Use of bicycle=designated vs bicycle=yes OUTSIDE of Germany

Speaking a bit for the US here (though even that is a patchwork of different rules), there are very few cases where a cycleway is compulsory for bicycles and forbids other transportation methods. Usually the only implied forbidding is motor_vehicle. Everything else is generally allowed, though there may be different right of way expectations.

So when I’m mapping here, I follow the recommendation that @emvee noted, and interpret bicycle=designated to mean that the way is designed for bicycles, and bicycles are expected to be the primary user. This is stronger than “yes” because in a common law community you can ride bicycles nearly anywhere, but some routes are preferred because they were built for bicycles.

So to map this to the German case, the official blue traffic sign is the highest form of designated and it is backed by law. This is very uncommon in the US - if we followed this convention there would be almost no use of designated here for bicycles (or horse or foot, for that matter).

For the “case 2”, clearly identifiable as a cycleway, but not compulsory, then I’d ignore the law for the moment and focus on the intent. This would map in the US to something like this 36 Bikeway where I live - it is 27km long, wide, signed for bicycles, named for bicycles, etc. You could walk on it or ride a skateboard or crawl on your hands and knees, but the intent is clearly bicycles. In your case, because of the above convention about designated implying no for everything else, you’d want to then add the various yes's for foot, horse, etc.

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My 2cts:

  1. Is the way made for / designated to bicycles?
    a. Yes: then highway=cycleway.
    Proof is ideally a traffic sign, but other markings or typical design (defined locally) may tell the tale.
    bicycle=yes is implied. All other legal and customary implications or exclusions differ by country / region / maybe even by city. Probably foot=yes can safely be assumed, and horse=no, but vehicle access differs widely AND changes over time. No surface type should be assumed. So many situations require explicit tagging.

b. No; it’s not a cycleway. Goto 2.

2 Is this a type of way where bicycles normally may ride AND where bicycles do not have an alternative they are supposed to use?
This is country-specific. Use the access-wiki with access rules by country and by road type.
Yes: you’re fine.

No: if it’s an exception. tag bicycle=yes.
Not clear: tag bicycle=yes to be sure.

  1. Is this a type of way where bicycles normally may ride, but has been dedicated firstly to cycling, while still allowing other vehicles “as guests” with regard to speed and priority?
    tag bicycle=designated and explicit access for all other vehicles. There is probably a speed limit as well.

If bicycles have an alternative they are supposed to use (e.g. a lane or a side path) tag it on the highway (e.g. with bicycle=lane or bicycle=use_sidepath)

In all non-standard situations, tag explicit access. E.g. if a moped is allowed on the separately mapped cycleway as well as on the road, tag moped=yes on the road AND on the cycleway.

In short,
bicycle=yes means access for bicycles.
highway=cycleway means it’s a cycleway verifiably (signs, markings, construction) made for or assigned to bicycles; bicycle=designated is implied, but other access rules (exclusions/inclusions) may vary.
bicycle=designated on a different road type or path means it’s not a cycleway per se but it’s formally dedicated firstly to bicycles, while not implicitly excluding other traffic.

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I’m in the US (CO), and never use ‘designated’, always ‘yes’ if they are allowed. I don’t see the value in ‘designated’. There are very very few paths where bikes hold a priority over walkers.

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I’ve used bicycle=designated to mean designed and managed for bicycles as documented on the wiki. However, this piece of information is not about access so it would probably be better if wasn’t part of the access tagging scheme. I consider bicycle=designated and bicycle=yes to have exactly the same meaning with regards to access.

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So “but on public footpaths the law is less clear” should be removed?

(I added " Note: access restrictions across the United Kingdom are NOT uniform, see this note" already)

I think that was British Cycling being daft rather than Cycling UK (and yes, the organisation names are confusing!).

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In Australia we use bicycle=designated where it’s signposted or otherwise marked as for use by bicycles, this might be a bicycle logo painted on the surface, or a bicycle sign. bicycle=yes is for where bicycles are allowed to use the way, but it’s not signposted or marked as for bicycles (ie. implicitly).

