Which one of these two should be used when tagging a completely unknown road? The tagging could be made by studying Bing photos, tracing from some map, uploading foreign tracks or whatever but not a physical site survey. The road most probably will need a proper survey and it may even become 'track' later (if it is in bad condition).

asked 28 Apr '11, 06:36

ivanatora's gravatar image

accept rate: 7%


Arguably, if you have a decent aerial photo of the road the road is not completely unknown. If the photo is good enough, possibly you can make a guess at the correct type of highway. The same is not true if you simply have a track log though.

(28 Apr '11, 08:22) Ebenezer

I agree, but sometimes difference between asphalt surface and ground on photos is not so clear. Most of the Bing photos here are bad with contrast and not so high resolution, that's why I prefer to think that I don't know nothing about this road :)

(28 Apr '11, 09:36) ivanatora

As most of us do not know and do not have access to the local classification of roads in every country (and every country has it's own system and numbering), there is no harm in adding a road from the aerial imagery or other sources, but do not expect to know from that imagery the correct classification of the road. The Map Features list on wiki gives a guide and we should follow that unless we have specific specialist or local knowledge to know otherwise.

(10 Jan '15, 12:26) RAytoun

Roads are not classified by their condition, they are classified by their function. All roads could be paved or unpaved as the road through the Sahara Desert is a primary route but the only indicator that it exists is some stone markers along the way. In Africa many main roads are just sand surface, become pretty precarious in the rainy season hence you will see multiple tracks instead of one single road as vehicles negotiate a churned up muddy quagmire that was the original road. It is a primary or trunk road irrespective of it's condition, that is it's function/classification.

(10 Jan '15, 12:37) RAytoun

If you know nothing about the road tag it with highway=road.

highway=unclassified is (somewhat counterintuitively) a precise classification that comes from the British system. It is basically the same as a highway=residential road, just without the residential area around it.

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answered 28 Apr '11, 07:00

petschge's gravatar image

accept rate: 21%

edited 28 Apr '11, 07:04

Frederik%20Ramm's gravatar image

Frederik Ramm ♦


To add to petschge's answer, OSM is iterative. It doesn't have to be 100% right first time; if it's 80% right and someone later comes along and improves it, that's good.

So if you don't know what type of road it is, but you have a pretty reasonable idea, then tag it appropriately (highway=tertiary or highway=unclassified or whatever). Add a fixme tag (e.g. fixme=check road status) as a reminder to the next mapper to check what you've done.

With that in mind, highway=road is very rarely useful.

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answered 28 Apr '11, 09:54

Richard's gravatar image

Richard ♦
accept rate: 19%


It depends by contry: in some countries, the "same" highway will be road and in other will be unclassified.

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answered 10 May '11, 19:51

somenxavier's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%


That's just stupid mapping by some countries. Makes it harder for all data users and gains nothing.

(10 May '11, 21:47) petschge

See http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Normalizaci%C3%B3n It's a spanish convention of how to map. If all contries have the same convention, it has non-sense.

(11 May '11, 19:52) somenxavier

This is incorrect. "road" is specifically designed to be a "temporary" way designator. "unclassified" is a Briticism for when a road doesn't event warrant a "C" rating. They're not really unclassified anyway: they appear as UCxxx on planning apps usw.

When I'm mapping a new area, I don't bother to get all the road data in one go. I see a new road, represent it as a short stub and tag it as highway=road. Later, I or someone else will refine it.

(27 Jul '11, 11:58) mwbg

It's perhaps worth mentioning here that the Spanish Normalización page no longer makes that recommendation (and probably has not for some time)!

(29 Jan '15, 14:50) SomeoneElse ♦

I think highway=road is very useful. It's a way to improve the map. It means there is something there, and anyone in the area can just tag it. It's no different than drawing a building from Bing. I normally seek out grey roads in my area, and thank whoever drew them. By rights, untagged buildings should also be grey.

Normally it is easy to tag them, but sometimes they are very wrong.

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answered 12 May '11, 05:08

Tom%20Layo's gravatar image

Tom Layo
accept rate: 0%

I agree that the tag highway=road should be used if you have no idea what to use and add the fixme=check road status to make it clear to other mappers that you have left it open pending clarification. Unclassified is for roads that are not tertiary roads and also not residential...such as a minor road between two parallel tertiary roads (it is not a part of the tertiary road system but also is not an access to any property.

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answered 10 Jan '15, 01:54

RAytoun's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

edited 10 Jan '15, 12:28

Consider breaking up this reply so that it is readable.

(10 Jan '15, 12:17) SK53 ♦

Sorry about that...hopefully I have sorted the confusion. Thanks for the help.

(10 Jan '15, 12:38) RAytoun
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question asked: 28 Apr '11, 06:36

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last updated: 29 Jan '15, 14:50

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