Road reference (ref) official, old and on the signs

@ MODERATOR or ADMINISTRATOR - saw toooooo late that there is users:Ireland section - PLEASE move post in there

Hi all,

Although I´m new to the Irish OSM forum, I have done several things already.
I´ve been mapping since last August.

I already put the following question on the general help.OpenStreetMap forum and also got an answer:
This question has come up as I had changed the ref-tag on below mentioned streets, and then a week later noticed they had been changed back.
I contacted the mapper responsible and got some answers back, that are copied at the end. And he also advised to seek answers here with you.

So here we go:
Firstly the question to the community:
Regarding the reality in Ireland, that the Road Authority (in the irishstatutes) will add, change and delete road-numbers and the fact that these changes are absolutely not reflected on the signs, there is need for an ‘official’ view on this.

The N52 Ardee-Dundalk road has been stripped of its N-number, there is nothing in its place - ALL signs still reflect this (old) number.
I would like to do the following:
N52 - stretch between Ardee and Dundalk (south, intersection with R132 coming from Castlebellingham).
< official_ref=none OR not named OR no reference >
< ref=N52 >

N52 - stretch between Dundalk (south, previous intersection with R132 AND north, connection with M1 - the eastern ring-road).
< official_ref=R132 >
< ref=N52 >

For the R132, formerly through the village, now using the ‘former’ N52 Dundalk South to North stretch.
R132 ((the part renamed to R215)
< official_ref=R215 >
< ref=R132 >

Documentation on official_ref-tag
wiki:ref page: official_ref=* - Used in cases where the official administrative reference for a road (or other feature) is not identical with the road signs (or other feature ref), e.g. because they are old, or because the administration doesn’t have the money to change the signs.

Explanation to the situation that lead to this question:

Out in the real world a road currently has all the signs on it, pointing to it and leading to it, showing up as: N52 (and another road R132).

(REMARK: following links to the irishstatutebook need not be read to understand the question, they are there only for the ones that want to know exactly what is stated there).

This was done using a former version (2006) of the Irish Road Reference (for the R-road this: and for the N-road this: )

Then a new version (2012) came out (R-road and for the N-road this: ).

In this 2012 version, the last stretch of the N52, between Ardee and Dundalk has been deleted/left out of the description. The road however also has not received any new numbering in the document, so officially this road now has no number.
The R132 (originally running through the town of Dundalk) has a more or less similar fate, although in this case, in the document it is now routed to go along a stretch of what WAS the N52 (the part that is eastern ring-road around Dundalk).

However, as stated above, ALL the old signs are still in place. On the M1 the exits are marked to the N52, on crossroads it all shows N52, … There are hundreds of signs. The same goes for the R132 bit, although in this case there are maybe some 20-30 signs.

To do the ref-tagging using the official data, we should strip the N52 (stretch Ardee-Dundalk) from its REF completely. The R132 running though town, should also have it stripped and put on this small stretch of old N52 (eastern ringroad).
Furthermore some former parts of the R132 have been named (in the 2012 version) on intersecting roads as R215, though the R215 does not have its routing described separately, as it should be.
Well, a very law-abiding OSM-mapper has done all this, and the R215: this was solved by renaming all the old part of the R132 that the R215-naming COULD point to, as R215. The old numbers were then entered in the ´old-ref´ tag, which most routing apps don´t use or display.

However, as the OSM-data are more and more used on free routing apps (OsmAnd, NavFree, …) I think this will greatly unsettle a driver who is using this data. He will get information that does not correspond with what he sees in front of him on the signs and this then can lead to errors, irritation, …

I already contacted the mapper who did the original renaming to the OFFICIAL, but not (and nowhere) visible, road-numbers, and he is absolutely against the proposal I have put above.

Thanks for giving your opinion.


Copied (shortened) answer from Richard (from the original question)
You are right. OpenStreetMap’s guiding principle is “map what’s on the ground”. So if the signs consistently say N52, then the ways should be tagged with ref=N52.

This is already widely practised, for example, with the UK cycle route network, where Regional Routes are being renumbered to be National Routes. OSM is retagging the routes as and when the signs change, but not before, even though that might lead to a mid-route changeover.

Copied answers/remarks from the mapper who wants to go only by the official book:
This case is a reasonably complicated one, and I see you’ve read over my reasoning. Let me recap on the most important details. The two Statutory Instruments I linked - another one deals with (what was) the N52 - were signed into law earlier this year and made a load of sweeping changes to various parts of the national road network, some of them causing trickle-down changes to the regional network too. The main trigger for the changes seem to be the fact that the previous classifications pre-dated the existence of the now more-or-less complete inter-urban motorway network. It also heeds certain changes like the fact that private cars can no longer drive south along the historical N1 in Dublin city centre (which used to run from Dorset Street down to O’Connell Street).

The trigger for the Dundalk changes was of course the completed M1. Before its completion, the “officially suggested” route from Ardee to Dundalk was part of the N52 route. With the M1, this is a poor choice of route, with the N33, M1 option faster and more preferred to keep traffic away from the villages on the old N52. This reasoning, BTW, is my own speculation, but it’s plausible and it is certainly the case that the 2012 SI shortens the N52 whose northerly extent is now Ardee. So although you don’t mention this aspect of my revert, I did strip the N52 ref back off the Ardee-Dundalk section of the old N52. I did set old_ref to N52 for better understanding, both by other mappers and by map users confused by the old N52 signs (experience shows that these may remain in place for years, this being Ireland).

