Mtb trails bicycle=designated?

In the Netherlands we are dealing with mtb trails which are only accessible for mtb bikes (often with a permit), but are tagged with bicycle=designated and highway=path. They render on osm (and also on my OFM) as regular bike paths (blue dotted lines) but are totally different. Question is, can Osm carto make a difference and how? Or is it an issue with tagging?

Personally, I would advice mappers not to use bicycle=designated here, but use mtb=designated. IMHO designated does not mean “especially designed for” but that is another discussion. Unfortunately this way of tagging seems widespread and we (as renderers) have to deal with this.
Mtb:scale tags might be an option, but those paths in NL are generally easy (=0) so mappers either dont use this tag, and/or often normal bike paths are tagged with mtb:scale=0 as well if they are part of an mtb route, so I prefer not to distinguish it with mtb:scale (if <1) on my OFM.
Same for an mtb relation, sometimes the route uses general bike paths too which makes it tough to distinguish it for the renderer.

Long sory short, :wink: what can renderers do to distinguish them from regular bike paths or does the way of mapping needs to be changed?

Found out that there is a very tiny difference between those paths:

Is that based on path+designated bicycle vs cycleway? That is a display difference in this case, but does not say the path is a dedicated mtb path. I think you will always need a defining tag.

Wiki says:The designated value, when used with a mode of transport key, indicates that a route has been specially designated … for use by a particular mode (or modes) of transport. (NL: aangewezen voor).

Designated does not mean other modes of transport are forbidden, so access limitations may be required as wel.

So I think mtb=designated would be the right tag. I think a form of signage is required to determine that the path is designated to mtb?
The path or track may be bicycle=yes|no|designated at the same time. The case of mtb=designated, bicycle=no would need proper documentation, I guess.

I’m not familiar with the Carto Style sheet, but it is not only based on path+bicycle=designated

Maybe someone can explain this further. If you look in Germany in the cities, path+bicycle=designated+foot=designated is rendered as cycleway.

About mtb=designated: it really depends what OSM wants to aim with this “designated”. I find it a very confusing tag to use. Better use “yes” or “no” or “permissive”. If it has to be a legal status, we cannot use mtb=designated because there is no law that defines what a MTB exactly is. You can ride your tricycle, and me on the recumbent on the same mtb trail and we are not trespassing any laws :laughing:

This is due to the surface. The OSM Carto maintainers chose to change the rendering of paths, footways and cycleways depending on whether the surface is paved or unpaved. In your example, the highway=cycleway is marked as surface=paved, whereas the MTB trail is surface=sand.

Surface=sand or any other unpaved surface does not necessarily indicate that it’s a designated mtb-trail. Of course a trail renderer can make a map to show unpaved cycleways as mtb-ready paths. And routers could include these in routes for mtb-profile while excluding them for the regular bicycle profile. But I have cycled lots of unpaved cycleways perfectly fit for regular bicycles, so I think the routing should be based on a hard mtb-tag, not guessed from surface.

Peter, we are talking about two different things here. The rendering and the routing. This topic and OSM carto style goes about rendering only. It seems OSM Carto does not take into account if it is a dedicated MTB trail or not, which is a pity.

True. And OSM Carto can’t show dedicated trails because they are not tagged as such, but it makes a difference based on surface. If you are not satisfied with that and want to render mtb-tracks, you will need a defining tag.

Talking about tagging is not about rendering alone, it has to be renderable and at the same time fit for other uses. In this case, routing will be prominent, it always is when tagging roads and routes. I think especially for cycling, rendering and routing go hand in hand. And route / trip planning. These uses do not contradict, but reinforce each other.

I think its a problem of tagging and communication.

I think ‘designated’ is overused, and usually should be ‘yes’. Are you saying that on these tracks hiking/walking is not allowed? Or are you saying that a road bike is not allowed? How are you making that distinction? I’ve seen some cyclocross bikes on some very rugged trails.

If I’m understanding you, surface=?, and smoothness=? need to be used.

In Nederland, many paths (and trails) are really designated for terrain bikes, there are signs for that. As ligfietser says, sometimes you only get access with a permit, but most are simply paths ‘normal’ people would not take because they are clearly meant for terrain bikes.

As for the type of bike, names and acronyms tend to vary in time and across countries. Maybe I missed the part where all special terrain bikes became mtb’s.
Most mtb-paths I know are also perfectly fit for atb’s (all terrain bikes), cyclocross bikes, and with some effort, doable with hybrid bikes on thick or soft tyres. In fact, I’ve done a lot of those with a hybrid tour bicycle on my “Rand van Nederland”-tour.

Hiking routes are sometimes routed over such ways, if access is not explicitly disallowed, but they still are designated to special terrain bikes.

