When to use track roads or tertiary roads etc. Newfoundland, Canada

Recently another mapper https://www.openstreetmap.org/user/GnasherNF has questioned my changing roads to tracks.

The area in question is here https://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=13/48.9269/-55.2343

These are unpaved forest roads referred to as resource roads in Newfoundland. Logging roads, skidder tracks for the most part, some mining roads. They are either not maintained or some may be privately maintained. They are not plowed in the winter and services such as garbage collection are not offered. The buildings are cabins, some on leased land some on private land, some are shacks and not registered at all.

I have answered that until the road is maintained by a town or the province (or anyone really) on a year round basis that I label them as tracks. Once some one starts living there on a year round basis and the roads are maintained and plowed in the winter I upgrade them as that is the start of a settlement or community.

Clearly this mapper disagrees and is going to map them as unclassified or tertiary.

What would be the appropriate way to classify these??

Hi. I am the mapper in question. Please see my profile page for the tagging scheme I currently use while plotting roads outside of federal and provincial maintenance. https://www.openstreetmap.org/user/GnasherNF

In Newfoundland, there are thousands of kilometers of unpaved roads away from towns and paved highways. At the most basic level, they can be broken down into two categories: roads that can support motorcar traffic and roads that cannot. I tag motorcar capable roads as Highway=Minor/Unclassified, and ATV/foot trails as Highway=Track. The Trans Canada Trail in the province is tagged as Highway=Track and does not support motorcar traffic, so I use that as the model for my tagging scheme.

  1. At the high end, some of these roads are built better than a highway to support heavy equipment traffic and provide access to mining operations, major back-country construction projects, and logging operations. Although not maintained by the province, they are kept in good repair and cleared of snow year-round.

  2. The average roads (the majority) still have a foundation that can support motorcar traffic. They can be actively maintained or not, kept cleared of snow or not, narrowed by vegetation growth on the sides or not. They are used to pass through an area, for accessing hunting and fishing areas, for personal logging, and to access houses and cabins that are off the grid. These houses and cabins may be occupied year-round, or not.

  3. At the low end are logging roads and skidder tracks and trails that were only used long enough to clear an area of pulpwood, then left in disrepair. They may or may not have a solid foundation. These roads are not passable by motorcar traffic, but can often still be used by ATVs, and certainly by foot traffic.

If all of these roads are tagged as Highway=Track, I do not see how a person could use the database to easily navigate the area. For example, imagine you are in a truck or SUV trying to get from point A to point B and get routed onto a skidder track through a bog. By differentiating the roads by the type of traffic they support, this type of issue could not happen.

I have reviewed the Canadian Tagging Guidelines at https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Canadian_tagging_guidelines and present my comments on the pertinent sections below.

The exact usage of highway=primary, highway=secondary and highway=tertiary varies from province to province. However, the commonality is that these are all maintained by the provincial governments, with provincial jurisdiction.

Woods roads are not maintained by the province, so these tags should normally be excluded.

Suggestion for rural areas: Tertiary roads are either rarely-frequented through roads or branch off from secondary roads to a notable settlement

“rarely-frequented through roads” fit the usage I propose for traversing large areas on woods roads so using Tertiary sparingly and only when applicable could make sense.

An highway=unclassified road would be considered rural roads that are not provincial or national highways network.

This definition fits most of the woods roads that are passable by motorcar traffic, so no conflict with use.

A highway=track is roads for agricultural use, gravel roads in the forest etc.; usually unpaved/unsealed but may occasionally apply to paved tracks as well.

A pro for using the track tag for woods roads.

Example: Small roads in parks, dirt trails in fields, etc.

A con against using the track tag, as the scale of the woods roads in comparison to the examples is very different.

Recommendation: The easiest way to remember this one is for a tractor, as it would have 2 ruts, where a tractor would be able to use it, or an ATV/Horseback/mountain bike/hiking would be able to use these roads.

Another con against using the track tag, as these roads are not limited to the listed types of traffic. In fact, these examples seem to exclude regular motorcar traffic, but include ATV traffic, so fit with my proposed usage of the track tag.

We have those roads all over Alberta too, and I’ve spent a lot of time declassifying many from tertiary - which I consider a massive import error - to unclassified. If a road can provide access to somewhere faraway, or provides access to a variety of smaller one-destination roads, I’ve left it as tertiary, an indicator of the road’s significance.

Many of these industry roads do get maintenance, and many are gravel-surfaced for a decent level of durability. (I drive on them a lot to get to fun places.)

I usually reserve track for roads that are clearly “going back to nature”, but could still be 4x4’d with determination. Or roads beyond an obvious permanent barrier. Or tire tracks that just “happened” rather than being built. But these are relatively few in my experience; many (what I consider) “tracks” just don’t get mapped.

