Highways wiki revisions feedback

Since last year, @nitinatsangsit and I, have initiated quite a few revisions of the Thailand wiki to improve, besides other topics, the road classifications guidelines for both major/minor highways:

https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/WikiProject_Thailand#Highway_classification

The initiative started mainly because Grab had their own conflicting classification, but it was also motivated by long-standing misconceptions and conflicts between mappers e.g.

  • tagging major highways based on their importance vs specific attributes (ref and others)
  • usage of service=alley vs path vs residential
  • living_street vs residential
  • footway vs path
  • track for unpaved surfaces only vs agricultural/forestry function
  • residential vs unclassified for thru-traffic

The current wiki definitions are far from perfect and will need further revisions, but at the same time, I also realized that some of you may not be aware of the latest changes.

So if you have any feedback, concerns, or questions regarding any major/minor road classifications documented in the wiki, please respond below. Thanks. Julien

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linking specific wiki pages may be useful

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I’m not sure how I missed the earlier discussion about his topic but I did. I would’ve expressed my concerns at that time.

I agree with the main thrust of this initiative. I believe it’s more logical to determine a highway’s class by importance rather than some arbitrary scheme using numbers supplied by a state agency. That’s especially true in Thailand where it’s not unusual to see highways that have no “official” standing but are in heavy use to get from one place to another.

What I’m having trouble with is tagging a paved road with highway=track. I simply don’t agree with this and have never tagged anything this way. It goes against all of my OSM experience. JOSM actually complains if you try to use a tracktype of grade1 for an unpaved road. IMO, a paved road cannot be a track and JOSM agrees. I much prefer highway=service with service=agriculture or service=forestry, etc., a surface=* tag and possibly a smoothness tag, to deal with this scenario.

JOSM warning: “suspicious tag combination - tracktype=grade1 together with surface=unpaved”

One negative factor against using the highway importance approach, and it’s a legitimate one, is that determining highway class then becomes subjective. One mapper’s tertiary highway will be another’s residential or unclassified highway.

The classification issue has always been contentious and I predict that members in Thailand will weigh in on both sides of this debate.

Cheers,

Dave

not really? highway=track tracktype=grade1 surface=asphalt will raise no complaints from JOSM if I implemented this warning in a correct way. And warning is NOT complaining about paved track, it is complaining about surface and tracktype mismatching.

and paved roads can be tracks, though in some countries it will be rare (but it is common for example in Poland and Germany), and highway=track from start were described as sometimes paved

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Can you elaborate this a bit more? The current scheme especially states, that the main road which is leading to some remote village is not a track, even if it is small and unpaved.
Is this your concern?

A highway=track is classified by its function for agricultural use. So typical routing engines or map rendering would decide on this criteria to not list it and not use it for guiding.

Was this your point or is it something else? For me your concern is not that clear.

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To me, a track is a rough road that is never paved, is sometimes barely visible, and is not generally a route between places. It is used infrequently. If I have to think about whether or not I should drive my family car on it, I would call that road a track. Stephan, you mentioned that sometimes these “tracks” might lead to a village. In that case, I would tag them unclassified, unpaved, tracktype=*

It’s the concept that a highway=track can be paved that concerns me.

It’s true that more than 99% of the track is unpaved, but as stephank said, the highway=track is classified based on function rather than surface. If it’s the agricultural tracks, not leading to anywhere, how can we prevent it from paving? It’s strange that we had to change the highway=* tag just because the landowner laid asphalt on the track.

By the way, I don’t think this is a Thailand issue because agricultural/forestry tracks exist all around the world. So maybe this topic should be discussed on the highway=track wiki’s discussion page.

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I might have not been clear enough at this point. My statement is, that a highway=track NEVER serves at the purpose of connecting villages to the highway grid. But I know that some members of the community had the idea that a road which is not drivable by a typical city car, but required a 4WD should be a track. Even if the function of the road is exactly to connect a village.

So I wonder whether your concerns are in this direction.

A track often serves the purpose to cater for the needs of agricultural users. And often the more “major” tracks get a paved surface or other forms of compacted surface so they are easier usable by heavy machines.

The wiki has some example photos from all over the world:

https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Tag:highway%3Dtrack

I was looking around some aerial imagery to finx examples of paved tracks in Thailand, as I am certain that for exactly the same reason they could exist here as well. Unfortunately due to the clever layout of the fields, these roads usually also served the function to connect villages, so a different category applied.

