Recording extinct ways

While filling in gaps in the public footpath and bridleway network this afternoon, I came across a piece of ground where both the Ordnance Survey mapping and the County Council Definitive map (I’m in England) show a pair of footpaths. When I got there to try to walk them, the paths weren’t there (and probably hadn’t been since the Motorway was built across them thirty years ago).

Is there already a customary way of tagging a way as “whatever you see anywhere else, there really is nothing on the ground here”? I wouldn’t want it to render on Mapnik, but I feel it would be good to draw a distinction between things which we haven’t got round to adding yet and things which have been omitted on purpose (because they aren’t there). If nothing else, it might save another contributor a fruitless search.


I’d tag either with highway=abandoned or was:highway=path with a possible end_date tag. These tags are helpful, especially when mapping from Bing images that can be several years of age and buildings etc. have in mean time been demolished…

“highway=abandoned” is incorrect here if the footpath is completely gone (and replaced by a motorway !)

“was:highway=path” is unknown and has never been discussed/approved by the community.

The best I would suggest is to add a “note=*” tag on the nearest OSM element where the footpath disappears. On this note, you explain that the footpath stops here and older sources like OS are obsolete (perhaps a “noexit=yes” in addition). We don’t map things that do not exists on the ground any more. They are some related projects for historical maps (like

Thanks to both. Still listening. A.

Recording this type of information is very useful. Using something slightly more regular than a note is also useful as it may then be possible to search for these vanished rights of way. Despite Pieren’s comments you do not need the permission of the OSM community to use a given tag. Obviously tags are more valuable when their use is shared.

There is no single way of changing a tag to indicate that it’s obsolete. Local to me we tend to add an old_ prefix to a tag, so in this case old_highway=footway and old_designation=public_footpath. Probably the latter tag is most useful as it would help to highlight that definitive maps are not always very useful.

I would also contact your local branch of the Ramblers and the council footpath officer and ask about these paths. In my experience they can be quite helpful.


It wouldn’t be the first time where the footpaths that a council thinks that they have don’t match what actually exists!

In this example I’m not sure it’s possible to map a negative, as neither the OS map nor the council definitive map are likely to be acceptable, licence-wise. The exception would be if the data was available from the council in a form that wasn’t encumbered by incompatible licensing (perhaps as a definitive statement, or data that has been explicitly released under a compatible licence). In this case I’d definitely use a source for the designation so that it’s clear where it came from.

Where there is a clear legal right of way (e.g. public footpath signs at either end) but no physical access I’ve tended to e.g. use “designation=public_footpath” with no matching highway tag. This isn’t widely done (it is, after all, a rare case), but it’s probably what I’d do here too, provided of course that the source of the designation is licence-compatible with OSM in the first place.