This is just one mapper’s opinion, of course. I’m following guidance on the Alberta and highway wiki pages, both of which are a bit vague on where to draw the line between unclassified and track.

The use of highway=track for non-vehicular roads is inappropriate. highway=track ways are often two ruts, from the wheel tracks of four wheel vehicles.

Path for no vehicles, track when ATV’s are using it.

Question is when to bump up to unclassified and when to tertiary.

I’ve basically bumped the road to unclassified once it is open year round so navigation doesn’t send people down dead ends during the winter. Nothing more frustrating than driving along and find the road you are supposed to use does not exist because it is not plowed. It’s also a bad time of year to be stuck at a dead end.

I believe there are ways of marking seasonal roads, so you shouldn’t tag for the renderer my using a classification that they will ignore, if they are usable in the dry season.

Road maintenance is hard to verify, because it may happen sporadically. BTW, many of the industry roads in Alberta are used in winter, and maintained (plowed) as needed. But many more aren’t. Can we expect OSM to provide a “passability” guarantee?

ATV tracks are a side issue, and I haven’t managed to find good guidance for that. (ATV tracks are narrow, typically too narrow for a pickup truck.) I’ve mapped some as path, others as track, but neither seems quite right.

(I have to leave the conversation for a few days, sorry.)

Well, it seems there is no universal answer so for Newfoundland how does this sound for a starting point.

For forest resource roads,

Unmaintained Track Roads = Dead ends (and small groups of roads with one way in) that lead to only 2 cabins or less and/or are only one lane on all or parts of the road, this will still be the majority of Resource Roads in Newfoundland. Tracks roads are basically seasonal in nature and do not need to be tagged as such.

Residential = Dead Ends (and small groups of roads with one way in) with multiple good gravel roads and 3 or more cabins mostly 2 lane, these areas are usually easy to spot as they are pretty well developed. Tag as seasonal = Yes or spring/summer/autumn or no_snow (not sure what effect each has on navigation so experimenting with the three)

Minor/Unclassified Road = will be good two lane gravel roads that link the residential areas. Mark as track sections where bridges are washed out. Tag as seasonal = Yes or spring/summer/autumn or no_snow (not sure what effect each has on navigation so experimenting with the three)

Tertiary = Very rare usage for longer lengths that can connect multiple unclassified roads or well developed cabin areas. Should not be Tertiary if the bridges are not passable. Tag as seasonal = Yes or spring/summer/autumn or no_snow (not sure what effect each has on navigation so experimenting with the three)

Secondary Road and Above = Are highways and shouldn’t be used for unpaved gravel forest resource roads. Not to be confused with actual gravel highways that connect actual Municipalities, towns, cities etc.

Remember we do not map to the renderer or in other words we do not upgrade roads to make them visible as the scale is zoomed out on the map.

My tagging scheme in use is clearly laid out on my profile page. I maintain that highway=track does not accurately describe the unpaved road network in Newfoundland. The majority of these roads have constructed foundations that support vehicle traffic, and OSM has tags that can describe seasonal conditions and surface conditions of the roads.

I personally add hundreds of kilometres of these roads to OSM and have personally driven on many of them. I appreciate the help of any mapper to update the condition tags of these roads, as these conditions do change over time, but the presence of the road does not.

I’m not sure what that means.

I’ve been tagging the majority of forest resource roads as tracks. You basically do not mark any forest resource roads as tracks.

I’ve put up a compromise in that as it does not do much good if the two of us or others simply keep reverting each others edits.

So from the looks of this you are not willing to change anything about tagging forest resource roads.

You list that you use the Canadian guidelines which state
“A highway=track is roads for agricultural use, gravel roads in the forest etc.; usually unpaved/unsealed but may occasionally apply to paved tracks as well.”

You have redefined track on your profile to
“Track = road only passable by all terrain vehicles like quads or dirt bikes, or on foot. Not wide enough or safe enough for motorcar traffic.”

Your definition doesn’t come close to the Canadian Guideline definition. Track roads can certainly be safe enough for cars to drive on.

I use my profile page to describe the reasoning behind my tagging, not to redefine the wiki.

In regards to highway=track and highway=unclassified, I have changed the wording on my profile page to exactly match the wording used on the Canadian Tagging Guideline page at https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Canadian_tagging_guidelines

“The easiest way to remember this one is for a tractor, as it would have 2 ruts, where a tractor would be able to use it, or an ATV/Horseback/mountain bike/hiking would be able to use these roads.”

