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Where the road ends - aka why does the mapping system think that's a road?

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Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like :The Dirty Kanza". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

Where the road ends - aka why does the mapping system think that's a road?

Old 07-19-20, 01:09 PM
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billyymc
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Where the road ends - aka why does the mapping system think that's a road?

So been running into a problem on some recent rides that goes like this.

I map my routes with ridewithGPS (in the recent cases gravel routes in upstate NY in the vicinity of McDonough NY), and in three instances over two rides have run into situations where the roads that are in the mapping system don't actually exist. In one case the road ended in a pasture, the posted signs were unclear so we decided to proceed on the matted grass/weed track for 1/2 mile to a really rough mud road that appeared to serve a hunting camp. Another half mile or so brought us to an actual legit dirt road.

In another case the right turn into a "road" was marked with a traffic sign as "Driveway, Not a Through Road" even though the maps showed it as a through road. We went up the driveway in hopes of a friendly owner who might let us pass - we encountered him and told him our predicament, and while he helpfully gave us directions to detour to where we could pick up our route again he didn't offer to let us traverse past his gated "road" which was fine.

The third instance was a coupel weeks ago on a solo ride, same vicinity. Maps and GPS saying turn right, into someone's yard. Stood there perplexed until some nearby homeowners ventured out to check their mail and told me there was a rough truck road long ago but it was pretty much overgrown and unused now. When they pointed it out I could just make out where it had been. They said I coudl go ahead down it if I wanted but I was very late and tired so decided to take their directions to the shortest way back to my starting point.

So question - how do I do better at identifying these situations and making routes where I won't run into this? I really don't want to trespass on private property, and I also don't want to add lots of miles to a route assuming I can even get cell coverage to reroute during a ride (often I can't).
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Old 07-19-20, 01:28 PM
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I've run into this before. Maybe look over your route using Google Street View?
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Old 07-19-20, 02:49 PM
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Finding out roads are rarely used rough trails created by the early settlers, which were Native Americans, is part of the fun of Gravel Riding !.

In all seriousness, Google Maps has errors and the basic RWGPS map is based on Google. There are a bunch of alternative maps on RWGPS you can toggle that *might* show a different road condition and there’s always Satellite view to verify, which I would do if not familiar, especially dirt roads.

FWIW, I was using a RWGPS created route in eastern Long Island, so a reasonably densely settled area of the U.S. and discovered that where I was supposed to make a right turn, the road didn’t exist. I can state I never expected Google to have that kind of error in this area. Utah, OK. Attached is a screen shot of “Jerusalem Hollow Road”, it doesn’t exist, but a glance at satellite shows it’s dirt, but doesn’t have a connection at its SW end.

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Old 07-19-20, 07:09 PM
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I deal with this all of the time in creating gravel routes. It probably is nearly impossible to keep current all of these roads in every state, even if you are Google. I always check routes with at least 3 different sources when I create it and then the first ride I invite a few adventurous friends and let them know it is a scouting ride and we may make a lot of detours and bypasses before we finish. That adds to the fun. I can have several iterations before I finalize and make it a bigger large group ride out of it.. I have over 1,000 miles of gravel routes in PA mapped thsi way. Part of my verification is to use google maps satellite view to conform (when I can) if a road still exists, or if it is still gravel. I have learned how to often tell if it is gravel by the road color, absence of a ceter line and by lookig at the intersections. Regardless still have to scout them first before finalizing. Sometimes I even find new roads that are not on the map that I use too and I manually create a road in RWGPS there and put comments in for riders to hear.

Innacurate road locations, inaccurate road names, existence of roads, etc. is just part of making routes. Combined from the last two routes I created I had to deal with a total of 5 completely missing bridges, two roads closed by landslides, one road completely gone and one overgrown to the point of being impassible, and one great road that was not on any of the map options.

If you get this all figured out for a route and make it so people can reliably ride without worrying about these issues (and you navigate around or warn about untied dogs, etc.) then your routes become the go-to sources for people to trust and ride.

