Request for help in determining how to tag car barriers

There’s an on-going discussion in the Norway category on how to tag car barriers.

For the record, we know they are car barriers. The discussion is not about their purpose. It’s about capturing the purpose within the current OSM schema.

1) The openable barrier

There are several types of car barriers that we can’t agree how to map. The most common examples are variations of these:

These are widely used in Norway to block car access to cycleways and footways. They are lockable and can be unlocked and swung open to provide access for maintenance and emergency services.

There are two diverging views on tagging this barrier.

a) barrier=swing_gate

It’s physically a swing gate.
A swing gate is by default a car barrier.
The wiki page on swing gate says there is implicit general access for cyclists and pedestrians.

A swing gate may be interpreted as blocking the entire width of the road.
Don’t know how we can differentiate the half-width swing gate from a full-width swing gate so that bike routers will know that our car barrier is not generally an obstacle to cycling.

b) barrier=cycle_barrier + cycle_barrier=single + cycle_barrier:installation=openable

Pros: Wiki page says there is an expectation of an opening for cyclists to pass through.

It’s not a cycle barrier.
Bike routers reading only the top-level tag will not understand we’re tagging a car barrier, and may discourage cycling down this way.
Need even further tags to capture that all cycles are expected to fit through our car barrier – as opposed to cycle barriers, which frequently obstruct cargo bikes, trikes, trailers, etc.

2) The fixed rail/fence barrier

A much less common car barrier is this fixed barrier.

The fixed rail/fence car barrier is really no different to cyclists or regular drivers than the openable version. The difference is only to maintenance and emergency services, i.e. they cannot get through. Fixed rail/fence barriers are often used in situations with car access on both sides.

How do we tag this?

If you subscribe to tagging a) for the openable barrier, there’s a lack of options for the rail/fence barrier.

If you subscribe to tagging b) for the openable barrier, the rail/fence barrier can be tagged in the same way but with cycle_barrier:installation=fixed.

How to proceed

We are eager to hear your opinions, and especially from people familiar with bike routers.

Are a) or b) your preferred way of tagging this? Why?
Did we miss tags that could capture the real-world state and intentions?
Could we introduce new tag values to capture the real-world state and intentions in a way that allows routers to function properly until the new tags are properly adopted?

Bonus question

The wiki page for swing gate claims general access for cyclists and pedestrians, but the wiki page for lift gate does not. Is this by design? The hinge mechanism seems irrelevant to the access claim.


I would go for “swing gate” for your first example, as it meets all requirements (blocks wide vehicles like cars when closed and is accessible and intended for pedestrians and bikes to pass) and is the kind of usecase for which the tag was created. There is no requirement for the gate to block the whole width (although this is also common, and then there is a bypass), but it should block enough of the road to physically prevent access for cars.


2) The fixed rail/fence barrier

That looks like typical barrier=cycle_barrier to me.

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The topic of the discussion is when it is a car barrier. The discussion is not about determining which purpose this has.

Thinking it looks like a cycle barrier doesn’t change the purpose, BUT that thinking may be a cause of the inconsistency in the cycle_barrier wiki entry and usage. Any thoughts on that?

Edit: the inconsistency is this:

Perhaps counterintuitively, cycle barriers are sometimes intended to permit access by cyclists to cycle routes while denying access to other vehicles. However, not all cycles are able to pass through them[1].

Almost any barrier=cycle_barrier blocks cars.

Some also effectively block bicycles, almost all are at least a bit irritating to cyclists.

Not entirely sure you mean by “The topic of the discussion is when it is a car barrier. The discussion is not about determining which purpose this has.” in this context.

No expert on this but for example 2 couldn’t this just be drawn as two sections of fence with the highway tag that goes through the gap determining the types of vehicle that can access the gap when it comes to the router?

For example 1 you seem to essentially have a gate, a gap and a fence. You could draw this as a way for the gate, a gap and a way for the fence. Not sure it would be acceptable but you effectively have one type of highway going through the gap and another going through the “locked” gate when it comes to routing.

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Yes. That is true. But the reverse is not true. If the purpose is to block cars, I don’t see the relevance in cycle barriers also blocking cars. They are different things and have different meanings, even if they sometimes overlap due to implementation. We’re trying to tag the purpose of the car barrier.

The discussion is about being able to tag a car barrier. Whether or not it looks like a cycle barrier, or partially overlaps functionally or physically with some cycle barriers, is not what we’re trying to answer. It’s the concept of a car barrier we are trying to capture.

Or are you saying you would tag the car barrier as barrier=cycle_barrier?

yes, barrier=cycle_barrier is also a car barrier. In many cases it is actually built with intention of blocking cars while allowing bicycle passage.

If barrier matches design of one of barriers from Tag:barrier=cycle_barrier - OpenStreetMap Wiki I would tag it as such.

Personally, I view barrier=* values mostly as a statement about the implementation (that is, the physical structure of the barrier), rather than about the purpose presumably intended by its creator.

