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Grading cycle tracks

19 Sep 2016
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First of all let me say how much I'm enjoying using - its been the most easy to use routing software I've used. Secondly I think this topic relates more to Open Street Maps  - the data used rather than software but I'd like to use this forum to gather some opinions on this idea.

I'm essentially a touring cyclist -  I hate main roads & typically ride on 28/32mm tyres and I'm always on the lookout for usable back roads/bridleways.  I realise there is a tracktag but it seems it is likely to be precise rather than accurate and clearly getting local knowledge is going to slow going.  My question is could we use some grading of usability rather than surface, my suggestion would be

Road bike (narrow tyres - corresponing to ashalt, paved, concrete, tarmac & maybe paving stones

Hybrid , I've sen the term A to B bike on a German web site which I rather like - corresponding to the above plu scompacted, gravel

MTB - all the above plus the rest.

Clearly usability will depend on weather & the map user would need to bear that in mind

It would need a quick way of classifying the routes but a simple  system should make it practical for local cyclist to quickly assess their patch for the benefit of visitors.  I hear Cycling UK is keen to promote better use of bridleways and this information would tie into that.

Any comments?


Tue 20 Sep 2016, 10:00

Interesting idea, I certainly agree there's room for improvement on usability.  Like you I'm a fan of the route less travelled.

I'm not sure though that further tags help precisely because of the weather factor. What's fit for a hybrid in summer can be an extreme MTB mud fest in winter. There's even a few paths I've encountered that get worse in the summer, deep soft sand can be reasonably passable when damp but fit for a fatbike only when bone dry.  If the reader needs to interpret the new tags based on conditions how is that different to the existing surface tag?

Where really stands out from other routing sites is the 'other' sources of data Richard pulls in, traffic levels for example are factored in not just blind adherence to avoiding roads of a particular category.

Returning to the weather thing for a moment it's not really the current weather that matters, it is the level of saturation of the ground that turns a path on clay from concrete to soup.  Chalk doesn't go soft, when the ground is full further rain just runs off so geology is a factor too.

So extending on from the 'other factors' Richard already uses rather than new tags in OSM could there be better progress made on usability if weather history (recent and long term regional data) and geology were considered?  If so, what data sources can be scraped?

Fri 23 Sep 2016, 15:17

Really interesting discussion.

At present, gives every path a weighting based on its surface type. So tarmac scores best; compacted and gravel surfaces get a modest penalty; rougher surfaces get a greater penalty. For display purposes these are shown as either ‘unpaved trail’ or ‘rough unpaved trail’, but the routing weighting is much finer-grained than that.

OpenStreetMap prefers to only accept factual information. So something like “this is paved with concrete” is fine, but “this is suitable for a road bike” is more subjective, so doesn’t really belong in OSM. That said, there are smoothness= and tracktype= tags that can be used, and will pick up on both of them if they are.

Weather is an interesting idea. One possibility might be simply to downrate grass/mud surfaces over the winter months, though already tries to avoid those if possible.

Another possibility would be to collect our own data: simply give users the ability to flag a section of route for suitability/unsuitability. I fear doesn’t yet have enough users to generate really useful data for that, though!