I do not make any of my routes public until I hae them fullt scouted out.
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Old 07-19-20, 07:15 PM
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I recently ran into this, where I wanted to go on what turned out to be a private road. There may be a public right of way there, but it doesn't matter if a landowner takes it over and nobody squeals about it.

The one thing that really annoyed me was the rail trail that went across a bridge. A landowner had put up a sign that said "the land on the other side of this bridge is private" Well, not the land the rail trail was on. I think they didn't want people to launch boats from their property.
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Old 07-19-20, 08:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post
Finding out roads are rarely used rough trails created by the early settlers, which were Native Americans, is part of the fun of Gravel Riding !.

...
And the Native Americans slightly upgraded animal trails. The funny part is that we came along and often built trails and roads in straight lines that felt so much better to or European thinking and ran those trails over far more difficult terrain! (Animals would wonder "why would anyone do that much work?" )
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Old 07-19-20, 09:39 PM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
And the Native Americans slightly upgraded animal trails. The funny part is that we came along and often built trails and roads in straight lines that felt so much better to or European thinking and ran those trails over far more difficult terrain! (Animals would wonder "why would anyone do that much work?" )
Theres a remarkable number of roads and paths around my area whose history goes back 300 years or so. Seems like a long time till I recall walking on the Apia Way, the original Roman road south of Rome.
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Old 07-20-20, 04:54 AM
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Thanks all - I do pretty much what everyone here has outlined in terms of trying to ascertain whether roads actually exist or not. The ones that are difficult are where you can't see the road through tree canopy - you see a start and end point, but may be missing a long gap.
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Old 07-20-20, 05:26 AM
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I run into this problem in trying to find new gravel routes in my area, as well. I think Google relies on local planning/engineering maps that can date back to when the town was first laid out. I've found that these maps are rarely updated to reflect what currently exists. I try to confirm with Google satellite view, but sometimes the only way to know is to go and ride it.
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Old 07-20-20, 06:36 AM
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Not much to add, but Iíve also had some minor issues with RWGPS. There is a 1 mile ďroadď that it tries to navigate me over, which AFAIK was never a public road, or hasnít been for years. I think it was most recently two private drives that ended almost meeting in the middle at a river, with a (possibility unconnected) footbridge that crosses the river. From the satellite view, if the bridge is still there itís not usable. From one direction at least, the road is completely nonexistent now and possibly fenced off.

Google maps can function as a second opinion, but itís not infallible either when it comes to rarely traveled country roads. If streetview is available itís a good sign, but I live near a bridge that is closed to cars (and has been for about 2 years I believe) but Google streetview goes right over it and it still navigates me through it.

Overall though, RWGPS is great. I really love using it to try new routes out and for races (I put in an earbud and do turn-by-turn nav). Makes rides a lot more enjoyable to me if Iím not constantly looking at a map/gps thinking about the next turn or whether Iím off course.
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Old 07-20-20, 06:38 AM
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In the Delaware Water Gap area, all the land was taken to make a dam which never got built. There are tons of road right of ways still on the books, but those roads are gone. This shows up occasionally when a mapping software like rwgps uses the non-existent roads.
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Old 07-20-20, 08:40 AM
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I have found OSM to be the best layer to double check routes, because they are the easiest for users to edit. Better yet, join OSM and mark those bad connectors so others don’t end up in the same place.

It is also very common here for landowners to post no trespassing signs on public lands adjacent to their property to keep people off of them, but they actually have no claim to the lands. It also happens more often on “managed” land.
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Old 07-20-20, 05:30 PM
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Originally Posted by billyymc View Post
Thanks all - I do pretty much what everyone here has outlined in terms of trying to ascertain whether roads actually exist or not. The ones that are difficult are where you can't see the road through tree canopy - you see a start and end point, but may be missing a long gap.
Seriuusly, that is part of the fun of it, go and ride it and see what is under (or not under) the canopy...
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Old 07-20-20, 05:34 PM
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Years ago I rode across NY state on a route given to me by someone who had ridden it before. Unlucky for me that it was the summer NY Staye funded a big rural bridge replaceent project. So many bridges were out that I started to kust ride across the creeks if it was feasible. I broke a pedal and had an unplanned refresher that summer in one of those creek crossings.
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Old 07-20-20, 05:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Steve B. View Post
Theres a remarkable number of roads and paths around my area whose history goes back 300 years or so. Seems like a long time till I recall walking on the Apia Way, the original Roman road south of Rome.
I grew up on a road built in the mid 1600s. Windy and lined with stone walls. (Massachusetts, where the first harvest every spring was for rocks. The easiest place to lug them to was the wall you were about to build parallel to or around that field. After a few springs of doing this, those farmers became pretty good wall builders!

