What is the additional tag that effectively distinguishes a path from a road?

In my region, some mappers tend to be lazy and use only the highway tag. Changes like transitioning from highway=track to highway=path and vice versa without additional tags can cause confusion and potential inaccuracies.

Drawing on local knowledge, I make an effort to enhance these ways by incorporating additional tags. This not only serves as a form of education for other mappers but also contributes to maintaining quality control.

I also plan to train new mappers so I’m interested in determining the minimum tags required to address this issue.

Important: Questions below should read: “what is the additional tag …” and NOT “what is the primary tag…”

What is the primary tag that effectively distinguishes a path from a road?
  • width (<2)
  • trail_visibility
  • …other (include it as a comment)
0 voters
Conversely, what is the primary tag are essential for distinguishing a road from a path in the reverse direction?
  • width (>=2)
  • tracktype
  • lanes
  • smoothness
  • …other (include it as a comment)
0 voters

Note: I intentionally omitted legal access tags (motorcar=no, 4wd_only), as they should not be employed for this purpose unless explicitly signed.

Primarily, I would have just said that roads are intended for cars, while paths are for pedestrians / cyclists.


I would have said that with “highway=” you already have the primary tag. Values of =path or =footway are paths in some sense, potentially used by bicycles as well as pedestrians in the case of path, but not normally by motor vehicles and usually too narrow for 4 wheel vehicles.

The other tags you mention I think are secondary, they can add useful extra information depending on context. For example I would not normally add trail_visibility to paths in an urban area unless a path is unusually hard to see. I do try to add surface and smoothness to paths and tracks, whereas for roads I would probably only do that if they are not asphalted. I don’t see width used very much where I map.

I wouldn’t describe mappers who only use the primary tag as “lazy”. It is important that they use that primary tag consistently and carefully, but beyond that, every mapper has their own priorities and some people might prefer to spend their time adding buildings or amenities than adding secondary tags to roads.


In router terms a path wont allow 2 track vehicles whereas track and up does. See quite a bit of path mapped by hikers which prevents motor_vehicles and yes tractors to reach their yards and fields that need rekeying. Grade 1 to 5 is important on track where absence assumes grade1 i.e hardtop. Grade 4-5 wont let road vehicles route over but agricultural vehicles are fine.
Width i rarely use, something hikers and mtb enter more often when it gets narrow i. e. on a path

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The question should rather be: “What is the distinguishing property between a track and a path”, because the primary tag is “highway” and additional tags are not necessary for this distinction.

Additionally, highway=path is used for very different kinds of paths, so it really matters whether there are signs (hence tagging like bicycle=designated) or not. In the case of designation signs (footway, cycleway, bridleway, combinations, etc.) these are the only relevant criterion, in the absence, width is the criterion.

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