I suggest to keep the definition of the OSM wiki also valid for Thailand:

The tag highway=track is used for minor land-access roads that are not considered part of the general-purpose road network [1]. Track roads are mostly used for agriculture, forestry, outdoor recreation, and similar activities on open land. Roads used for access to permanent human settlements or facilities should generally not use this tag. Track roads are used by four-wheeled (two-track) vehicles and often take the form of two wheel tracks in the ground (also known as a two-track road), but they may also be graded or paved in some regions.

This also includes your understanding. You would not consider this road when travelling from A to B.
Whether it is paved or not would not make a difference here.

Having paved tracks is probably a rare condition in Thailand. A quick overpass query turns up around 500 roads. Most seem to be short sections which might actually have a strip of pavement on them.

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I don’t have concerns about the classification of highways that connect towns but I never tag such roads with highway=track. Again, my subjective opinion about whether the road is easily driveable or not, and whether it leads to a town, would be my primary (but not my only), criteria for tagging these ways.

Look, I’m not going to try to win you guys over to my way of thinking, nor am I intending to change the Wiki again. I’m merely expressing my dislike of the practice of tagging a paved road as a track. There are other options for tagging such roads, IMO, and I like those options better.

I don’t really understand what you’re saying. What does this mean?
“If it’s the agricultural tracks, not leading to anywhere, how can we prevent it from paving?”

Also, stephankn is saying classification should be based on function rather than surface. That’s fine, I agree. It’s not only the surface that I base my decision on but a combination of things. I would usually tag a paved road that looks rough or unused but leads to a small town as unclassified, definitely not a track.

Did I miss something? I do not see any point which would lead now to a large increase of paved tracks.

So a paved track was an exception in Thailand, and it likely will still be. If we ignore short segments, I see 146 paved tracks in Thailand. Some of them might be tagging mistakes, so the real number should be smaller.

As paving a road is a quite expensive task, I don’t think that this many tracks will get pavement. I expect the typical situation that first some connections between villages get pavement and that these roads will also be used by farmers. I am ignoring the small stubs of 20 meters where they had paved the connection of a track to the main network. 84 of the paved tracks are shorter than 50m.

One example (sorry for google maps) that is tagged as paved track and which is longer:

Most of them seem the roads along irrigation canals. Here the query with a filter for longer ways:

So especially for these paved “tracks” along the canal whoich happen to also connect some villages should be checked again whether they not potentially serve a purpose of connecting villages and by this should get a different classification.
That would then be tagging mistakes and not examples for paved tracks.

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There’s no way I would ever tag that canalside road as a track. IMO, it’s a paved unclassified (possibly service), road.

Please excuse any misunderstanding. I absolutely agree with this statement, and I have no problems with the road used to connect places. I’m talking about your statement, “a track is a rough road that is never paved”. International practice shows that an agricultural track, that does not connect to any places, can be paved.

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Maybe highway=track is badly named (like highway=unclassified).

But highway=track can be paved. And important road may be unpaved.

I think it is badly named (or poorly defined), and I’ve seen many roads in Thailand that are important, even some tertiary ways, and also unpaved. I agree with both of those observations.

The statement “a rough road that is never paved, is sometimes barely visible, and is not generally a route between places”, is prefaced by the words, To me. It’s my opinion. You all can disagree but that’s what I think.

I don’t plan on doing much mapping of tracks but I wanted to air my opinion. Now that I’ve done that, I’ll quietly leave this conversation.

@AlaskaDave I just wanted to be certain that we don’t have any misleading statements around in the wiki So I am taking your concerns serious and want to know the exact aspects of it.

I have no concerns about paved tracks in Thailand. As mentioned earlier, I think that most of the ones currently tagged as paved tracks might be tagging mistakes, similar to the one above.

And given the price of paving a road, I don’t think that we will observe that many paved tracks in the future. A likely thing to see might be a road leading for example to a mill or agricultural storage facility or similar. But then a highway=service together with the pavement sounds also valid. So no big concern regarding a track.

At least for Thailand, your feeling that a track is never paid is likely reflecting the reality.

So while in general it could be paved - and in western world it sometimes is, I have an example in the village I grew up - we could add a phrase in the wiki stating that a paved surface is generally a hint that the road is of higher importance and maybe the tagging as highway=track is wrong.

This always refers to longer stretches of a road being paved. It could well be that the first ten meters of a track leading to the main road are paved. This is not the thing we are talking about.

