Walkways in OSM (San Francisco)

I added a walkway to OSM today, Skunk Alley, a funky little path between two houses with a hand painted sign. It’s on land that’s not part of a house lot and goes through a convenient location, so I think it makes sense to have it marked in the map as an actual walkway.

Skunk Alley is tagged “highway=track, surface=dirt”. I’d never seen the surface tag before, it’s not a column in the SQL version of the OSM Metro extracts I’m using. But highway=’track’ is a useful clue. Here’s all the various kinds of highways that look to mean “a way you walk on but can’t drive”.


select highway, count(*) as n
from planet_osm_line where
"highway" IN ('pedestrian', 'track', 'path', 'footway', 'bridleway')
group by highway
order by n desc;

"footway";5252
"path";1063
"track";959
"pedestrian";116
"bridleway";2

I gather from stuff I read that highway=path is not loved in the OSM community.

Here’s a map of most of SF with those 5 types of highway coloured. Purple is “footway” and seems to apply both to walking tracks in parks and the occasional street-type walkway (like along San Jose Avenue, bottom middle). Light blue is “path” and has useful walkways. Brown is “track” and dark blue is everything “pedestrian” and “bridleway”. The distinction between them all seems entirely arbitrary. Fort Funston is all “tracks”, the zoo and Golden Gate Park is all “footways”, and the greenspace west of Stanyan & 17th gets “paths”.