The funny thing is that those walls, built with hard labor, are only coincidentally related to property lines or anything else relevant now.

Scotland - the fitted stone watchtowers of more than a millennia before, the far older Calandish Standing Stones. Yea, we're just yongsters.
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Old 07-21-20, 11:50 AM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
And the Native Americans slightly upgraded animal trails. The funny part is that we came along and often built trails and roads in straight lines that felt so much better to or European thinking and ran those trails over far more difficult terrain! (Animals would wonder "why would anyone do that much work?" )
I dunno. One of the first bears I saw was heading straight up a very steep hill -- the kind I'd have been hesitant to try to climb even in my teenage years.
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Old 07-27-20, 03:47 AM
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Agree with the multiple source approach. I use a paper gazetteer, Maps.me and Google maps. Google Earth is often the “proof in the pudding” to see if a way through really exists. Around here, the most frustrating thing is the sources often disagree on road names. I tend to write turn by turn directions on a piece of paper and stuff it in my pocket and when the road names from the online sources don’t match the real world it’s a bit of a pain. But improvising can be fun as long as you’re willing to turn around and go back the way you came.
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Old 08-03-20, 08:43 PM
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I do some riding in an area where about 1/4 of the road names on the signs do not match the ones on the maps. Sigh.

I have developed over 30 gravel routes so far and to date I have never created one that did not need to be modified from the first guess to be rideable. That just seems to be the norm with these little-used roads...
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Old 08-03-20, 10:06 PM
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RWGPS is great for building routes, but some of what it claims are roads is just terrible. Google satellite shows no bridge over a creek and the road ending on either side a good 100 yards before the creek- RWGPS will send you down that dead end.
Its flat out made up roads before, like a couple miles of road where there is nothing but cornfield.

Trust but verify...so basically don't trust.
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Old 08-04-20, 08:47 PM
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Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
RWGPS is great for building routes, but some of what it claims are roads is just terrible. Google satellite shows no bridge over a creek and the road ending on either side a good 100 yards before the creek- RWGPS will send you down that dead end.
Its flat out made up roads before, like a couple miles of road where there is nothing but cornfield.

Trust but verify...so basically don't trust.
I agree, but it is still a great tool for route creation; you just have to "verify" everything before you send your friends out on your new route...

I also have had a couple of cases where there is a road, but not on most of the maps...

BTW, this is not related to RWGPS, it is teh map sources that it accesses. That is why you need to click the different map overlays to compare what is there on some and not on others.
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Old 08-05-20, 08:01 AM
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Originally Posted by dwmckee View Post
BTW, this is not related to RWGPS, it is teh map sources that it accesses. That is why you need to click the different map overlays to compare what is there on some and not on others.
This, 1000%. No matter which mapping site you use, review your route with multiple layers. I usually try to verify with the standard (Mapquest/AppleMaps base layer) map, OSM, Satellite, and USGS topographic if I will be traveling in state or national forest.

If you really want to vet your routes, get a subscription to Gaia GPS. They have tons of layers, some of which are very useful for other activities as well. They even have a layer where you can identify landowners so you will know if you are on public land or private property.

In the end, you also need to be ready to backtrack or bushwhack if a road doesnít exist. Some of the hard-core route wizards here in Portland ride with folding saws when scouting new routes - seriously, there was a discussion on the local forum what folding saws were everyoneís favorites (Silky Gomboy was a popular choice). Here is a video with some strategies for mapping routes:
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