Open Street Map (OSM) as an Ongoing Brigade Project

  • Leila - mapping sidewalks to fork a tool (Access Map) that routes accessibility, combine with Chi Safe Path, which shows temporary obstructions
    • OSM community mapped all of Durham’s sidewalks with very little brigade guidance (connected via OSM slack)
    • Leila has hosted several mapathons teaching people what OSM is, how to map things, how to map sidewalks specifically
    • Raleigh has adopted that as a brigade project
    • You don’t need prior knowledge and you can map sidewalks
    • Leila has a slide deck - needs to be modified to be generalized
  • Will - you can map anything that’s permanent
    • Has mapped schools, recreation centers, bicycling infrastructure, used to make maps for fun and brigade projects, to show where vacant lots are located
    • Easy to tell where a school is using aerial images
    • Comfortable with people as young as sixth grade editing maps
    • There are third party services based on OSM
  • Why is it frowned upon to use Google?
    • UX is great, but you can never pull it out-- map data is copyrighted
    • If you use Google Map data to update OSM, they will know (!) because of Easter eggs, and they will shut down OSM
    • Internationally, Google Maps sucks - “Starbucks radius” - if you’re within 5 mi of a Starbucks it’s great, otherwise it’s terrible and OSM is more comprehensive
  • Hack night opportunities
    • Use task manager - portions off an area - claim an area
    • Cross brigade collaboration
  • What other mapping tools are brigade tools using?
    • - carto db but that’s not really a great option anymore - advantage is that it’s SQL based
    • - for things that are subjective, don’t go into OSM - like roads where your car will be towed if it snows
  • Link up with city hall - department of public works or someone else knows where stuff is
    • Temporary encroachment permits - anything you’re going to bolt down - permits for this are a PITA in most cities

Valhalla is an awesome OSM-powered open-source routing tool I used on a non-civic-tech project recently. Way easier to get going today than OpenTripPlanner and super powerful

Thanks for the write-up @mmazanec22

Some additional things that I’d like to add or flesh out a little more:

For those unaware, OpenStreetMap (OSM) is a free, global, geographic data set that’s crowdsourced with minimal licensing. Think of it as “google maps but with the licensing and collaborative nature of wikipedia”.

OSM is a great way for brigadeers from all sorts of backgrounds - to contribute to what they locally know (businesses, schools, speed limits of roads, bike paths, anything that is permanent and can be visibly observed in person - can be mapped into OSM) and add to the map - with somewhat minimal onboarding (~20-30 minutes, depending on audience).

Regarding the task manager: The task manager is a web app that helps mappers focus their attention on and map a particular area in a coordinated manner. The task manager can be used to complete specific tasks like “map all of the buildings in a city”, etc.

If you’re new, you can check out the HOT Task Manager, which coordinates mapping tasks all across the globe in places recently affected by a natural disaster or medical epidemic. Using the provided aerial imagery, you’ll trace out buildings, roads, and other features.

In addition to the activity of editing/mapping data on the map; OpenStreetMap is a great source of geographic data sets, especially in places where open data is not available. OSM data can be used for projects for further analysis (solving geographic questions like how many factories are within a mile buffer of rivers in your county, identifying food deserts, etc); routing like Chris mentioned above, or using it as a background map (aka: a base map). Using 3rd party-services like MapBox or, you can make a custom map (want all streets to be yellow and black? emphasize bike routes?) to your heart’s content in a project.

Additional learning resources: - this is currently the most appropriate introductory learning resource for OpenStreetMap and its ecosystem.

Want to learn more:

  • Ask here
  • join OSM’s US slack (
  • Ask in the #maps channel on the CFA slack
  • Connect with your local OpenStreetMap community! There may already be who can lend your their expertise and may even join your brigade :slight_smile: There isn’t always an easy way to find them; best to ask in the OSM slack.

popping my head in here as we are using OSM via Mapbox & Mapbox GL on our hurricane-response maps. So anything that we could learn from here that we could apply to our work seems like a win. I am definitely interested in an alternate to Goole routes which we are still using for getting direction to a shelter.

The front end repository is here and the current working demo is Please note, that is from a DRILL and just an exercise.

We are still working on improving search and filtering of the geo.json properties.

If this isn’t an appropriate place to share, my apologies.