Feature Proposal - Voting - highway=scramble

As I’ve stated before, I’m open to considering a proposal for a broader tag for steep/challenging/dangerous paths/trails, of which a scramble would be a subset. I don’t know if I would support it or not, as it hasn’t been written yet. My initial feeling is that demanding_trail or demanding_path are quite unspecific tag names and far too open to interpretation, but I’m willing to consider a well thought out proposal if someone writes one.

One can go great lengths, to see something. I might add to the below, for those hikers, that see paths everywhere, not everything, that looks like a path is used for human traffic: traces of boots in soft soil look different from those of hoofed game. Something that I occasionally take care of, when proving path mappings present in openstreetmap data. Fresh snow makes that much easier.

Following the above:

I have elaborated on that before, mostly rendering the cartographers view of what makes a “Steig”. On the other hand though, there is the maintainers view: Especially in the Rax area, there are scrambles, that are called “Steig”. Maybe that comes from “Bergsteigen” (mountaineering), even though they are in the low ranges, no summit as a goal. On a walk today, I also got reminded of the term “Steigspuren” that is frequently mentioned in itineraries. No idea though, if it means “traces of a Steig” or “traces of people hiking/scrambling there”. But not a Steig :slight_smile:

PS: I even found a dictionary, https://tureng.com/de/deutsch-englisch/scramble where Steig gets translated as scramble. It is operated by a translation bureaux, that prouds themselves of domain-specific translations. They mention it as a “sport” - something, that brings up another problem with the proposal:

Scrambling is a leisure activity, that might boom. Not now, but maybe some time. So, the scrambles operated by the SAC or the ÖTK (Austrian Tourist Club) - how to differentiante them from random GPX dumps (as is often observed with “hw=path”? Is informal sufficient?

Thanks. The idea was that highway=demanding_tail + demanding_trail=scramble tag combination would have exactly the same meaning as proposed highway=scramble (just rearranged into more general highway=demanding_trail section and more precise demanding_trail=scramble section).

I.e. it would be a way to try to push forward next attempt of scramble proposal by alleviating some of the issues the voters are having, while still supporting main purpose for separate highway=* value (i.e. people who do not explicitly seek “demanding trails” should not be lead there by mistake / app programmer laziness / “by default”)

Of course the proponent @Hungerburg would to well to take other proposal comments into consideration too (some at least should be easy to adopt, e.g. clarifications and more precise definitions, without going against core idea the proponent is trying to accomplish). I’d even be willing to invest some time to help group/analyze “no” votes one by one, and brainstorm the possible solutions that would solve as much of those concerns as possible.

(Note that different/additional demanding_trail=* values like e.g. demanding_trail=jungle would of course have their own explanations, of course, but that is only indirectly related, and open to discussion what initially proposed set of values should be – as secondary tag, they could easily be added later via additional proposals, and even via ATYL)


Demanding trail sounds like a value for a route or path containing, among other difficulties, a section where most people would have to scramble -i.e. need all fours to pass, without haven to pull the body up by your arms. That is the same information that the SAC scales convey. I guess from a climber’s perspective the scramble is the less demanding section.

All in all, I think the simple solution is to add scramble=yes to the section of a path, trail or whatever highway=* or route=* (or area) where the scramble is. This would work just the same as bridge=yes: easy for mappers and easy for data consumers. It’s perfectly backward compatible, i.e. it does not break anything, it just gives data consumers the option to enhance their maps and applications, refine searches, refine router weights. Applications who ignore the new option will not benefit, but they also will not suffer, as they would if a new highway value were introduced.
I assume that applications concerned with safety will gladly take the opportunity to mark scramble sections on their maps. Others might wait a while to see if the tag gains momentum. If it does not, I’m sure the less simple tagging solutions would not make it either.

As for precision, the OSM way is: let the mappers decide where exactly the path stops and the scramble begins, and where the scramble ends and the climb or the next path begins. For me , many passages are scrambles and real scrambles are a full block, but I’m perfectly capable to see where most people could scramble further. If I can see the end, I could probably map the scramble, but to be sure I probably would wait for someone to actually go there and yell.

For all to know, the voting has been suspended, at time of a kind last vote, by the way mentioning a deficit (i.e. lack of commonly accepted authority) and reset to draft. The documentation of the proposal process is sparse on this happening, formally all required steps been taken. Data should be stable, so you are now free to brainstorm.

The issue is much bigger than just the “scramble” itself, so anything dedicated just to scrambling seems doomed to fail (e.g. see comments in “no” votes on Proposed features/highway=scramble - OpenStreetMap Wiki)

For exact reason why highway=demanding_tail + demanding_trail=scramble combination of tags is proposed, please see previous discussion, especially this post.

Demanding trail sounds like a value for […]

See this this post explaining how tags don’t mean what one might guess they might mean (e.g. what it “sounds like”), but instead what is defined in its wiki.

