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  1. If I am mapping a gated neighborhood, I tend to put a barrier=gate node on the street leading in and tag it access=private. Good or bad? (If I am also mapping the fence or the wall around the neighborhood, I make sure that this is an intersection point between the road and the fence. There are some examples here. If I care enough to map both sides of the access road into the neighborhood, I will put a barrier=gate on each side, but will tag the exit as access=yes.)
  2. There are plenty of locked gates around. They block access to some trails, fire roads, school property, roads under construction, private property, etc. I tend to tag them as barrier=gate and access=private. Good or bad? Is there a lot of granularity and defined rules for when to apply what sort of access? Should I not apply any access tag at all and let barrier=gate carry its own default meaning?
  3. A prominent early mapper, who has mapped thousands of miles of roads and other features in my areas, stated in the mailing list that his own personal preference is to tag streets inside a gated neighborhood as access=private. Good or bad idea? I personally would never do this, but should I talk to him about removing the tag? This is what such neighborhood looks like rendered. In my opinion - too much visual information. By contrast, this, in my opinion, is a good use of access=private tag on a road.
  4. I wish I knew better WHY I am tagging or not tagging some features with access=private. Mainly, I assume, it is to help routing as well as to give visual indications on the rendered map. So, if I tag a gate into a neighborhood as access=private, it draws a pretty gate, great. But does it mean that routers might not send someone through this gate to a destination inside the neighborhood? What I would want the routers to do (and I doubt any of them do this) is to give a warning: private gate in the route (so do you know the code?). This is similar to giving a warning if there is a toll booth or toll road in the route. Commercial devices do this, but OSM-based ones - I am not so sure.

asked 22 Apr '11, 18:17

ponzu's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

You ask a good question. It is sad to see no real answer is given; and it has remained so for so many years.

(14 Jan '14, 03:43) he_the_great

If the road is private then tag it as such. Don't worry about how it looks on map.

  1. If the road leading to gated neighborhood is two separate roads (for example with grass or threes in the middle) then the way you are tagging is OK. If there is only one road with one gate then it is questionable.

  2. If the road behind the gate can be accessed only through gates then apply the access=private tag to the road behind the gates. But bear in mind that this applies to all means of transportation. Sometimes these gates are there to block cars and there are no restrictions for pedestrians. So you should tag main transportation means differently (appropriate keys from wiki).

  3. I Assume that you mistakenly switched two map links. The area with a gated neighborhood might look a little bit too red but it is the question of rendering. The way things are tagged is the way I would tag them (except for the small road parts from the main road till the gate that are probably not private.

  4. You are right about the reasons. We are tagging it to get nice looking maps, to help routing engines and probably there will be some other uses for this kind of data we just don't know or use jet. There are (at least) three things that have to be ok for your device to route you to access=private destination:

    • Devices firmware has to support such feature.

    • Map data conversation from osm format to format that is supported by your device is done by including this access data.

    • The data itself contains correctly tagged private roads.

    At least it is not hard to fulfill the third part of it.

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answered 23 Apr '11, 17:16

RM87's gravatar image

accept rate: 22%

edited 24 Apr '11, 14:22

"If the road is private then tag it as such." - understood. That's why I linked an example where there is a bona fide private road, complete with a gate that says "Private property, keep out, no trespassing". There are no such signs at the entrance of a gated neighborhood. The streets inside are no more or less private than the streets in my neighborhood. My HOA is talking about installing a gate. If they go through with it, the ownership rights of my street will not change. A gate controls access, it does not convey property rights to the person or organization installing it.

(25 Apr '11, 17:54) ponzu

I did not switch the links, they are as I intended. The reason this neighborhood looks the way it does is a (an overzealous?) mapper visited it and mapped it. Almost all neighborhoods in this area have gates, some manned some unmanned, operated by transponder, keypad (for authorized visitors) or telephone. Mapping the streets inside these as access=private will serve absolutely no useful purpose, in my opinion. I think the access has to be tagged on the gate. The counterexample was to show that when a single road is tagged as private, it conveys useful information, visually.

(25 Apr '11, 18:02) ponzu

Just mark road as private if its appropriate, simply don't care what the map renderer will do with the tag. But remember that the access tag has more values than just "yes" and "private". For example streets within a gated neighborhood could be marked with access=permissive or access=destination. I would prefer the latter.

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answered 25 Apr '11, 11:35

Flow's gravatar image

accept rate: 25%

Possibly, it was not obvious from the way I worded my question, but I am trying to find out when it is appropriate to tag a road as private. I have thought of using permissive and destination values and would appreciate any tips (or as I called them best practices) as to how to decide on the appropriate one. Your suggestion to tag streets inside a gated neighborhood as access=destination has been noted. It's probably a better option compared to =private. What I am trying to establish is whether (or why not) tagging the access point is sufficient.

(25 Apr '11, 18:58) ponzu

My instinct would be that if it's private, mark it as private. Let the renderers/routers figure out how they want to handle that situation. If routers don't want to go in there, then that's really a problem for the people who have chosen to lock themselves away from the world.

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answered 23 Apr '11, 13:03

tongro's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%


I don't think the routers should avoid the gated neighborhoods any more as they should avoid toll roads. They should simply raise a flag so that the user knows to obtain proper access. Think pizza delivery guy. He is not going to stop and the gate and walk the pizzas to the house, or call the homeowner out to pick up the food. But if the router is smart about it, then the pizza guy will know when he should expect to stop and make the call, and how much time that will add to the delivery; or he may ask for the gate code ahead of time.

(25 Apr '11, 19:08) ponzu
  1. Map it as it is. I can't tell you a generic rule for "gated communities" because they might handle access differently.
  2. If you know it, it is always better to be explicit and add access-tags to the gate (barrier=gate has no default meaning for access).
  3. Also tag the roads with appropriate access-tags (see 1). The access-tag on a gate does not imply anything for the road. You can have gates with access=private and on both sides of the gate access=yes for instance.
  4. Don't think about the implementation rules of current routers and renderers, but rather how you can represent unambiguously and in detail a real world situation in the data. If the data defines the situation well, data consumers will adopt and learn how to deal with this even if they don't do at the moment.
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answered 25 Apr '11, 12:43

dieterdreist's gravatar image

accept rate: 3%

The access tag on the gate does not imply anything for the road, but should affect routing, if there is any point top us marking such access. Hence my question 4. I think I like your answer to 4, and if I am to adopt it as my approach, then I say tagging the gate unambiguously represent the real world situation, and the routers should adopt to my practice of tagging the gates. However, I also wanted to find out what others are doing already in the same situation.

(25 Apr '11, 19:02) ponzu

Here's a simple example of why a gate should not dictate access status of the road behind it. If a neighborhood has three gates, and one is left open either by design or negligence, then tagging the streets inside as access=private is simply inaccurate.

(25 Apr '11, 19:05) ponzu

Incidentally, where does it say "access is possible and tolerated, legal access is either unknown, private or forbidden"? I only have the wiki to go by, which says "access=permissive The owner gives general permission for access." To me, that would be Disneyland where the owner expects and welcomes visitors to its territory, but reserves the right to kick them out of needed. What the gated community says to the world is: "pizza deliveries and friends of residents welcome, others not so much".

(26 Apr '11, 00:09) ponzu

Please note that the discussion, as expected, has branched into two subtopics "Should I tag gates, streets or both?" and "Which access is applicable to gated communities?" I am more than willing to discuss both as long as we keep both angles in perspective.

(26 Apr '11, 00:10) ponzu

As far as I understand both questions have already been answered: you should tag both, gates and streets, with access. This already has been discussed on the mailingslists as well as it was written above. For the gated communities: depends on the individual community, most will be access=private I suppose.

Please note that this is not a discussion forum. Please discuss in the wiki, forum or mailing lists.

(26 Apr '11, 09:21) dieterdreist

ponzu, you are right. Permissive says there is general permission for access from the owner. If the situation is liek you described here:"What the gated community says to the world is: "pizza deliveries and friends of residents welcome, others not so much". I would tag that access=private.

(26 Apr '11, 09:27) dieterdreist
showing 5 of 6 show 1 more comments

My take is that the "public/permissive/private/no" distinctions don't actually work very well. They make sense in the British legal system, where it's all about "right of way". But in practice, there are lots of shades of meaning that get lost in the single specifier "private":

  • an individual landowner where no one else would ever go
  • a corporation where employees and some visitors would go
  • a company, government body, university where the public is welcome, if they have business there
  • some kind of limited residential area like you describe
  • probably many others

There really should be more options, like "restricted", or, as some have proposed "destination" (you can go in only if it's your destination).

I'd also ignore the advice of those that say "map it as it is, and ignore renderers and routers". That would make sense if we had clear standards to follow. Instead, we have a complex feedback loop between mappers (data producers) and routers/renderers (data consumers). If mapping "access=private" on roads looks bad, and if there's a reasonable case for only putting the tag on the gate, then go for it.

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answered 09 Jul '11, 09:08

Stevage's gravatar image

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"map it as it is, and ignore renderers and routers" is the best advice and shouldn't be ignored.

Renderers and routers can be fixed once, and the fix will apply across the planet.

Incorrect tagging is likely to persist for many years after the renderers and routers have been fixed, until or unless the area is re-surveyed, and will have to be fixed in lots of different places by lots of different people.

(09 Jul '11, 14:33) banoffee

If there was a clear definition of "correct tagging", we wouldn't need these discussions. I certainly don't advocate "incorrect tagging", but in the murky, ill-defined world of tags in which we live, we have to take existing implementations into account.

(11 Jul '11, 01:51) Stevage

I'd understand it as:

  • access=yes : if my car/bike/HGV is on that road, I am perfectly within my rights to be their at any time for any reason, and nobody has the right to tell me to leave.
  • access=private : I can only be there with the explicit authorisation of the landowner (or other delegated authority).
  • access=destination : I have implicit permission from the landowner to be there only if I have a legitimate reason specifically to be in that area (so I can't, for example, park there in order to walk/cycle somewhere else)
  • access=permissive : I have implicit permission from the landowner to be there at any time, unless the landowner explicitly denies me access.

