Marking roads/paths as private

I am sure this has been asked before, many times, but I would like to know when I can safely mark a road or a section thereof as private. I mainly edit OSM because I am doing CityStrides, and like to edit where a road is inaccessible. I am been (correctly) rebuked in the past for marking the end of a road that was a farmyard behind a gate as private when there was a public footpath at the far side of it, so am now more cautious.

The specific example that I am looking at right now is Meadow Lane, leading off the A46 just north of Syston in Leicestershire, England. When I went up it, just past the boatyard on the canal was a gate, open at the time but clearly in use, with several signs stating that it was private property and there was no public right of way. I can find no evidence to the contrary on any official maps to hand. My instinct is therefore to mark it as private from that point, but looking at OSM, it looks like there are other footpaths coming off it, albeit leading nowhere.

Would anyone object if I marked that as private, and, if they would, what would be the grounds for doing so, in order that I can adjudicate such things myself more easily in future? Presumably referring to the OS is not an option any more than referring to the other place is, so I am not sure what I can use as a reference apart from signs that are present when I visit.

Thanks, and apologies if I am asking something well covered in the help. I did have a look but found nothing directly relevant.

There has been some controversy concerning tagging a driveway with access=private because of routing issues for deliveries that need to be made to the door of a private home. I now tag driveways or ways inside of a gated community with ownership=private. I do not use the access tag at all.

Others may have different ideas about your problem but that’s my approach.

I would probably follow your approach - if something is signed as private, and that signage clearly applies to pedestrians as well as vehicles, and there is no conflicting evidence (e.g. a waymarked walking trail), I tend to assume it really is private and map it as such, ideally taking a photo of the sign, and sometimes adding a note tag if I think it is an unusual situation that might confuse other mappers. I might also add a barrier=gate and tag that as access=private, although I would be more likely to do that if I found the gate closed (which would be more common in this situation my experience). Of course there is a risk here that a landowner is trying to enforce a restriction he is not legally entitled to enforce.

However I am mapping in different countries to you. There may be some UK-specific (or even England-and-Wales-specific) issues here (for example I am not sure if the signage conflicts with an “official” right of way recognised by a local authority). Issues around footpaths and rights of way are discussed quite often on the Talk-gb mailing list at, it may be worth asking there.

Thanks, both. The only official things I can think of are the OS maps and local authority planning maps, but both would be simply copying other sources, which seems to be not on, understandably. I have found a couple of websites that are dedicated to identifying and preserving public footpaths in the UK, but both seem to get their underlying data from OSM, which just makes trying to get data from there somewhat circular.

I know Meadow Lane reasonably well and that section is indeed private. You can add access=private to it and that would be correct information.

That said, the private paths in question are simply tagged as “highway=track”. In the UK that doesn’t imply any public right of access. So it’s already correct as of now, but adding extra information doesn’t hurt.

That is very useful, thank you. I should also have a word with the chap who runs CityStrides, as he is generally open to suggestions, and if that street appears on there despite no implication of its being accessible, there are presumably others.

It looks like CityStrides uses Mapbox under the hood (a company which sells services based on OSM data) and they don’t usually take that much notice of access restrictions, sadly. :expressionless: