MapThePaths Android app


This is the accompanying app to MapThePaths, a project to add all the rights of way (RoWs) and permissive paths in England and Wales to OpenStreetMap (OSM) fully tagged. The app helps you find the locations of council RoWs and RoWs already on OSM while actually out surveying, helping you locate where there are missing paths or paths without a designation tag on OSM.

Map key

The colour scheme used is as follows (thicker lighter lines are council data and thinner darker lines are OSM data):

Using the MapThePaths app

What can you do?

The app allows you to:

View mode

You can select the mode ("View" or "Create/Edit") via the bottom navigation view on the app. "View" mode is the default. It provides a view much like the MapThePaths website itself; it shows council RoW data (in thicker, lighter lines) overlaid by OpenStreetMap data from the Freemap server (in thinner, darker lines) coloured according to RoW designation. Thus, "view" mode allows you to easily identify which RoWs are missing on OSM and which are lacking a designation, as paths without a designation will appear in grey. To view the data you must select "Download council and OSM data" from the menu system.

You can use "Create/Edit" mode, below to add a designation but do not copy the council data , as not all councils license their data in a way which is compatible with OSM. Instead, add designations only via on-the-ground observation.

Note that the OSM data in "View" mode is not live OSM data. It is OSM data provided by the Freemap server, which is normally up to a week, sometimes two weeks, old. So it is possible that an apparently-missing footpath has been surveyed in the meantime. You can use "Create/Edit" mode to check the live OSM data to be absolutely sure.

Create/Edit mode

"Create/Edit" mode allows you to either change the designation of a path or create brand new data. It works with live OSM data from the OSM API, so you must select "Download live OSM data" from the menu first and you must login to OSM (via the "Login to OSM" menu option). Use your normal OSM account.

To change the designation of a path, long-press on it. A dialog will appear with different designation options, listing the various RoW classifications plus permissive path (the latter can be useful if you discover that a path has permissive access). This will be updated live on OSM as soon as you select the new designation.

Creating brand new data

The MapThePaths app allows you to create brand new paths for OSM. It does this by recording your GPS trace (allowing you to tag it with different RoW types as you go), simplifying it (using the Douglas-Peucker algorithm) and auto-creating OSM ways from it. Optionally, you can also upload your full unsimplified GPX trace to the OSM server (this must be selected from the app's Settings). To do this:

Care is needed!

The way creation feature is somewhat experimental so caution is needed. It is strongly recommended to double-check your data in JOSM or another mainstream editor to check there's nothing odd about it, e.g. you should check that your new ways have connected properly with existing data, and don't contain artefacts due to GPS inaccuracy.

To help you here, you can, if you select it in the Settings, upload your full, unsimplified GPS trace (as a GPX file) to the OSM server, which can help you refine your way in JOSM. The GPS trace will be uploaded in "Public" mode (see here for details on the different GPS trace upload visibility modes).

Adding notes

When logged in, you can also add notes for other mappers, e.g. make a note that a hedge is either to the left or to the right of the path. The note button is available in both "View" and "Create/Edit" modes.

Performance issues

The app uses a forked version of the Ordnance Survey OpenSpace SDK for Android (see here). Paths are added to the Ordnance Survey Vector Map District base layer as vector lines; performance can be poor if you attempt to use the app in an urban area due to sheer volume of data. I found that on a Nexus 5 it is slow in urban areas but on a Nexus 9 tablet, significantly faster. Please note that the app is not optimised for urban areas, its intended use is in the countryside. Small towns will be fine though (based on tests in Southampton and Romsey).

Bug reporting

The app has been extensively tested, however it is always possible that a bug may occur, particularly as this is a preview version. If a bug occurs please email the developer, Nick Whitelegg on hikar.app@gmail.com, stating the latitude and longitude where the error occurred and what you were doing at the time.

Download

The MapThePaths app is available on Google Play. Please note that at the moment it is a beta, preview version rather than a full release.

Obtaining the source code

Source code is available here.

Privacy policy

The MapThePaths app will track your GPS location, in order to download mapping information for your current area and to allow you to record a route. Using the OAuth authentication system, the app also stores a unique "token" to identify you to OSM once you have logged in; this is stored on the device between uses of MapThePaths to avoid you having to login each time. Edits you make (whether creating new data, adding a note, or changing the designation of an existing way) will be attributable to you on OSM, and if you upload a GPS trace, this will also be attributable to you (see here; 'Public' visibility is used). However, the app does NOT store your OSM username or password on the device. It is OpenStreetMap itself which validates your username and password.

Personal information (i.e. your OSM identity) is not used by the app for marketing purposes or for any other purpose beyond what is described above.

You should also read the OpenStreetMap privacy policy; see here.


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