BTW, on this change I’m not super-happy with the fact that we don’t know what the new road number of this section should be - typically when a national road is downgraded it becomes a regional road. But until we can work out whether this is so in this case, I’ve left it as an unnumbered tertiary.

So with this part of the N52 gone, some regional numbers have, we see from the SI, shuffled up. Let me, as an aside, mention the original state of the Dundalk National routes - The N1, until the coming of the M1, still officially ran through the centre of town, along the route you know as R132 and I am now calling R215. In, I think, the 80s, the relief road was built. This was made part of N52 instead of changing N1, possibly in anticipation of the M1 in subsequent decades. This meant that the best route (and the signposted route) to Belfast was to leave the N1 and return to it at the top of the town.

With this in mind, let’s recap on the strategic role of the R132. It can be observed from Dublin to the border along the entire length of what was the N1 before the motorway was there. When Dundalk was bypassed, that number was applied to the through-town route, in strict compliance with this principle. It also helped formalise the relief road as the “better” road if travelling through Dundalk, since it carried a national number. Life was good.

So with the N52 gone from Dundalk, the relief road needed a number. It could have been given a brand new one (R215, maybe), but I guess somebody realised that the R132, as a long-distance R-road, would be better routed away from the town centre. This required a new R-number for the through-town section, which was important enough to remain a regional road, presumably because it provides access to a bunch of other R-roads that head generally west from Dundalk.

This has been a long way to try to explain a logic for the new numbering that I believe to be be described in the legal docs and that I have therefore reflected on the map. Rather typically for these SIs, I recall that I did have to read between the lines a bit and probably found a few cases where I had to arbitrate between contradictory statements. You’ve raised a few specific concerns, which I will try to address (and if I’m wrong, we should of course collaborate towards drawing a better conclusion):

You make a reference to the []( for your change back to R215. However, when I read that, the road (R215) itself is nowhere named, only in a few references to crossings with other roads.

This is true. As I went through the renumbering process earlier in the year the R215 didn’t come to my attention until late in the process. From the start, it was obvious that R132 now went around the relief road, so it seemed like there should be a new R number for the road through town. It was only as I began to spot references to a mysterious R215 that it started to take shape. It is unusual that R215 is not defined in this SI. A few other R-routes (mostly short ones) that we know of have disappeared from the 2012 document. We’re not sure whether this reflects a downgrade or whether perhaps their earlier definitions still stand. For the R215, I can only guess that it was either forgotten in this document or that an earlier SI was signed just for it. But I think you’ll agree that this document makes a few things very clear:

The R132 takes the relief road now

There is an R215 that intersects with many of the R roads that we know intersect with the through-town road that was the R132 and previously the N1

Many of the sections of R215 hinted at in the SI are consistent with my interpretation

Let me try and point out the main clues I spotted (aside: thanks to your surveys we now have better street names, so let’s see whether my reasoning stays good):

R171 is indicated to join R215 at Park Street. Park Street is on "my" R215

R172 joins R215 at Crowe Street. This has exposed an error in my original mapper of R172. Now that we have more street names I have been able to correct the northern extent of R172, though I no longer know where a middle section of that route should go (maybe you can help...).

R177 description also matches my interpretation, though we are missing the southerly section of R177 (Fairgreen Road etc.)

R934 connects to R215 at Bridge Street, again consistent

These are the only references to R215, but all of them point to the through-town route of the original N1.

On the other hand, in the R132 definition it reads: ..... Marshes Upper, Inner Relief Road, Tain Bridge and Dowdallshill in the town of Dundalk: ..... This is confusing as the first two refer to part of the N52, but the latter two are effectively the old road in the center of the town to Newry road. A hip-hip-hooray for road planners.

This would only be confusing if the N52 still existed in Dundalk - In fact, all of this arises out of the removal of the N52 route.

I live on the road and all the signs referring to it show R132, also on the crossroads (e.g. N52 from the M1 motorway, in the direction of Dundalk center, the signs state R132)

Yes, this is the old chestnut of Irish road signs. This change will likely follow the usual patter for signs:
Old signs are left in place. Time passes
Some signs appear referring to the new numbers. Many old signs remain. More time passes.
Hell freezes over
All signs now accurate.

I basically disagree with both you and Richard on this. And with the wiki, as it happens - Richard is himself no fan of the theory “the wiki is right”. I understand the reasoning, but it isn’t how we have been in the habit of mapping in Ireland, it goes against how we have mapped in a great many other cases and it doesn’t cater for the other common occurrence that we see in Ireland in such cases - those cases where you have a mix of new and old signs, ofter over an extended period (we have such a case currently in Blanchardstown with the former N3 inside the M50).

Your motivation is to allow people to associate what OSM shows them with what they can see on signs. This is one objective, but another is to allow, say, routing engines decide which roads are best for fast journeys. Indeed, this is even an objective of a rendered map. Today we know that the N52 north of Ardee is both not the best route for motor traffic to Dundalk and also that it has been downgraded and is no longer a national road. This should be reflected on a map by rendering the road in a style other than that used for national secondary roads. But it would be yet another break in the Irish tagging conventions to have, say, a tertiary road carrying a national road ref.

Something that Richard will certainly agree with me on, is that tagging practices should be discussed in the local community in order to find ways to satisfy everyone. In Ireland, the IRC channel is the strongest hangout for mappers, so this is very much the kind of issue that should be dealt with there.

It’s certainly not OK for me to suggest that you adopt a tagging practice just because I think it’s the right one. Getting a larger group to consider the issues is a lot better.

Please, I know it’s a long read, but does no-one have an opinion on this ?