Shared paths are common here which are equally for pedestrians and bicycles and we tag them highway=cycleway + bicycle=designated + foot=designated + segregated=no.

Not that our use of bicycle=designated doesn’t mean cyclists have to use that way rather it’s signposted that they are allowed to use it.

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I would say bicycle=designated is redundant for this case. A cycleway is a path designated for cycling, as you described.

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This is an important point. In countries that adhere to the Vienna Convention, mandatory signs are an important category of signs that correspond to certain traffic rules. D4a is part of this convention.

By contrast, in the United States, mandatory signs officially don’t exist at all, and neither does the legal basis for them. The closest thing is the occasional “must” on a regulatory sign, such as Left Turn Must Use Turn Box obligating cyclists to make a two-stage turn. But regulatory signs about access either say that you may or you may not, so there isn’t an obvious opportunity to use access values such as designated and use_sidepath.

Some jurisdictions have antiquated laws requiring cyclists to use a sidewalk if provided, but people don’t tend to map such laws because they’re uniform across the whole region and not well known. Or the laws are full of obscure conditions about age, age of the accompanying adult, etc. that no one knows how to tag.


I tend to use bicycle=designated instead of bicycle=yes because iD’s Cycle & Foot Path preset uses bicycle=designated foot=designated. If that’s imprecise, then at least there’s little practical harm compared to omitting foot=* from a highway=cycleway, which does break routing.

That said, there are situations where I find it important to distinguish between bicycle=designated and a mere bicycle=yes, for example:

I would interpret the icons on this sign as foot=designated horse=designated bicycle=designated wheelchair=designated moped=no hunting=no. Although it’s perfectly legal to bike on the parallel residential road (bicycle=yes), you would “go out of your way” in doing so. (The ⅓ route shield calls for a route=bicycle relation but doesn’t affect the access tags in any way.)

This trail is officially a multi-use path for pedestrians and cyclists. An occasional park rules sign reminds pedestrians to keep off the paved trail and stay on the sandy shoulder when possible. This rule isn’t strong enough to relegate pedestrians to foot=no shoulder:foot=designated, but it does establish cyclists as having the right of way. (Unusually, cyclists even have the right of way over motor vehicles at crossings.)

This expressway=yes has a bike lane. Can you see it? It’s indistinguishable from a shoulder, except for an occasional “Begin Turn Lane – Yield to Bikes” sign at an off-ramp. The local highway department has a policy of keeping the bike lane as low-key as possible. They don’t want casual cyclists to find out about it, because the heavy traffic at 50 mph would be hazardous. Nevertheless, this is a popular commuting route for more experienced cyclists.

In the West, some stretches of Interstate freeway allow cyclists because there’s no other connection, short of dismounting and climbing a mountain. But even though these freeways have all the relevant signs allowing cycling, they would be only bicycle=yes because they only allow cyclists by necessity.


Aside from these cases, if you prefer to tag a bike trail as highway=path instead of highway=cycleway, then bicycle=designated is the most obvious way to refine it as a bike trail as opposed to a trail that happens to allow cyclists. Iterative refinement is also possible with path=*, but that key is about physical construction rather than usage.

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In Japan, there is no common tagging scheme for bicycle=* yet. I’m just proposing a new idea to distinguish between bicycle=designated and bicycle=yes on the talk-ja mailing list.

There are two types of signs in Japan that indicate bicycles are allowed on footways. These roads have legally different traffic rules.
(1) A “For bicycles and pedestrians only” sign (a sign with a picture of a bicycle and pedestrians)
(2) A “For pedestrians only” sign with a “Except bicycles” auxiliary sign (see photo)

In the proposal, they are distinguished by bicycle=*:
(1) → highway=footway/pedestrian + bicycle=designated
(2) → highway=footway/pedestrian + bicycle=yes

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I’d map that as a cycleway:right=lane; cycleway:right:oneway=yes. Notwithstanding, that doing so, might make casual cyclists end up there. To consider hazards is not fun: Imagine a family with kids on holidays getting routed there. This especially, when realizing that openstreetmap data gets used as the one and only source of information more often than welcome.

