About Simon

Simon is the current SOSM president http://sosm.ch/about/board/simon-poole/

Answer to the “Vernehmlassung” for the new Geo-Information Law of the Canton of Berne

One of the lesser known aspects of the Swiss democratic system is the instrument of the “Vernehmlassung”, a formalized call for comments by interested and affected parties on draft laws before they go in to the parliamentary process and debate. The Canton of Berne is implementing new regulations on geo-information and related sovereign duties to be compatible with the equivalent legislation at a federal level and issued such a call for comments late last year.

The tl;dr gist of our answer is that the law should as a principle allow free access to the cantonal geo-data and do so on terms defined in a suitable well-known licence (CC0, PDDL or similar) reversing what is suggested in the current draft legislation. Further we have suggested that any fees for access to the data be based on marginal costs for the distribution.

Our full answer can be found here Kanton Bern geoinf Vernehmlassung. Opendata.ch, the Swiss OpenData Association, supports our position.

How many mappers are there in Switzerland?

At the last SOSM board meeting we had a short discussion about membership levels and what kind of numbers that we should expect. The discussion led to two actions, on the one hand we decided that we would, as an experiment, mail all new contributors with a short welcome mail, and on the other hand it piqued my curiosity how many contributors we have historically had and what the current growth rates are (having the numbers handy tends to help when talking to the media too).

The last time I generated overall contributor numbers for Switzerland was a good two years ago and was then at over 6’000, the current number is just over 9’000. The value was generated from a full history extract of Switzerland from November 2013,  further inspection of the extract shows that the oldest node in Switzerland was added on August the 15th, 2005. There may have been older anonymous contributions or contributions that were removed during the licence change, but this is the best date we have. This would indicate a growth rate of over 1’000 contributors per year, this number seems to be further supported by the 104 welcome mails we have sent to new mappers over the last 4 weeks.

Naturally Switzerland has a certain influx of non-domestic mappers, on the one hand due to neighbouring countries with strong OSM communities, on the other hand due to its popularity as a tourist destination. But as we know from a pure count point of view, larger, mobile mappers are a small minority and shouldn’t effect the above numbers significantly.

Updated Street Name Completeness Statistics

Just over a year ago I started running daily street name completeness checks for Switzerland based on a list of street names by municipality generated out of the federal “Gebäude und Wohnungsregister” (GWR), see my original article for more information and http://qa.poole.ch/ch-roads/ for the daily updates.

For technical reasons I decided to move the contents to a new server late December and during the process I’ve made a couple of updates and changes that need some explaining. On the one hand I’ve updated the GWR list to the December 2013 one on the other hand I’ve somewhat changed the logic of the road (contrary to other object types with names) statistic generation. One of the more annoying trends in the GWR list is that more and more municipalities are no longer correctly filing the object type in their submissions and are either using “unknown” or leaving the field empty (which I map to “none” in my statistics”), despite the large amount of building going on, the number has actually gone down in absolute terms by roughly 500 over the year 2013. This naturally makes the data substantially less useful for us, and I would go as far as saying it makes the data less useful for its primary purpose too.

However it is clearly not our job to discipline such behaviour, we just want as good as possible estimates of how many named streets there actually are. To achieve that I’ve now added some heuristics to take this undesirable behaviour in to account:

  • assume that if a GWR object has either no geometry type or “unknown” and the corresponding OSM object is a road, it should have been a road in the GWR too.
  • if there are no roads at all for the municipality in question in the GWR and OSM has roads as described above, add all the relevant GWR objects to the GWR road count.

The GWR numbers reported are corrected correspondingly. As of today this reduced the object count for “unknown” by 8’374 and for no object type by 4’438, adding a total of 12’812 to the GWR road count. For continuity and documentation purposes the old statistics are still calculated daily and are still available.

More interesting than the above changes is how much progress we have made over the past year. In the following table non-road objects are summarised in one number.

GWR 2012-06-01 OSM 2012-11-01 % GWR 2013-12-01 OSM 2013-12-27 %
Roads (old) 104’150 62’258 60% 103’606 74’969 72%
Roads (new) 117’598 87’759 75%
Other (old) 77’316 14’101 18% 78’284 21’414 27%
Other (new) 64’292 8’598 13%

As can be seen from the above we managed to add 20’024 names in just over a year, confirming that we should have as good as possible coverage of street names latest in two years.

To conclude, and most impressive, a map from early 2013, and current versions using the old and new logic

January 2013

December 2013 Old

December 2013 New


23’000 Km of New Ways in 12 Months

Mid October 2012 I produced updated statistics on road lengths in OSM for Switzerland, a year later it is time for an update.

The statistics show an increase of a total of at least 23’000 km from 152’000 km a year ago to 175’000 km now. As already seen in the last update the length of all roads with higher classification does not show much movement, a clear indication that the major road network is very complete.