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I’m also pretty sure I will never map a paved track here in Thailand. But still, to my mind, if an unpaved way is not being used to reach a town or an individual dwelling and is obviously not in frequent use, then it’s a track. IMO Once paved, it becomes something else, either a service road or an unclassified highway,

Again, this is the rationale I have always employed up to now. I think the addition to the Wiki of the sentence “a paved surface is generally a hint that the road is of higher importance and maybe the tagging as highway=track is wrong.” would be helpful.

I just joined the conversation, and I feel like there is a lot of confusion and contradictions here.

I’ll point out some of the problems I see here, though maybe they were already resolved later on.


AlaskaDave:
JOSM warning: “suspicious tag combination - tracktype=grade1 together with surface=unpaved”

According to the OSM wiki, grade1 is “Solid. Usually a paved surface”, so setting surface=unpaved doesn’t make sense. tracktype=grade1 and surface=paved should work just fine as it complies with the standard. If anything JOSM agrees that tracktype=grade1 is a paved road.


AlaskaDave:
To me, a track is a rough road that is never paved, is sometimes barely visible, and is not generally a route between places. It is used infrequently.

I think we need to be careful about not adding too much bagage to the words used in tags. man_made:tower & towertype=stupa isn’t really what I imagine a tower to be, but nevertheless that is how we have decided to tag it.


stephankn:
The current scheme especially states, that the main road which is leading to some remote village is not a track, even if it is small and unpaved.

AlaskaDave:
You mentioned that sometimes these “tracks” might lead to a village. In that case, I would tag them unclassified, unpaved, tracktype=*/

You both seem to be agreeing that roads connecting to villages are not tracks. But yet it is typed in a manner that looks like a disagreement, am I misinterpreting this?


AlaskaDave:
I don’t have concerns about the classification of highways that connect towns but I never tag such roads with highway=track

And neither should they be, as stephankn said above,


AlaskaDave:
Also, stephankn is saying classification should be based on function rather than surface. That’s fine, I agree. It’s not only the surface that I base my decision on but a combination of things. I would usually tag a paved road that looks rough or unused but leads to a small town as unclassified, definitely not a track.

Nobody is fighting you on this, if the road connects villages, then it isn’t track - more likely unclassified.


AlaskaDave:
But still, to my mind, if an unpaved way is not being used to reach a town or an individual dwelling and is obviously not in frequent use, then it’s a track. IMO Once paved, it becomes something else, either a service road or an unclassified highway,

I think this is the only good description of the disagreement?, everything else seems to be things we mostly agreed on. Again, please correct me if I am wrong.


I am not voicing an opinion here, just trying to find out what the real disagreement is about, because it seems like we are arguing over things we for the mostly agree on.

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We are in agreement about ways that connect towns. The only thing that bothers me is that a track can also be paved and that’s what started this discussion. This goes completely against my concept of what a track is. Okay, I’ll concede the point. I have moved on.

In the case of the stupa being a man_made=tower, that was a tagging scenario I invented because the top-level tag was already present in OSM. I merely added a new tower:type=stupa to accommodate the stupas that are scattered all over Thailand. That tagging has since been deprecated through the addition of a new tag, man_made=stupa (Tag:man_made=stupa - OpenStreetMap Wiki), which I now use exclusively.

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wow, I didn’t expect such a volume of input regarding the paved track topic! :exploding_head:

If this topic causes so much pain, we can always make an exception, however alternative tags would conflict with the current scheme:

  • if the road is not within a private estate, it should not be tagged as highway=service

  • if the road has no residences along it, it should not be tagged as highway=residential

  • if the road is not thru-traffic and connecting with other places/roads of similar/higher importance it should not be tagged as highway=unclassified

This leaves only highway=track available and in 99% of cases, its agricultural/forestry function matches.

I ride dirt bikes every week and I have used and mapped hundreds of tracks in northern Thailand I can tell you from my experience there are many paved sections out of villages (especially with concrete plates and lanes) that would be correctly tagged as highway=track based on current wiki.

Thailand’s agricultural industry is booming and it’s becoming more common to have paved track sections for access to farms and increased productivity.

Very often paved sections are intermittent (paved-unpaved-paved) and having to switch between classifications only due to surface would be completely illogical.

For these simple reasons, I would strongly advise against changing the track definition based on its surface.

If anyone has a “concrete” alternative solution (no pun intended :wink: ), please go on, otherwise, let’s move on to other topics. :pray:

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