Back on Topic: In a Vienna Convention country, this might very well carry a mandatory sign, the meaning of would be, people are to cycle on the designated lane, and not on the carriage way there. There really is not more to this. Anybody disagrees?

Yes, there is often subjectivity to where cyclists should go – on this expressway, I often pass by cyclists enjoying themselves on recumbent bikes. However, my point is that some bike lanes are pointedly discreet.

Within this region, a normal bike lane would be festooned with bike-related signs, but here it’s just the bare minimum that the local authorities can get away with. They wanted to prohibit cycling and walking, but cycling advocates pointed to state law that only allows them to prohibit cyclists and pedestrians from freeways, not expressways. As a compromise, they took down the prohibition signs but don’t facilitate non-motorized traffic.

Though this is an extreme case, I think it’s on topic in the sense that the presence of cyclist-oriented accommodations is a major factor in bicycle=designated tagging in the U.S. The original post asked for perspectives from outside Germany, but it didn’t say all the responses have to come from the same planet. :wink:

I wound map this as shoulder=yes together with shoulder:width.

As the Wiki says:

In many legislations, it is allowed to ride a bicycle on the shoulder if it is present, which renders even slim shoulders a useful safety feature for cyclists - same for hikers.

Yes, this does address the question of how to describe the physical characteristics of this lane. In terms of access restriction tagging, something along the lines of bicycle=yes or shoulder:bicycle=yes would be more appropriate than bicycle=designated or shoulder:bicycle=designated for the reasons above. Or maybe discouraged, but those typically have “not advised” signs around here. In other words, the absence of a sign can sometimes be as meaningful as the presence of one.

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Yes, designated does not fit here.

Following “map what is on the ground” I would indeed go for bicycle=yes or shoulder:bicycle=yes, discouraged only if there are sign or marking indicating that.

In Croatia, one would use bicycle=designated if it is specially marked (either by coloring on the surface, or by special vertical sign B40 or B42 ). This picture shows both the surface coloring and the sign B42:

bicycle=yes would usually be used where it is not forbidden (and yet is physically possible) to drive a bicycle, but where it is not specially signed.

That would happen:

  • outside the areas that are expected to have markings/signalization i.e. mostly outside of (developed parts of) the city. For example track in the forest, paths on embankment etc.
  • when in the city, and there are no markings for cyclists, but they are still allowed to use the road. That would usually not (need to) be marked (as it is default in Croatia, see below), but sometimes is done (I guess) to mark lower-traffic roads as preferred for cyclists.
  • when it is very old mapping, from times before bicycle=designated become popular.

If there is designated (e.g. marked as noted above) cycle path along the street (or cycle lane on the street), the cyclists must always use those.

Legally, no. They may only cross cycleways in shortest way possible, after making sure it is safe.
(In practice however, they move unsanctioned by law as they wish. Cyclists also very often move as they wish, but they do get sanctioned from time to time :roll_eyes:)

  • Cyclist must use the right side of the road if there is no separate cycling track/lane on or alongside the road.
  • If there is separate cycling track/lane, they must use that, and are not allowed to use the regular (part of the) road.
  • Cyclists are forbidden to use the sidewalks (unless of course it is specially marked as mixed footway+cycleway, i.e. B42)
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It could be helpful to capture the results of this “survey” in form of a table in the wiki. What do you think @Langlaeufer?

I am not sure what you have in mind.

What I meant is that it’s very interesting to get all the replies from situation in different countries, but it is not easy to compare them in the current format of a discussion. Could be helpful to put them into a table format. What do you think?

This might be helpful to keep track of the thread and I will not prevent anyone from doing so.
But you should keep in mind that these may only be individual opinions and may give a distorted picture of the actual use in these countries.

Btw. I would like to thank everyone who has participated here. It was very helpful to get an impression of the international use.

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