Growth is mainly due to the increase in minor roads, tracks and paths mapped, which in turn is likely to have been driven by improved coverage with aerial imagery in 2013.

Detailed Numbers

OSM classification length (km) length (km)
motorway 1’508 50% of the length of one-way segments 3’009 one-way segments counted fully
motorway_link 343 684
trunk 365 515
trunk_link 54 106
motorway + trunk 2’270 4’314
primary 4’973 includes _link
secondary 5’382
tertiary 10’978
unclassified 18’326
residential 25’858
service 8’750 service=alley and unspecified
driveway 1’052 service=driveway
parking aisle 1’002 service=parking_aisle
track 16’313 tracktype unspecified, neither foot or bicycle = designated
track grade 1 11’454 neither foot or bicycle = designated
track grade 2 20’176
track grade 3 11’688
track grade 4 3’390
track grade 5 2’129
track total 65’150
path 22’180 neither foot or bicycle = designated
pedstrian 365
footway 7’354 plus path and track with foot=designated
cycleway 1’196 plus path and track with bicyle=designated
combined cycleway / footway 578 track, path, cycleway and footway either with explicit or implicit designated values for foot and bicycle
Total 175’404


AGM and Mapping Party Moutier


On Saturday SOSM had its first regular Annual General Meeting. To make it a bit more interesting we combined it with a mapping party in Moutier and surroundings, a slightly undermapped region in the Bernese part of the Jura. More on that later.

The highlight of the AGM was the election of three new members to the board replacing Stéphane Henriod who is extremely busy with HOT related activities and is most of the time in far away countries and Thomas Ineichen. A big thank you to both for the work they did in the first half year of SOSM.

The newly elected board members are

  • Pascal Mages (treasurer)
  • Philipp Schultz (assessor, press)
  • Patrick Stählin (press)

They join the incumbent boad members, Sarah Hoffmann and myself, that were duly reelected, as were the auditors Otto Wyss and Arthur Bonino.

The assembly passed a budget that includes funds for a leased server for SOSM services and we expect to announce what will be available in the immediate future.

Detailed minutes will be available in short while on this site.

Back to the fun stuff.

Half of Moutier has been mapped for quite some time, however aerial imagery for the 2nd part and for the villages in the same valley just became available early this year.

Prior to Saturday we did some armchair mapping resulting in this:


Screenshot from qa.poole.ch, red are mostly roads  that were traced from imagery. As you can see a number of the villages didn’t actually have anything mapped. Nothing to feel all too bad about:



The picture shows what commercial navigation data was for the village Belprahon roughly in the year 2000, everybody starts small as you see. With the data gathered on Saturday the valley looks like this


Most of the remaining red is due to roads not being signposted or not having names in the first place, not to forget that the house numbers seemed to be really small on average making them extremely difficult to read. The result is not perfect,  but a lot better than before and the village of Belprahon now looks like this in OSM


Again thanks to everybody that participated!




Another bing Imagery Update

bing has updated its coverage of Switzerland for the 2nd time this year over the last days, leaving just three larger areas uncovered with high resolution imagery.

Areas that now have coverage all of Graubünden (including the Engadina), substantial parts of the Ticino and Valais plus small additions in the canton Berne. For a number of Swiss tourists resorts the additions will over time result in substantially better coverage by OpenStreetMap and this will be a boon for their guests.

Skiing Vacation, Street Names and all that

Since the beginning of November 2012 I have been running statistics on how OSM data compares to “official” sources. The results can be seen qa.poole.ch/ch-roads/  a wiki page with some more information is available here.

The official numbers as of December 2012 contain 108’271 road names, 2’684 named nodes, 27’339 areas and a total of 52’211 of objects that were not classified by the muncipality collecting the data. Overall this amounts to 190’000 named features.

The Swiss OSM extract as of January the 10th 2013 contained 115’940 named streets, 5’053 areas and  9’674 nodes tagged with “place” and a name. The comparision just on a number base looks quite good, however actual matches are only 84’162  in total as of today, which is less than 50%. Just considering the streets we find 67’125 matches which is  61%.

The good news is that in the roughly 10 weeks the statistics have been running, we increased  the street matches by 3’556 and the total by 5’783. This indicates that we should have all roads covered in latest two years. I actually suspect that the coverage increase will be far larger in the summer months and that we will be able to acheive very good coverage far earlier.

Achieving rapid progress on non-road objects is however going to be difficult. Most of these are not sign posted and publicly available information for verification or a possible import seems to be limited to a proprietary dataset owned by the Swiss Post and the GWR address data. Both can be purchased at considerable expense, the later however has very restrictive usage terms. Essentially Swiss Topo has been granted a monopoly on all non-internal use. It is strange that in the age of the OpenData movement that this would still be possible (the legislation is quite recent), but I suspect that it will be very hard to change.

A good example of the difficulties is the small mountain village Ftan where we customarily spend our annual skiing vacation.

