How do I map a route that does not follow a track or road?

I am mapping some official routes that on parts of the way go outside the visible tracks. They are official, they have names or numbers, they are signposted, but there is not always a given path. Suddenly I simply need to come from point A to B. A simple example would be crossing a field from one side to the other. Of course there is no worn footpath across a soccer field.

In OSM it is totally possible to create a route that is is a combination of cycleways, footpaths and simple connecting lines. However this will cause reactions from formalists.

Formally this makes me be left with two bad options:

  • Either show a non-existing track
  • Or do not show an existing route

Personally I would prefer to be allowed to enter the things as they physically are: Simply a route connection, no specific path as if you have to walk or drive exactly here or here…

As I read the rules for routes such is not against the definition, only the ‘how to’ describes it as being patched up from highway parts.

Are you using the web editor (ID) or JOSM? Or any other app?

I have had this problem in the past but never really found a satisfactory solution. There was some related discussion here:

There have been some attempts to propose tagging conventions for footways/paths that do not have a distinct physical existence but do represent routes:
and the more generalised
… but I don’t think any of these have become widely used.

I would be interested in any other approaches people are aware of, or examples of a route where a solution has been found that works well.

As I understand it, the question is not about the practical steps required in a particular editor, rather it is about how to represent the real world situation using OpenStreetMap tagging conventions. Regardless of what editor is used the issue arises of how to represent the “virtual” segment of trail in the route relation.

Just draw a line over your field, without tags, but put it in the relation?

If the signed route doesn’t show a connection between two roads why you want to map one? Is that because QA tools will complain about the gaps? I would simply add a note that the route has gaps and that fellow mappers can ignore warnings from the QA tools.

  1. Just drawing a line gives bad reactions.
  2. I came to think about ferry routes, and verified. They typically have type=route and route=ferry. And then the rest with name, operator and what they carry.

Consequently the 'just draw a line" part can actually be tagged type=route and route=hiking

Subsequently the full and named official hiking route can be joined up as a relation from these and the different path, track, road parts.

Hi Andershl, it sounds like you have a roam or stroll route at your hands. They just are marked by an entrance- and exit point, in between there is just a figurative trail meandering from a to b. This kind of route (trail or track) is also known as zwerfpad (nl) or roam around and enjoy the scenery.
Never let the formalists get the better of you, your doing the survey, good for you.

THe route does not have gaps. The physical track or path has.

OSM-based tools like waymarkedtrails obviously need the full route to show where it is. Here is an example: Most of the route is ‘just in thre landscape’, but it is official with name, signpost, brochure, and what do you have.

With a gap this (extreme) example would only be the short base gravel road.

Here’s an example how this can be mapped: a route through an area of shifting sand runs along a (virtual) path drawn across it

Sum up so far: It is not a matter of which editor, it is a matter of what ends up in the OSM database. Whether a given renderer depicts it one way or another is also not the issue.

It is only that I do not want to claim there is a footpath where there is none, but the route DOES exist, and (apart from the end/connecting) points have an only approximate location. It is just as a ferry route: There is NO track in the water, but it is part of a traffic network, it has a name, a number - and possibly even a max (gruising) speed. You can use it to find your way and how long time it takes to come from point A to B.

How about connecting with a straight line highway=path and adding trail_visibility=no

I have considered that for similar situations, but was discouraged by the fact that the wiki page suggests that this implies that excellent orienteering skills are required. If that is really the interpretation, it seems more suited to serious mountain hiking than to walking across a soccer pitch or along a beach.

@alan_gr I suspect the wiki was written from a DACH perspective. It is perfectly common to find ‘paths’ with such properties in all sorts of flat lowland places in the UK: commons, meadows & pastures; golf courses where the path crosses fairways; ploughed fields where the path line has not been reinstated. On easy ground in upland areas traces of paths are often vestigial except when crossing water-courses. I think that, in general, these have been mapped with regular highway tags (footway or path in the UK).

There are other places where trail_visibility=no is true & excellent navigation skills are needed (but oddly not mapped).

+1, the Wiki is to support the mapper, not to rule the outside world.

highway=path surface=grass and treat signs as marking path


have way without tags except note=* with description of situation (and maybe linking this thread), put into relations

how to in wiki is rarely fully complete and ideal and it typically covers at most typical cases

you can also extend how to at wiki

I would still do it like that. I’ve come across these kinds of paths in Belgium a lot. There is an entrace to a field with a kissing gate and somewhere at the other side there is also a kissing gate. How to get there is your choice, depending on season and use, the path may or may not be visible and the location of the exit is sometimes unclear (500 meters away, sometimes visible, sometimes obscured by elevation or trees, I have walked along fences trying to find the exit).

IMHO drawing a straight line from A to B and mapping that as a path is totally acceptable.

i think you have to use comparing many imagery method. turn on each imagery like maxar, esri, bing and any others. and looks imagery that more suitable with the roads. and after that make edit base on osm rules