highway=track apart from agriculture usage

the russian OSM-community split in parts when using this tag, I think matter needs public discussion.

The definition of highway=track in wiki:

Russian wiki was translated word-to-word and now many people actually prohibit use of hw=track for anything else but agriculture vehicles ))

I look at the mapping practices across the world and find track’s use very common in woods, deserts and other large open areas. Some tracks even connect isolated houses to populated places (well, some places are not connected to main road network by any public roads).

Common thing of fields’ or woods’ tracks - they are unmanned, nobody build them for purpose, it’s just a “footprint” of wheels. More often people use it the better it’s visible on ground.

Tracks may change geometry over year or disappear if not used. It is not a part of country’s main road network.

It looks as track, it’s used as track, people know that this track may be difficult to pass on generic car or it may be missing next year, then… why we (I mean russian osm-users) forced to use hw=service or even hw=unclassified, then add tags like width=*+lanes=1+surface=ground+smoothness=very_bad etc ?

If one track more usable or better visible on sat imagery - we safely may add usage=main or so.

Please note I understand we are mapping public roads by their importance (traffic, public usage). The point is - field or desert tracks have no generic importance (one goes fishing, the other just travel in forests); they are not public, not industrial, not serving specific places. Are we allowed to tag them as “tracks” though they’ll never see a tractor ? ))

Example picture from Bing, we call them “directions” - roads going “somewhere”


The other thing to note is that highway=service, unclassified etc. implies that the road can be used with “normal” cars. A short time ago, we had a discussion in the Thai forum about public roads which can be used by 4wd (or tractor) only, see http://forum.openstreetmap.org/viewtopic.php?id=53213 We also looked at Australian guide lines (roads in the outbacks are very rough).
Though there is not a clear-cut decision, there seems to be some consensus that a “track” need not be made for agricultural/forestry purposes (though that’s typical for a track), but some roads which cannot be used by normal cars may be tagged as “tracks”, too.

Bernhard Hiller
Thanks, Australian guideline looks very promising. It was always confusing me the OSM does not distinguish between man made roads and rough tracks and AU community highlights that.