Essentially none of the roads have road signs, nor do they actually have names. The full addresses use a “quarter” name in place of a street name. As can be seen from the list produced by my statistics (original file: http://qa.poole.ch/ch-roads/ftan-20130119.html current version: http://qa.poole.ch/ch-roads/GR/3761.html switch to the Mapquest Open map on the OSM site to see what was actually added) nearly all the missing features are not roads, that dosen’t stop Google showing street names (google maps) where there aren’t any.

Surveying such data is going to take time, it implies using local knowledge and other clues available on the ground. It will be interesting to see how much can be gathered in the week I will be on site and how we progress with the multitude of similar settlements over the next months.



10’000 km of Ways added in 10 Months – New OSM Road Length Statistics for Switzerland

The last numbers on development of the OSM coverage in Switzerland were from early 2012. Since then we have had on the one hand the licence change process with a small corresponding loss of data, and on the other hand quite a lot of interest in the project as a whole. So I beleive an update is in order. While I didn’t use quite the same methodology as the previous numbers presented in the wiki here, they seem close enough to be comparable.

The statistics show an increase of a total of at least 10’000 km from 142’000 km at the beginning of the year to 152’000 km now. This without taking a further 8’000 km of “service” roads in to account that were not listed separately in previous statistics. As would be expected the length of all roads with higher classification does not show much movement, a clear indication that the major road network is very complete.

The low number for the length of combined footway/cycleway would seem to indicate that we are mistagging the most frequent occurring type of cycleway.in Switzerland. What is further slightly surprising is that we have mapped a combined length of 1500 km of driveways and parking aisles, this would seem to be an awful lot compared to roughly 1300 km of cycleways.

Detailed Numbers

OSM classification length (km) length (km)
motorway 1’505 50% of the length of one-way segments 3’003 one-way segments counted fully
motorway_link 333 665  “
trunk 361 511  “
trunk_link 50 95  “
motorway + trunk 2’249 4’274
primary 4’798 includes _link
secondary 5’450
tertiary 10’919
unclassified 16’539
residential 23’576
service 6’590 service=alley and unspecified
driveway 720 service=driveway
parking aisle 782 service=parking_aisle
track 12’254 tracktype unspecified, neither foot or bicycle = designated
track grade 1 9’461 neither foot or bicycle = designated
track grade 2 17’220
track grade 3 9’588
track grade 4 2’627
track grade 5 1’733
track total 52’883
path 19’183 neither foot or bicycle = designated
pedstrian 327
footway 6’506 plus path and track with foot=designated
cycleway 1’078 plus path and track with bicyle=designated
combined cycleway / footway 250 track, path, cycleway and footway either with explicit or implicit designated values for foot and bicycle
Total 152’373


Two Important Tagging Proposals Passed, but Nobody Knows.

Browsing the German OSM forum today I noticed that the OSMAnd android routing app developers were asking the community for an opinion on which “lane” tagging proposal to implement. My first reaction was: well didn’t such a proposal pass just a while ago and why on earth don’t they know about it? But on reflecting a bit, I had to admit, that I probably really only happen to know that we have a fully functional lane tagging scheme by accident.

Our tagging proposal and voting procedure has often been belittled and is the target of many jokes. Myself being one of the larger offenders in that respect. It can be argued that for the typical “I need a value for tag X that doesn’t exist” situation it just leads to massive bike shedding instead of quick resolution. I have at times simply started documenting and using a tag completely ignoring the proposal process (see mofa).

However we have had two long ongoing disputes in areas that impact usability mainly for routing applications where a unilateral decision without community and developer buy in hasn’t worked: lane tagging and conditional restrictions.

While the effort to support the three or four different ways of tagging a cycleway in a style sheet  is small, expecting all routing applications to implement the 3 or 4 different lane tagging proposal was and is just unrealistic.The usual tiebreaker that the more sucessful in day to day use proposal wins (the voting with the feet principle) doesn’t seem to work in such situations. As we all know adoption and widespread usage of a tag in OSM is mainly driven by either being able to see it directly on a map or by it having direct effect on applications. Particularly with lane tagging this has led to a classical “hen and egg” situation were lanes have not been tagged because the tagging was not being utilized at all.

We now have resolution, as far as we can ever have resolution in OSM, in two significant areas of tagging. The missing piece of the puzzle seems to be simply to make our contributors aware of the change. A long time mapper that doesn’t follow the tagging list and has never mapped lanes is not going to magically look up the lane tagging guidelines the next time he adds a street, he will just carry on with his established way of mapping.

OSM lacks a method for actively getting this kind of news out to contributors. The closest we get right now is tweeting, but that only reaches a small percentage of the community and in the past hasn’t been used for such mundane news. I’ve done some thinking about extending the OSM API to include access to the users “inbox” and some kind of system wide message system  that could be used by editors to display such messages on start up. However until such a system is implemented and adopted by third party developers we will need to use Twitter and our blogs to get the message out.