I think the issue here is that there isn’t really a defined tagging for paths designated or suitable for mountain bikes versus other types of bicycles.

In my part of the US, mountain bike trails are usually tagged with highway=path, bicycle=yes. Sometimes there will also be a “mtb:scale” tag too but since many of those trails are mapped by hikers rather than mountain bikers that tag is often omitted. I recently learned that in France there are ways suitable for city bikes, etc. that are tagged exactly the same (highway=path, bicycle=yes) but are totally different in character.

When I look at the wiki references to mountain biking show either using bicycle=yes|designated or eventually redirected to a page about “mtb:scale” tagging. TagInfo shows a reasonable number of mtb=* values with most being in Europe. However the wiki link for that is redirected back to mtb:scale so it seems that the scheme is not fully documented.

I am coming to the conclusion that the bicycle=yes|designated on the trails near me should be changed to mtb=yes|designated but since that is not specifically called out in the wiki am an a little reluctant to retag things.

In the UK I tend to use “blah=yes” just for “you are allow to access with that mode of transport” only, and not infer suitability from it. I’ll try, but not always remember, to tag “problem” ways with mtb:scale such as .

I’d also agree with bradrh that ‘designated’ is overused. Part of the problem is the use of highway=path (which is less used in the UK than elsewhere) - it really doesn’t mean anything beyond “there’s a way of getting from A to B here, and it’s not wide enough for 4-wheeled traffic, but beyond that I’m not giving you any clues”.

I suspect that part of the problem in the US is that as a whole it’s just that much bigger than (say) the UK or Germany. For example, if you look at the trails around I bet you’ll find that the most of the edits are by one (prolific and hugely beneficial to OSM) mapper, whereas if you look at (which is not dissimilar it is for how remote it is from towns and cities) you’ll see edits by many more.

Edit: Here’s a link to the canonical highway=path rant by (among other things) a keen cyclist in the UK: .

Further edit: I see you’ve already found it!

I read Richard’s diary rant, and I think it displays regionalism. I think wislander’s comment made the most sense:

We do have tags for trails suitable for mtb, highway=path, surface=, smoothness=

The wiki on this seems reasonable:
and I don’t see a mtb= tag. If you want to make it better, please don’t remove bicycle=*, but add a surface and/or smoothness tag, or something from the wiki such as mtb:scale or mtb:type. They’re all subjective, but a non mtber should probably stick with surface and smoothness

Common usage seems to be cycleway is paved, path is not paved. In the western US, I think many, if not most, trails are open to hikers, bikes, and horses, and might only be tagged with highway=path, and possibly bicycle=yes/no.
Circling back to the original question, I think OSM carto should assume that a way that is simply highway=path, should be rendered differently than if it’s a cycleway, or it has a paved tag. I don’t think we should add mtb=designated, we have sufficient tags, and mtb is ambiguous. The type of bike which can be used is not regulated, and is highly subjective.

Thanks all for your input, I agree that mtb=* is not such good idea.

Hey all. Glad to have found this thread. I map a lot of mountain bike trails in Michigan (US) and for years I’ve been trying to best understand how to tag mountain bike trails. We have many MTB trail systems that connect to paved bicycle infrastructure (aka rail trails / multi-use paths) but are definitely not suitable for the traditional paved-path bikes.

This gets at where bicycle=designated and highway=cycleway is not appropriate for MTB trails. If MTB trails are tagged this way, pretty much every system out there sees them as cycling infrastructure and will route riders on them without them being aware they are MTB trails. This is undesirable, for obvious reasons.

For MTB trails in the US I’ve ended up with the following tags, and this seems most appropriate?

segregated=no (only applicable if bicycle=yes and foot=yes)
surface=natural (optional)
bridge=yes (for short segments of bridge)

Then aggregate all of the ways into a relation for a given trail name. Then aggregate all of the trails in an area into a superroute for the riding area. With type=route, route=mtb, and ref= tags this conforms with tagging standards, renders very nicely in Waymarked Trails, Trailforks, on Garmin GPS units, etc.

As an example, the DTE Energy Foundation Trail has four loops, with each loop comprised of different main trails, some small connectors, and small pieces of winter-only trail routes.

The Superroute is here:
This area can be seen in Waymarked Trails here:!42.355!-84.0845

The hardest part has been keeping editors who use iD, as this only tags things as highway=cycleway, meaning that a well-meaning person wishing to add a MTB trail but using iD will often create a route which is inadvertently tagged as a paved bikepath and requires cleanup.

As an example of this, just northeast of this system, across M52, is the Chelsea to Stockbridge B2B (aka B2B), a proper paved and designated footway/cycleway. Whenever DTE Trail gets tagged as Cycleway it’s then seen by mapping tools as equivalent to the B2B and paved-path navigation gets directed on to the DTE Trail.