the tag highway=footway;path is invalid,


I got a note saying


GerdP has left a comment on one of your changesets created at 2015-10-31 07:05:11 UTC without comment

please review way 313285301:
the tag highway=footway;path is invalid,
please correct it. This problem is likely to
happen with iD, so take care :wink:

More details about the changeset can be found at"

On this link I found:
highway=footway and highway=path
but do not truly understand the distinction

Any chance you could help clarify?


I can see you just fixed it:

What Gerd is trying to say is that you’ve merged three footways and a path together ( , , and ). Looking at the resulting tags (the ones that you can see down the bottom left in the editor where it says “all tags”), instead of having either a “highway=footway” or a “highway=path”, you ended up with a “highway=footway;path” which nothing understood, so it didn’t appear on a map, but you’ve since fixed it to say “highway=footway”, which is understood and does appear.

The actual distinction between “highway=footway” and “highway=path” is a bit of a tricky one, is subject to personal opinions and needs a bit of history. Here is roughly what I think happened*:

Originally there were “highway=footway”, “highway=bridleway” and “highway=cycleway”. The names were picked by someone from the UK and meant “something meant mainly for pedestrians”, “… horses” and “… bicycles”. The assumed access rights (in law in England and Wales for the same named things) are “pedestrians only”, “pedestrians and horses, with bicycles also allowed, but unlikely to have a surface designed for easy cycling” and “pedestrians, bicycles and (maybe) horses”, as in the UK cycleways are usually multi-access paths for most non-motorised modes of transport.

In Germany “cycleway” got used for German cycleways that are (often or mostly) bicycle-only. There’s a separate class of shared-use paths, for which “highway=path” got invented. Right now, “highway=path” is relatively less commonly used in the UK than elsewhere (as a quick comparison look at the relative frequency of residential and path in the UK and Switzerland: and ). Elsewhere (e.g. Norway, but not just there) “highway=path” got used for “rural paths, such as those in mountainous areas” and “highway=footway” got used for “urban” or “well-made” paths.

Some of the story of “who uses highway=path for what, where” can be found on github where the “standard” stylesheet developers work: , particularly on . The abiguity of “highway=path” has been raised before, notably at .

In answer to the question “what should I map the Yellow Trail as” I’d suggest it depends on what other mappers locally would choose. Regardless of whether that would be highway=path or highway=footway, though, I’d definitely consider adding more detail, such as a “surface” tag (even if it’s only “unpaved”, which I presume this is) or perhaps access tags to make it clear who’s allowed there and who isn’t.

  • note that I wasn’t there at the time, and therefore may have got some bits wrong - all corrections gratefully received!

Although this doesn’t affect the advice given, the term “footway” is wrong in UK use. The term “footway” in English law actually corresponds to highway=sidewalk. Real footways have a status such that cycling on them is illegal and can be prosecuted by the state. The nearest UK legal term to highway=footway is footpath, and there is no formal default position on cycling, and where cycling is not permitted, it is probably a civil trespass, although it could also be a breach of a local bylaw.

For future reference, if you get a changeset comment that you don’t understand, the first thing to do is to add you own changeset comment, asking for clarification or send a private message to the person who left the comment.

Also, whilst in this case the two tag values were mutually exclusive, there are some cases were combining values with “;” gives a more correct description. In those cases, you may have to accept that the map renderer is not very good with multiple values, but still use them, because to do otherwise would be mapping for the render.