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this question is related to Moroccan medinas, but I think most European cities with a medieval core expose a similar problem.

take for example the medina of Essaouira. it is composed of a couple of broad alleys cutting the space in quarters in each of which houses are made reachable by narrow, mostly dead end, streets. people living there use these streets on foot, bike and motorbike. most of these streets are just about 1.5m wide.

how should I categorize them and how do I make sure they do not clutter the area as if they were big fat alleys?

asked 01 Sep '11, 09:42

mariotomo's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

There are several tags for this, like width= and narrow=yes. Both can be used to specify that a way is narrower than others, but both won't get rendered on the main page. Furthermore there is highway=service with service=alley which might be suitable in some cases, but not in all. Usually highway=service are rendered thinner than other highways, but you should always remember that tagging for the renderer should be avoided.

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answered 01 Sep '11, 12:18

scai's gravatar image

scai ♦
accept rate: 23%


"narrow=yes" is probably the best solution for easy mapping. The problem is that the wiki fiddlers changed the description for the most restrictive case (only if you have a traffic sign) which is bad imho.

(01 Sep '11, 13:26) Pieren

I agree with you. This tag should be used whenever a street is narrower than usual, whether this sign is present or not.

(01 Sep '11, 13:30) scai ♦

@scai It is true that it should tag the real street width not traffic sign covereage, but at the same time it should only be on places that are narrower than expected. If all side streets in town are narrow than it can be expected and narrow tag should not be used. I understand narrow tag as a relative information.

(01 Sep '11, 13:37) LM_1

thanks for the links to the definition of Tag:highway=service. seems reasonable in combination with Tag:service=alley.

(01 Sep '11, 14:23) mariotomo

I think that the current map with highway=service and service=alley looks fine. Probably you might want to recheck the highway=pedestrian in this area. Some of the mapped pedestrian roads might be better represented as footways or paths.

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answered 04 Sep '11, 02:20

dieterdreist's gravatar image

accept rate: 3%

edited 04 Sep '11, 02:21

thanks for the hint, in fact I am also editing Safi (أسفي) area ( and I thought I would make some experiments in the old medina, by checking which representation I like most in both mapnik and openstreet and I think I am going to tag either as residential or service/alley (discarding use of pedestrian and living_street). did not think of footways nor path, I will test those as well.

(05 Sep '11, 12:57) mariotomo

don't go too much for the rendering appearance, this might also change. Try to represent the actual situation (legal access rights, physical attributes like surface and width).

(05 Sep '11, 14:45) dieterdreist

You can use width=* along with the highway=residential. It will still clutter the map if the rendering rules do not use the tag, but this is the renderers fault. If you want you can try to make a patch to the main mapnik layer used on the front page. This may require some programming.

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answered 01 Sep '11, 10:05

Gnonthgol's gravatar image

Gnonthgol ♦
accept rate: 16%

ok, thanks, I will do so and let's see what happens. I noticed a previous mapper had used the highway=service, which did not match the usage but provided a better rendering. when you say "the mapnik layer on the front page", have you got a link to the sources?

(01 Sep '11, 10:37) mariotomo

This is what is said since 3 years to mappers. But it is not supported by any tool since then which means that is not so simplistic. And most of the mappers just want to say "'it's narrower", they don't want to measure the width with a tape or even put rough estimates. This solution is simply too fastidious for the average contributors but this is not admitted by some of us. It is also not saying 'it is narrower' since you don't indicate what is a normal width. So you force people to put the 'width' everywhere otherwise you don't have any reference and rendering will be wrong anyway.

(01 Sep '11, 10:44) Pieren

@Pieren: do you mean that Gnonthgol's answer is "one" and not "the" way to go (most mappers go)? In my opinion one should not use a wrong classification just to get better rendering! on the other hand, while mapping one wants the rendering to match the observations... have you got links to places where this has been discussed?

(01 Sep '11, 10:58) mariotomo

I'm not saying it's wrong. I'm saying it is the most complicated way to tag this feature and many contributors don't like it (search 'narrow' in ML archives). And this works only if you tag ALL highways, not only the narrowed. Perhaps a "width=5" is considered normal in a italian city but narrowed in Chicago because the normal residential width is 5 meters in Italian cities and 8 meters in Chicago (I'm not sure about the numbers but take them just as examples to illustrate my point). So just a "width=5" on a small segment doesn't say it's narrower or wider than the previous or the next segment

(01 Sep '11, 13:23) Pieren

@Pieren But it says how wide the road is in reality and if your current vehicle can fit in. That is more important than relative width of streets.
And for the record specifying default tag's values based on areas (eg. administrative boundaries) with inheritance and possible change on lower levels is a feature that I personally miss and that would make the mapping easier/more consistent.

(01 Sep '11, 13:32) LM_1

the reality of what ? is it the width of the street ? or the width of all lanes ? is it including the parking lanes ? the sidewalks ? the cycle lanes ? the cycle ways ?

(01 Sep '11, 13:43) Pieren

My choice would be drivable width of the street (all lanes) without any parking/walking areas - these would be mapped separately. It really depends what the line on the map represents.
But all the solution you provided could be valid and agreed upon.

(01 Sep '11, 13:54) LM_1

I would not use "highway=residential" for a road that is not passable by at least one car. Adding a width and expecting the renderer and router to fix this is not a good idea. I have been to Morocco and I would tag the "streets" with 1,50 width as service and service=alley like suggested in the top answer.

(04 Sep '11, 02:04) dieterdreist
showing 5 of 8 show 3 more comments

I would use footpath or track, especially on dead ends so that a way is mapped for visitors. The locals will know that they may out of need use them for horses, cars and carts. width is useful but won't show up on paper

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answered 01 Sep '11, 11:01

andy%20mackey's gravatar image

andy mackey
accept rate: 4%


If cars are allowed on those streets, then they should not be mapped as footways or paths.

(01 Sep '11, 12:04) scai ♦

scai would you be pleased to get stuck in alley with your car followed by a dozen camels, lots of areas do not have written down official laws and I think they are better for it, they use a common sense approach which we all did before we became strangled in red tape and conformity

(01 Sep '11, 12:18) andy mackey

This is, of course, highly situation-dependent but a general advice to tag these ways as footpath or track just seems wrong.

(01 Sep '11, 12:58) scai ♦

the streets I'm describing are paved (not tracks) and are used by (motor)bike so not footpaths. it's streets that locals will advise you not to use, as they "don't lead anywhere". but I want to describe them, not to advice about whether or not to use them.

(01 Sep '11, 14:03) mariotomo

what about using highway=living_street in combination with some access tags in these cases? motorcar=no for example, if it is physically not possible to drive a car there.

I suppose, these small streets in Morocco are exactly this: living streets, even if they do not have this sign with playing children. I guess, people sit outside in front of their houses, drinking tea and smoking waterpipe, playing backgammon, laughing about the stupid tourist that got stuck with his Rav-4, because the navi said so :D

Also, a maxwidth=n can work wonders here...

(03 Sep '11, 09:08) moszkva ter

how about foot =yes camels= yes motors =designated residents only in the correct syntax

(04 Sep '11, 16:15) andy mackey

@moszkva ter: maxwidth is a legal tag, you should not use it for physical characteristics (use width instead). They are also not living_streets because they are too small (a living_street by OSM definition is a residential street with special regulations like lower speed limits and special parking restrictions)

(05 Sep '11, 15:24) dieterdreist
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question asked: 01 Sep '11, 09:42

question was seen: 11,103 times

last updated: 10 Feb '15, 08:53

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