar to your example from No. 1

But still… what is the practical difference between the two? different acces tags? If not… then why map them differntely? Only because one has a blue sign and the other does not? I do not think that this is a good idea. OSM is international so I think it is a good idea to stay away form country specific tagging unless there is a very good reason to do so.

I disaggree completely. Why are only roads with this sign tagged as bicycle=no when in practice there are also other roads that are forbidden for cyclist. In NL we have more or less the same situation. Not all roads that are forbidden for cyclists have this sign (wide velomobiles e.g. are allowed on the road unless there is this bicycle-forbidden sign) but that does not mean we do not tag others roads with bicyle=no. How should a router/renderer tell the difference if we don’t tag this info in OSM. I know… you could say that a road is forbidden for cyclist if there is a cycleway with bicycle=designated next to it …but …how far away from the road is this then? We can not have all routers/renderers guess how far from each others the road and cycleway have to be so to keep things simple (and universal) we just add a bicyle=no to all roads where a bicycle is forbidden. I hope most Germans will do the same.

NB for special wide bicycles (like velomobiles) a new tag could be used… something like= “Velomobile=yes/no”.