A piece of heavy equipment driving through an area with no prepared roadbed will leave two ruts. This describes a track, and there are indeed many instances of this type of road. Check out this spot on the map (using Bing as the background) to see an example of a Track next to a Minor Road. https://www.openstreetmap.org/edit?editor=potlatch2#map=18/48.98380/-55.37758

Well that is a start but you have not changed your profile “to exactly match the wording used on the Canadian Tagging Guideline” You picked out one sentence out of

“A highway=track is roads for agricultural use, gravel roads in the forest etc.; usually unpaved/unsealed but may occasionally apply to paved tracks as well. If a track is used for recreational purposes, it should be tagged as leisure=track.
Example: Small roads in parks, dirt trails in fields, etc. Speed limits are probably 30 km/h or less; roads may be maintained privately.
Recommendation: The easiest way to remember this one is for a tractor, as it would have 2 ruts, where a tractor would be able to use it, or an ATV/Horseback/mountain bike/hiking would be able to use these roads.”

Your definition would not include paved tracks for example. It would not include the small roads in parks specifically mentioned. A large percent of these roads were tagged as secondary highways, and the offshoot skidder trails were marked as good roads. I don’t know if that was your work but it clearly does not describe roads that a barely fit to drive a vehicle on.

The suggestion I placed above would keep tracks to 1 lane forest roads. They would be bumped up to residential or unclassified if they are two lanes and show signs of some maintenance (a good sign would be having a few cabins built on them). All forest resource roads have a constructed foundation. They were designed and built by the forestry or mining industries to support huge vehicles and transport trucks needed. The question is have they been maintained since or are they abandoned and degrading over time.

I think the missing link in this discussion is tracktype=*. The “easiest way to remember…” examples in the Canadian Tagging Guidelines are more narrow than they should be and don’t accurately represent the highway=track tag. Tracks can be anywhere on a spectrum from the two-ruts-in-the-ground all the way up to a paved road. The tracktype key allows for a more specific definition of the condition and usability of the track. Out here in BC, I’ve used highway=track extensively for logging roads, specifying the tracktype if possible. For the "main"s (ie. the most major logging roads), I generally use highway=unclassified.

I think that is the way it should be done as well, but I’can’t compete with mappers who are reclassifying everything out there as tertiary or secondary highways for forest roads. Also find that for the worst paths basically hardly suitable for walking have been classified as Cycle Path. The highway=cycleway tag indicates a separate way for the use of cyclists.

The cycle path issue may relate to the mountain bike trails thread, where, it seems to me, that a small clique is claiming a sort of ownership on general woodland paths.

However, OSM does determine whether cycle=yes should be set based on the legal position, on the suitability. We sometimes get people wanting to set cycle=no on major roads, because they think they are too dangerous, but that is also wrong.

The cycle=yes is a separate issue, and I suspect some mappers automatically tag trails cycle=yes so they render prominently in blue on OpenCycleMap. Is it “tagging for the renderer” if you’re adding a tag that’s technically true, even if somewhat absurd? (When it’s legal to ride a bike on a scree slope, for example.) Don’t answer that; I’d rather not drag this discussion away from the main topic.

I’d love to arrive at a clear definition of the line between unclassified and track, also between track and path especially if it resolves where quad trails belong. Until then, different mappers’ areas are going to keep being mapped differently. (How on earth does a decision get made and the wiki get updated?)

You are never going to get absolute consistency in a crowd sourced map with no central moderation.

The distinction between unclassified and track would be fairly clear in the UK, but may well not be in other countries.

What I do in rural Montana: If it is to narrow for a car it is a path, otherwise if the way is used for agricultural or forestry traffic only it is a track. Access to a single farm or residence would be highway=service, roads connecting settlements would be unclassified or higher. Of course it might make sense to use a different scheme if the general distribution of highway types in an area is different. In a country that has no paved roads it would certainly make sense to have the most important roads as primary even if they are unpaved, however as soon as there is a notable presence of paved roads I would not do that. In Montana I will not tag an unpaved road anything higher than tertiary.

As the original poster directed my recent messages to him back to this thread, I figured I would post the update here.

My point of view is that unpaved throughfares should be tagged as tertiary, the regular unpaved road network that can be navigated by two wheel drive motor vehicles be tagged as unclassified, roads that can only be navigated by four wheel drive or ATV traffic or consist of two ruts be tagged as track, and access roads to buildings or quarries be tagged service. When I add new roads, this is the method I try to follow.

Note: The following comments may be considered off-topic.

Unfortunately, the original poster’s current practice seems to be to wait for me to add the road network in an area, then follow my additions around the map and change every tertiary, unclassified, and service road to highway=track, and to delete any highway=service driveway that I add. That erases all of the work I put into differentiating and classifying the roads when I add them to the map.

To give the benefit of the doubt, I even tried mapping far from the areas I usually map. I drove the roads in a two wheel drive car, camped in the area, used GPS, and tagged the main road as type unclassified, with adjoining roads leading to quarries as type service. The poster tracked my changes and changed the road network to all highway=track.

If you took every road in a city and made them all highway=residential, you might not technically be wrong, but would that be considered vandalism?