Tagging a sidewalk name or creating relation to street?


Anat here from OpenSidewalks project at the University of Washington. We are a project that promotes mapping of the pedestrian transportation layer with detail. One of our aims is to increase accessibility of pedestrian ways both for travelers with disabilities, but also promoting more active transportation trips.

With every new community we work with, we face similar challenges in that there’s not consistent way to associate the sidewalk ways with the road (when there is a road associated with the sidewalk). In the past, some local OSM communities liked using the “description” (not the “name”) tag to associate something like “NE sidewalk of Eaton Street” with the way. However, globally, OSM community does not love this and it is also difficult to get some of our downstream OSM consuming applications to use this consistently in an automated way.

Before putting up a proposal on the wiki, I wanted to open this discussion in the community. Some of the goals that this tag would achieve are described below, but we want to make sure that everyone’s interests are covered, so please propose others as well. Thanks!


  1. Using sidewalk association with the road/street name, wayfinding applications would be able to offer text or audible turn-by-turn directions for pedestrians (for example, “use the Northeast sidewalk of Eaton Street, walk to the intersection with 4th Avenue”)
  2. Using sidewalk association with road/street name, transportation planning applications can account for presence/absence of pedestrian structure in their street network
  3. Using sidewalk association with road/street name, downstream routing or simulation applications have a consistent manner to connect street environments to pedestrian environments in transit network analyses (for example, tying scheduled bus system stops with the appropriate sidewalk when pedestrians are disembarking the bus).

It is true that each downstream application can apply some set of heuristics to test the proximity of sidewalk infrastructure to streets and impute the association. However, given the variability in building standards in different locations, and the fact that many cities are not built in block-like structure, this endeavor is not as easy as it sounds, nor does it end up in human-validated ways of confirming these associations. It would be great to get a consistent mechanism for explicitly tagging these associations, particularly for the non-obvious cases.

Looking forward to a good discussion!


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Ce sujet de discussion accompagne la publication sur https://community.openstreetmap.org/t/tagging-a-sidewalk-name-or-creating-relation-to-street/7786