A gate could have different access to the way behind it... so, for example I might expect: - a gate which is normally, or always unlocked could be "permissive", even if the way behind it is "destination" or "private" (legally and practically no different to the same access restrictions without the gate being there, but the gate helps to act as a reminder...) - a gate where you have to enter a code or be "buzzed in" would be "private", even if the way behind it has more permissive access. It would seem unlikely to me for a way behind a locked gate to be access=yes though - at best, it would be access=permissive, implying that anyone who is allowed past the gate then can use all the ways behind it without seeking (further) authorisation.

As I'm understanding the key:access page, often access=X isn't actually what you want, despite common practice... for example, "no motor vehicles, except for access" would be motor_vehicle=destination, rather than access=destination. Using access=destination creates more work for yourself, as then you'd also need to add explicit exceptions like bike=yes, foot=yes, horse=yes, etc. Although it isn't the reason you'd do it, this also avoids it looking as ugly in the renderers based on standard style sheets which only pick up on the access=X restrictions.

I'm still part-way up a learning curve myself. I know there are a handful of things I've tagged incorrectly, but I'll review them later when I understand more of the subtleties better. I'm assuming something similar to WP:DEADLINE applies here... that what I actually do should be reasonably accurate - at least to an extent of being "more accurate than it was before I edited it", but that there's no specific deadline for anything which isn't perfect on the first pass - I or someone else will be back to fill in the remaining details later.

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answered 09 Jul '11, 15:27

banoffee's gravatar image

accept rate: 23%

edited 09 Jul '11, 15:31

In practice, I don't think the distinction between "perfectly within my rights to be there" and "can only be there with the explicit authorisation of the...authority" is as clear as all that. Is a track through a national park the former or latter? They can close it whenever they want. Similarly for many weather-affected roads. What if an authority explicitly authorises everyone - is that private or permissive? etc.

(11 Jul '11, 01:53) Stevage

@Stevage I think the simplest test would be to imagine you're legitimately in that location and someone unreasonably asks you to leave. What would you expect to need to provide as your justification for your presence in that location being legitimate?

nothing (or an argument like "anyone's allowed to be here [at this time of day]") => access=yes or access=permissive

a description of the legitimate business you have in the area => access=destination

details of whose permission/invitation you have in order to be there => access=private

(11 Jul '11, 12:44) banoffee

Interesting line of thinking - useful, I think. Interestingly, it leads to different results for a university (probably permissive) than for a primary school (private, or maybe destination).

(11 Jul '11, 14:14) Stevage

I really like banoffee's justifying-presence test and I suspect it may give a useful result across all cultures. So whilst trying to justify your presence in a gated area in some societies might be appropriate, and productive, the same response in another country might be a quick route to personal injury, or worse! Probably useful for tagging to reflect the actual consequence of personal access, rather than the legality of it.

(13 Sep '13, 11:26) UKDave

Going to post my opinions on this old thread because I found this posting after searching for further clarification to this uncomfortable topic.

Personally, I try to tag what is visible on the object. If there is a sign that says "Private Road", then I will try to reflect this in the tags. I realize some would disagree, as the wiki specifies ascertaining the restrictions from the property owner, but ultimately who makes this decision? I am not going to find a town clerk, so they can override a street sign, and neither would someone using the OSM data to explore that road, later.

I believe a good map will help the viewer envision what they will truly observe in that location.

As for your question about the gated access, I believe the question answers itself, in so much that the gate should be marked as such "barrier=gate" and any road restrictions posted on the gate should be reflected in the OSM highway tags.

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answered 29 Jul '17, 03:27

mtc's gravatar image

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Old thread or not, I found it looking for examples to provide guidance, and it seems relevant enough to add on here rather than ask a new question. (right?)

Also, in a rural "development" that has Easements for ingress/egress, I am marking the roadways across private property as Destination, unless that way is a dead end, and accesses nobody else's property, then it is finally private, and no longer a Residential way, but a Driveway. So in what cases would a way marked Residential, still be correct in being also marked Private? To my thinking, those two can't go together. Comments please?

Also in response to mtc, this neighborhood described is full of no trespassing signs and even illegal gates, to block or discourage legitimate traffic. So just having signs along any kind of roadways, is not the end of the story.

I still have a question for private roads in most areas that have no easements, most rural areas in the US, and thus where all kinds of conflicts exist as to whether or not people have a right to be on a roadway. Is there a final answer for private roads (not county maintained or public) across private property that have landowners beyond them requiring access? It seems to me if it has more than one destination, it should be tagged permissive.

Further, why is it in IDedit when I add a service road, type driveway, is permission defaulting to all? Are there cases where driveways can be public?

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answered 01 Jan '18, 00:44

seahorse41's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

A new question like tagging a road Driveway vs Residential Way belongs in a separate post, not here.

(09 Aug '23, 19:22) darthwalsh

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question asked: 22 Apr '11, 18:17

question was seen: 27,812 times

last updated: 09 Aug '23, 19:22

NOTICE: is no longer in use from 1st March 2024. Please use the OpenStreetMap Community Forum