However, value and sub-tag name itself (demanding_trail) is open for discussion, so if you find it confusing, please see this request for suggestions and by all means feel free to propose better one - the main constraint being it must be as wide as possible to accommodate much more than just scrambling, which is much too specific for this purpose, as noted in previous links.

I have met grandmas traversing so-called demanding trails with ease. Probably not yours; Still, I see no reason to make openstreetmap tagging patronize over grandmas.

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Wide proposals stand less chance of succeeding, because there are more things to disapprove of. A minimal proposal which does not hinder further development has much better chances, because it hurts less people’s convictions.


The only narrower proposal than highway=scramble on a section of a trail that I can conceive of is barrier=scramble on a node (or a number of nodes, so to capture scrambles spanning more than 5m length.)

So have I seen youngsters unable to scramble, but that was not the point. I though I made it clear in previous posts that using “grandma” as an example was an illustration (and not a call for search of statistical outliers). Perhaps “not a walk in the park” might be more acceptable idiom? Yeah, most young people would be able to scramble, and most very old ones wouldn’t be. Regardless, it does not really affect the idea of highway=demanding_trail + demanding_trail=*, does it?

In my experience, people complain most when you step on their toes. I.e. it is not wideness that is the problem (e.g. see natural=water poposal etc - any complaints were about naming and minor details on merging similar features, and not wideness of proposal per se).

So, in my opinion, it would be worth trying proposing it like suggested, with wide main key highway=demanding_trail and then two or thee more specific demanding_trail=* as examples to show the need exists for such wider definition.


Post Feature Proposal - Voting - highway=scramble - #50 by eartrumpet by @eartrumpet gives a nice classification of what might have inspired people to support or to oppose the proposal. Would be nice if @Matija_Nalis kept to the promise, to do some analysis of the suspended vote. I am not the right person to do that, and am too exhausted too at the moment, and an abstaining third party should be better charged any ways.

PS: I’d classify opinions like “The func’m ntion of those path are transportation by foot” (oblivious, if there is a path at all, but yeah, how else would you transport yourselves?) and “would be survivable as property, but not when it is top level tag” into the “consumer’s problem” category.

@Hungerburg, many thanks for the work done so far in this discussion. :+1:


The highway=scramble is proposal that should be a first attempt at differentiating the various type of footways. This much like when highway=road was split up based on it attributes such number of lanes, types of markings, average speed, presence of divider and number and type of entry points.

There needs be something similar done to footways so that the average person can determine what to expect. Would you take a moped out on an expressway? Probably not, since you couldn’t match high speed traffic. More than like you would limp along until a officer arrested you for hindering traffic and have your vehicle impounded. So why do treat a way that is a “walk in the park” the sames as one that might put you in the hospital after slipping on a rock on a steep grade. Each foot tag should imply how uneven the surface is, average amount of grade and possibility other general attributes.

Yes, there are 5+ different scales that describe trail difficulty each from various organizations throughout the world. Do you expect the average person, let alone mapper, to read and understand exactly what they mean?

Unfortunately this confusion has leaded to real-world consequences for those who accidentally took the wrong path. Leading to unnecessary rescue and sometimes recovery of those who would have otherwise avoided the area had they known it was dangerous.

At the end of the day, we need a set highway based footway tags. So that it is clear what is someone should expected find at that way segment. It should be simple for anyone planning outing to quickly understand whether thier participants have the necessary ability, experience and possibly tools needed to traverse the landscape.

Applications can then decide whether to even render segments over a certain difficulty. In particular trail apps could render ways based on a user’s settings. Then use a range of colors to indicate the general level of difficulty along with a more specific rating from the local mountaineering organization.


This never happened? highway=road was introduced after the main highway= road types were.


I live in the United States, am a fairly active hiker, and had never heard of the term “scramble” until this proposal. Although I still don’t understand what exactly it means even after reading through the proposal, this discussion, and asking to have it explained to me multiple times. Given how many oppose votes there are for it I’m clearly not the one who doesn’t understand exactly what it’s for. And from what I can tell most of those people are also pretty active hikers. So in no way is highway=scramble going to solve the problem of understandability.

As a side to that, @Hungerburg decided to suspend the proposal back into a draft and suspended the vote period indefinitely in the meantime even though it was clearly rejected, both when it was originally announced and after he extended it for another week. In the meantime there’s still people voting on it like the whole thing is going on. Me and another user have indicated to Hungerburg that the proposal’s status should be set to rejected, but apparently they are unwilling to do it. I don’t know how to do the cleanup for a failed proposal myself. So I’m not going to do it. But it would cool if someone could “officially” set it to rejected and do the cleanup so people don’t get the false impression the vote is still going on or that it still has any chance of passing. It clearly doesn’t have any chance of being accepted by the community as is and there’s no reason to pretend like it does by drafting it :+1:

Eating away from highway=path space will be incredibly hard, as fifteen years ago the highway=path tag was explicitly approved to be “nonspecific” - c.f. Proposed features/Path - OpenStreetMap Wiki - anything, where you cannot or must not drive a car, even if there are no signs of actual use for anything on the ground there. In my area, there are OSM-notes saying: There is no path there, and replies, I have seen someone passing there. The pictures Proposed features/Path/Examples - OpenStreetMap Wiki do not show scrambles, they show paths suitable for all of walking, cycling, horseback riding and driving cars, The mirror in the second picture looks suspicious :slight_smile: But the words speak different. By todays standards, such a proposal would not have been approved, but that is the way it is; Not a few seem to enjoy that.