From this viewpoint, “cycle barrier” is just the term English speakers often use for “pair of (sometimes staggered) steel bars perpendicular to the way”.


If the intention is to block cars, but allow cycles through, it is not a cycle barrier, but a car barrier.

Do you see the terms “car barrier” and “cycle barrier” as physical manifestions? That a particular construction is always called a cycle barrier, no matter which purpose it is used for? I know for certain other people do.

well, see say Wayback Machine 8.14 at page 48, continuing later. Here is part of page 85, describing barriers intended to block cars, tagged in OSM as barrier=cycle_barrier:

barrier=cycle_barrier are commonly installed to block cars, though they obstruct or block also cyclists

This is linked from Tag:barrier=cycle_barrier - OpenStreetMap Wiki since my edit

So yes, some types of car barriers are tagged as barrier=cycle_barrier despite sometimes being intended as a car barrier rather than a bicycle barrier.

I guess someone can invent a new tag for them depending on why they were put somewhere but I am sceptical about this being a good idea.

If your proposal is to tag car barriers as cycle barriers, how do you suggest we address the issues that arise from tagging the opposite of what it is? I.e. the cons of my first post.

Citing one’s own writing on a wiki – the best kind of internet citation. :slight_smile:

Many of the tag values come with a set of implied access rules. How do you reconcile that with not tagging to a purpose?

Sure. But you’ll notice how none of my pictures show staggered steel bars, and there are numerous examples of other steel bars across roads that I would imagine you don’t identify as cycle barriers?

If the intention is to block cars, but allow cycles through, it is not a cycle barrier, but a car barrier.

no, cycle barriers generally let pass cycles through, slowly, maybe pushing required

Yes, the cycle barrier by the nature of cycles and cars will also block cars, but that doesn’t mean that a cycle barrier is a car barrier, or vice versa.

A cycle barrier may be placed where there are no cars allowed at all. The purpose can be to slow cyclists to favour pedestrians, to slow cyclists ahead of an intersection (a cycleway intersection), or to slow cyclists exiting a cycleway onto a carriageway.

Even if this barrier also blocks car, it makes little sense to call it a car barrier, because one will infer incorrect properties of it. Unless you see them as equal and make no distinction between them at all.


You will note that I quoted not only that and warned that it was added in my edit. I also have not claimed that presence on wiki implies that it is right, but rather mentioned that it is linked from there.

If it was not clear I will add more clear and explicit warning that its presence on wiki should not be treated as independent verification.

(I added it to Wiki as I was confused in a bit similar way to the discussion here - “why cycle_barrier is supposed to be put on cycleway?” and someone linked this material in explanation)

For example bollard form implies passability for pedestrians as result of its form itself.

Yes, fences, bollards, gates, stiles, guard rail, cattle grids, height restrictors, turnstiles etc can be made out of steel bars across road. But in the first post is exactly in layout of one of typical barrier=cycle_barrier and I would argue that this specific arrangement of bars is in fact barrier=cycle_barrier. That in this specific case intended to block cars.

The problem with the cited material (8.14 page 48) is that it doesn’t address car barriers. The text is about different kinds of motorcycle barriers, and it describes how motorcycle barriers should not be used unless absolutely necessary because they also block cycles.

8.14 page 47 discusses car barriers, and nowhere does it say that a cycle barrier is also used as a car barrier. Bollards are mentioned and displayed in images. When vehicular access is required for maintenance, removable bollards or self-closing gates can be used instead of bollards.

There is no mention of cycle barriers at all in 8.14.

8.15 mentions cycle barriers, and only in the context of slowing the speed of cyclists to favour pedestrians or on approaching a dangerous section. Their use as car barriers is not mentioned.

Bollards doesn’t imply access for cyclists, yet that is implied. Swing gates don’t imply passability for anyone based on their form, yet access for cyclists and pedestrians is implied.

Then how do you argue that this physical arrangement of steel bars is a “cycle barrier”?

That’s common usage in OSM, following common usage IRL. The things block cars and let cycles and pedestrians through. You can specify specific access values on the barrier and on the way through the barrier, as needed.

Personally, I think it’s odd to name a barrier type after the vehicle it lets through, but hey, there it is. I also don’t trust defaults and implied tags for any barrier; I tend to use explicit access values, especially on the way through the barrier.


The municipal roads and traffic department where I live call these gates “car barriers”, even when they use them as cycle barriers. Their reasoning? “That’s what the product is called”. The product provably isn’t called that in any of their suppliers’ catalogues, but there it is…

That leaves us in a bit of a weird spot, then, ref. the cons listed in the first post. The amount of tagging required to reflect the real-world situation for cyclists becomes quite extensive if we cannot assume that cyclists are meant to have unobstructed access through a car barrier, but not through a cycle barrier, and that cycle barriers often completely block some cycles from getting through, while car barriers almost never do.

How would you address that?