Using OpenStreetMap to inventory bicycle infrastructure: A comparison with open data from cities

Colin Ferster, Jaimy Fischer, Kevin Manaugh, Trisalyn Nelson, Meghan Winters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


ABSTARCT: With rapid growth in bicycling, timely and spatially rich bicycling infrastructure data are essential for understanding determinants of ridership, equity of access, and potential for future developments. OpenStreetMap (OSM) is a collaborative global map that was built by volunteers and is promising for active transportation research. In this article, we use OSM to inventory bicycling infrastructure in six Canadian cities, compare it to municipal open data, and provide guidance for practitioners using OSM data. We conducted an evaluation of OSM and open data, overall and for four categories of bicycle infrastructure: cycle tracks; on-street bicycle lanes; paths (bicycle only or multiuse); and local street bikeways. We found that the concordance in terms of total length of OSM infrastructure to open data infrastructure very high in two of the six cities (< ±2%), and reasonably high in all cities (maximum difference ±30%). Concordance for infrastructure categories was highest for on-street bicycle lanes, which were the most common, and easily identifiable type of bicycle infrastructure in the OSM data, and lowest for cycle tracks and local street bikeways, both of which are new or relatively rare infrastructure types in some Canadian cities. In some cases, OSM was more detailed and timely than open data. A challenge in OSM is consistent tagging of bicycle infrastructure types. We encourage practitioners to consider OSM data for multicity studies, but to be mindful of potential inconsistencies in attribution and local definitions. We also recommend users of OSM to publish data queries for repeatability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-73
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Sustainable Transportation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2020


  • Bicycling
  • OpenStreetMap
  • citizen science
  • data quality
  • infrastructure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Automotive Engineering
  • Transportation


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