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Using hands is something the ones that I am aware of all have in their repertoire of deciding matter. Curiously, the YDS goes much further in “for balance” - Passages, that here are widely graded UIAA II would be covered by that. And yes, the SAC calls them scrambles. I know of some such, that are mapped sac_scale T4, while the documentation allows that only in T6 mappings. While some T6 mappings go into UIAA VII, which will be deep in the YDS class 5. Muddy waters indeed, highly unspecific…

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Here is my analysis of 35 rejections and 5 abstains (note that this adds to more than 40, because while few have not given a reason, more than few had multiple concerns). Also, take it with grain of salt, as it is impossible to put myriad of opinions in just a few generic categories.

It should provide some rough outline, though:

  1. 21 feel than currently existing tags are enough (e.g. highway=path+sac_scale=* and others)
  2. 11 feel that new supplementary tag (e.g. scramble=yes) would be OK-ish, but are against new highway=* value
  3. 11 would be OK with new highway=value, but think that it should be something more generic and not so narrowly scoped (e.g. highway=demanding_path + demanding_path=scramble)
  4. 11 feel that there are Verifiability issues (i.e. too subject and/or not clearly defined, corner cases, etc.)
  5. 14 (and more, as sac_scale as well as scramble=yes might count here too) seem to miss the point why is was proposed as separate highway=* value (because it is according to current experience very near impossible to get renderers/routers to correctly parse secondary tags too).

So, the majority feels that sac_scale=* and other existing tags are good enough.
If you still disagree with that @Hungerburg, I would suggest:

  • take more time to prepare it. Explain clearly but in short why separate highway=* value is wanted, and exactly why secondary tags like sac_scale=* and scramble=yes don’t cut it (x out of y renderers/routers mislead unsuspecting people on such technical trails, c.f. via_ferrata how it helped). It should fit in one paragraph of about 5 (not too long) sentences. Also provide link to a post with more detailed evaluations if needed. That should take care of point (5), as well as much of (1) and (2).
  • go with something more generic like highway=demanding_path + demanding_path=scramble. Give 3-4 more popular options for other demanding_path=* values besides scramble as examples to demonstrate why it is preferred to a secondary key, but be clear you’re not trying to get approval for them in that proposal at that time. That should take care of whole point (3) as well as majority (if not all) of point (2), as well as some of the point (5) too.
  • also, be more clear about what is and what isn’t scramble. Give more then few examples, with explanations how they differ from others, and pictures, and all tags that might be used (or explanations why they wouldn’t/shouldn’t be used. e.g. sac_scale, trail_visibility, incline, surface, smoothness …). Especially give extra examples about corner cases. It does not need to be definitions of scramble that everybody would think of, but it needs to be as verifiable as possible. Take smoothness=* as inspiration. E.g. smoothness=intermediate would mean a million different things, but when you have table with example pictures, what vehicles it is usable for, how big each crack (or how deep a rut) may be in cm, how much average car may be slowed on such road etc it becomes more verifiable. Still somewhat subjective, but much less so. If you needs several types of scramble, define then. I think table like used in smoothness=* is good and readable way to go. That should take care of point (4).
  • use this thread (or a new linked one) to have other people help with suggest better wordings, clearer explanations, and good examples before doing the proposal (i.e. only do a proposal when it looks to be final production version). You want to have something which is short and easily readable (not confusing, vague or open to interpretation in any part) followed by table of several examples showing what would be demanding_path=scramble (and how/why it would be tagged), and several examples showing what would not be (again with explanation why; and how it should be tagged instead).

I do agree that is a significant amount of work, but hopefully others would help (especially if asked. I would), and to make significant and good and long lasting changes, some extra effort will always be required.

Thank you Matija for the summary. When you say, the majority feels, you might be precise: the majority of opponents. Maybe say too: The opponents themselves were far from being the majority of voters. But certainly, lots of people are fond of sac_scale and what they can do with it :wink:

From the top of my head, I’d not expected eleven votes, that would have approved a highway=demanding_path tag. I especially invite @eartrumpet to start a draft on this. It would be quite sad, if his idea was just a reason to oppose scramble and nothing else came out of it. I will gladly serve on the scramble attribute subcommittee.

I am certainly the wrong person to develop such an abstract tag. I deliberately did not coin the proposal referencing dangerousness or other such demands. The only thing a scramble demands is use of hands.


I’m sorry, but highway=demanding_path wasn’t my idea. I read about it first here and the following answers on the mailing list for the RFC to highway=scramble:
And I don’t really know what you want to achieve with other things you wrote above, I always try to be constructive; there’s no need for comments like that.

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