Quick Guide to OpenstreetMap


A bit of infos about what OpenStreetMap is, and what you can do with it. It's Android-centric since that's the smartphone I have, and bicycle-centric since I rarely drive.

The big picture

OpenStreetMap is an open-source alternative to Google Maps and other closed-source equivalents.

Any addition you make is actually recorded in the central OpenStreetMap database, from which all maps are built by reading all or part of the data. This makes it possible to build different types of maps simply by selecting only some information and displaying them in a particular way. For instance, OpenCycleMap includes information specifically made for cyclists, including bike lanes and bike shops.

As of September 2013, two types of tools are available to edit OpenStreetMap:

In addition to using OSM on the web, smartphone applications are available that download OSM maps into your phone to work without a network connection. Great for trips in the country or overseas.

Querying the OSM database



Overpass Turbo

"The Overpass API (or OSM3S) is a read-only API that serves up custom selected parts of the OSM map data. It acts as a database over the web: the client sends a query to the API and gets back the data set that corresponds to the query." http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Overpass_API


To use the MapQuest map instead of the default MapNik map: Settings -> Map ->Tile-Server. For MapQuest just use the following url: http://otile1.mqcdn.com/tiles/1.0.0/osm/{z}/{x}/{y}.jpg

Default is this: http://{s}.tile.openstreetmap.org/{z}/{x}/{y}.png

Alternatively, How can I extract information [e.g. POI's] from OpenStreetMap (like a list and location of all of the Churches in a certain area)?

Finding an address


Locating bicycle parking spaces


Reporting errors


Tagging bike-related items in OSM

Bike cafés


Adding bicycle yield signs

a.k.a. "Céder le passage au feu" in French, which are mostly based on M12a and M12b signs. Note: The "from" and "to" ways must be separate; Otherwise, you won't be able to select them within the Restriction relation. True whether editing with JOSM or Id.

Here's how to add one to a traffic sign with JOSM:

  1. Using File > Download from OSM, download the data for the area that contains the traffic sign
  2. Click on the traffic light, and add a Restriction relation with the following tags
  3. Click on the way cyclists will use to get to that light, select the relation you just created previously, and set its role to "from"
  4. Repeat the previous step for the way cyclists will use after they pass the light, and set its role to "to"
  5. If applicable, repeat the from/to steps for other ways connected to the red light
  6. Save changes.

Here's how to do it through Id instead:

Id is not a good alternative to handling relations.

  1. Se rendre à www.openstreetmap.org
  2. Zoomer sur la zone à modifier
  3. Passer en mode édition, avec le login qui va bien
  4. Cliquer sur le nœud (feu rouge ou autre contrainte) à modifier pour y ajouter un CLPAF
  5. Ajouter une relation en cliquant sur le bouton + dans la section All Relations, New relations, sélectionner Relation pour le type de relation
  6. Y ajouter attributs (tags) : type=restriction et restriction:bicycle=give_way
  7. Y ajouter le rôle du nœud en dessous: via
  8. Ensuite, sélectionner la rue (way) d'où vient le cycliste
  9. Sélectionner la relation Restriction précédement créée
  10. Y ajouter le rôle du chemin: from
  11. Répéter ces dernières étapes avec la rue où le cycliste continue sa route, avec le rôle to.
  12. Enregistrer les modifications avec un commentaire clair.

Viewing edits live

A list of live edits, including http://live.openstreetmap.fr/

Android applications

MapsWithMe Pro Maps.me

(March 2015) This application is now totally free and is renamed Maps.me.

This application downloads OSM maps, so they're available even with no Internet connection and lets you find addresses (it can be slow or not work well, however.) You can add bookmarks/PointsOfInterest, either directly in the phone or by importing a KML file (such as using Google MapsEngine).

(August 2013) There are two ways to import a KML file:

As of August 2013, MwM Pro is unable to import routes in GPX, but a GPX route is displayed OK when converted into KML and imported in the application:

  1. Draw route in eg. Endomondo, RideWithGPS, etc.
  2. Export as GPX
  3. Convert to KML using eg. www.gpx2kml.com
  4. Copy KML file in MwMPro directory in Phone, restart MwMPro, and aim at the area.

To export bookmarks to Windows, open the bookmarks folder and send the infos as email attachment. A KMZ file is actually a KML (XML) file zipped, so you can just rename the extension from KMZ to ZIP.

Easy solution to view bookmarks with Google Maps : uploade KMZ file to a web site, and use this type of URL : http://maps.google.com/?q=http://www.acme.com/my.file.kmz

Alternatively, you can draw a route in Google Maps:

  1. Log on to Google
  2. Head to https://maps.google.com/maps/myplaces
  3. Draw the route, either manually or by just filling the A (source) and B (destination) fields
  4. Save the route in My Maps
  5. Click on the KML file
  6. By default, the route is drawn in purple, but you can edit the KML file to change the color to bright, opaque red with "FF0000FF".

In the phone, to add a bookmark on an empty zone, keep your finger pressed for a couple of seconds.


First, download the World basemap. If you need more details for a given area, download finer-tuned maps, either as "Roads-only map" (lighter) or "Regular map" (heavier, about 10x).

If you want to contribute to OSM, enable the "OSM Editing" plug-in.

Slow to redraw map when zooming in/out

One region = one map, so before heading for a region which is currently not available in the phone and where a data connection won't be available, remember to download maps ahead of time.




The app records a track and lets you add nodes for later saving/uploading.

The default buttons are car-related, but can be reconfigured by writing an XML file with eg. bike-related buttons.


Cue Sheet

Cue Sheet can import GPX files.

Can it download maps for offline use?

Gaia GPS

Tips on using GPS

Here's how to use the GPS module effectively, either when contributing to OSM or just riding around.

Speeding up GPS locking

GPS-capable smartphones rely on different sources of information to know your whereabouts:

The first two (GSM and wifi) require a data connection so that the phone can upload those infos to Google and download your location. As a result, this won't work when disabling data roaming while travelling overseas to save money; In this case, the only way to find your location is by locking GPS signals, which can take several minutes, or can be impossible altogether (small streets, heavy woods.)



Is it possible to hide the left-side column in OSM (the part that says "OpenStreetMap The Free Wiki World Map")

As of October 2013, it's not possible but is planned. In the meantime, use web filters such as Adblock, Privoxy, GreaseMonkey, etc.

The OSM map (MapNik) is hard to read (too detailed)

Check Mapquest Open (from MapQuest). Changing what features are shown on a map tile is not possible, unless you render your own map tiles. See switch2osm.

How to download maps for off-line use?

Downloading map tiles for offline use may breach the tile usage policy. The OSM data is freely available, scraping map tiles has a high impact on the servers and is not recommended. Andy, who created the cyclemap, does sell a micro SD card with opencyclemap data on it for some GPS receivers.

Some applications for Android like MapsWithMe or OsmAnd allow downloading OSM maps for offline use.

What is the easiest way to add locations and/or correct errors seen in OSM?

Just click on Edit. As of Sept 2013, it'll use the HTML5-based Id application.

How to draw a route before leaving?

There are several web sites that let you draw a route on your computer, and export it as a GPX file that you can import in your Android smartphone. All of those below actually rely on Google Maps:

What is OSMTracker?

OSMTracker "allows you to track your journey and mark significant way points. Way points can be marked with a tag using a button, with a quick voice record, a text note or by taking a picture. The various button pages and layouts can be customized to suit your OpenStreetMap activities. You can view your current track on top of an OpenStreetMap background.

The track is then exported in GPX format, ready to use in OSM tools like JOSM."

Offers too few amenities.


How to configure OCM to default to a given city?

How often is OCM updated from OSM?

How to always open on given location instead of "Putney, UK"?

How to hide two squares at bottom?

How to add topography infos (hills)?

How to contribute (missing cycle lanes)? Read the beginners' guide

How to get mousewheel to work to zoom in/out?

Works OK when viewed through the OCM layer on the OSM map. Could be some JavaScript stripped by a web proxy.

How to display scale (km's)?

How to see attributes of location?

eg. how to check business hours or URL of cycle shop?

Transport Map

How to know if a train line is actually still in operation?

For instance, it seems like the train line that leaves Orléans eastward and ends around Les Bordes is actually closed.

How to know if a train line is for passengers or freight?

Can OpenStreetMap display train stations as big, visible icons in a region, so I know that a train station is close to where I'd like to go without zooming in and out a bunch of times around the area?

Other subjects

What is A-GPS?

Speeds up GPS locking significantly by downloading satellite data indirectly from servers on the Net. Usually requires a data connection, but it seems like A-GPS data can also be downloaded through GSM.


Simple Android app to update AGPS data?

GPS Status = too many features

FasterFix, FasterGPS = root required

How to know which GPS chip is in my Android phone?

What should I do before going for a trip?

Here are some tips to reduce the time your (Android) smartphone takes to lock GPS signals:

  1. Enable GPS as early as possible before using a GPS-based application, and leave the phone in direct sight of the sky so that it can lock satellites. Always leave GPS on, as it will only drain batteries when a GPS-based application is actually run
  2. Enabling Wifi speeds things up, even if you don't actually connect to any hotspot, because wifi hotspots provides more information to locate you in addition to GSM relay antennas and GPS signals.
    However, GPS + Wifi use a lot of battery, so use sparingly, upgrade to a bigger battery, or bring an external battery
  3. DOESN'T ANDROID DO THIS ALREADY? Install the free app GPS Status, and use A-GPS: Switch GPS on; Menu (vertical "...") > Tools > Manage A-GPS state > Reset followed by Menu > Tools > Manage A-GPS state > Download (More infos about what GPS Status does)
  4. Once you start using GPS-based applications, keep the smartphone in your hand or pocket instead of deep in your bag
  5. Upgrade from stock Android to CyanogenMod.

OSM Peeves