back to article Brum laid bare on OpenStreetMap

Birmingham has joined Berlin, Canberra, Paris and Vienna in falling in its entirety to the cartographical skills of locals who've "completely digitally remapped" the city - in the process elevating it to the first British location to enjoy full-fat coverage on OpenStreetMap. The press release explains that the map was created …


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  1. Ash


    Is Sutton Park really that huge?!

  2. Adam Silver badge

    as of when?

    A city the size of Birmingham isn't a static object, it is constantly changing with new housing, new footpaths and new buildings, so I very much doubt it is completely mapped and up to date.

    Keeping something like Wikipedia up to date and accurate is fairly easy (because an expert can just read the article) compared to checking OpenStreetMap (which requires some form of survey).

  3. Mark

    What about Bath!

    Bath was mapped at a State of the Map!

  4. Eddie Edwards
    Thumb Up

    Quite amazing

    But still no Google Maps. Just panning from Birmingham to Cambridge I'd expect to see helpful labels such as "M6" and "A14" on the major arteries but they seem to label each road in exactly one place. The "A14" label is halfway to Norwich. So the map interface could use work. But the amount of data in there is quiet astonishing.

  5. Giles Jones Gold badge


    How about a 3D map next? ie. one with altitude mapping.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    My village just outside Brum, quite literally has been wiped of the map!

    That means less brummies in a our local in the Summer and that ain't no bad thing...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Is this to be the Wikipedia of mapping ? I know TomTom allow their customers to update their map database but I'd prefer a "safe" Ordinance Survey based map in my GPS.

    How does anyone know when a map is "complete" - this is required for navigation.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Sutton Park National Nature Reserve

    Is big. Very big.

    It's not as big as Paris. But it's nicer.

  9. Colin Wilson

    re: map completeness

    "How does anyone know when a map is "complete" - this is required for navigation."

    Garmin sell out of date maps - sometimes by several years - as the latest version.

    Not sure how TomTom fare on this, but at least their latest models allow user-updated maps to be used as well.

    As a free and open resource, it's a fantastic achievement, irrespective of how (in)complete it might be.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ AC

    Of course OpenStreetMap is not a replacement for commercial maps! Just compare the prices, plus commercial maps have of course never, EVER directed anyone into a barn or river... :-) Seriously though, apply a bit of common sense (along with possibly cross-checking downloaded maps against a paper one before setting out) and OSM data can be a godsend, especially for hikers rather than drivers - you would be surprised by how much detail commercial maps often lack when it comes to byways.

  11. Dunstan Vavasour


    Maps are very valuable to their copyright holders, and are very expensive to produce and maintain. Producing a map without reference to any copyright material is difficult, and OSM is very strict with its contributors about the permissible sources of information: (a) street level survey using GPS and a notebook (for names); (b) out of copyright maps; (c) Aerial photographs which Yahoo has allowed them to use.

    The result is still a work in progress. The back end hardware desperately needs upgrading; large areas of GB have been mapped from an out-of-date out-of-copyright map; parts of the user interface are clunky. Google Maps it ain't. But the achievement so far is still extraordinary.

  12. Jon H

    The first???

    "the first British location to enjoy full-fat coverage on OpenStreetMap"

    You what?! Who says?!

    I finished mapping Chichester months ago! OK, it's not as big as Birmingham but it's still a city that's complete. (all done on my bicycle with a BT GPS and my Windows Mobile phone if you want to know).

    I'm quite sure there are other towns and cities finished too.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    hopeless UI prevents additions - FAIL

    I took a look, and blow me down, my road was missing. So I registered, and tried to add it. I failed. A project that's all about the people adding the roads, and I couldn't for the life of me work out how to add a road.

    An "Add Road" option, maybe? Oooh nooooo, nothing like that. (I managed to move a few other roads around accidentally while trying things, but I think I managed not to save those changes.)

    I won't be going back.


  14. Pink Duck
    Thumb Up

    Coverage vs Quality

    OSM coverage is certainly not 100%, but where it is present and from committed mappers you'll generally find that it is superior in quality to both NAVTEQ and the poorer TeleAtlas. Even the OS data is sometimes years out of date. The reason Birmingham centre has been achieved earlier than others is, I suspect, mainly down to the available of public domain satellite imagery from Yahoo. A shame that such doesn't exist at good enough quality to make my local area easier to map.

  15. Jonathan Cohen
    Thumb Up

    Not just the UK

    All maps are a work in progress and it appears that Openstreetmap have a large part of the mapping community working for them. Seriously, this is amazing progress and it wouldn't surprise me to find in a few years they have a more accurate and comprehensive atlas than any commercial product.

    Openstreetmap is already the only accurate source of digital mapping data for parts of Africa. Fantastic stuff.

  16. raving angry loony


    This is an invaluable addition to the public domain (or at least open source). Finally people will have real, unfettered access to geographic data, rather than it being solely the preserve of well funded organizations. Kudos!!

  17. Rich


    The Ordnance Survey already produce the the most accurate and usable maps in the world. This website will not be able to match the level of data collected by OS on their higher scale maps (& I mean proper maps, not GPS maps for mouth-breathers who lack the ability to read road signs) so why create a challenge to their already threatened funding?

    Perhaps we're turning into a bunch of tin-pot Thatcherities. Why not. It worked wonders for the trains after all.....

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Not complete

    The street in Birmingham where my sister lives (not cited here for the sake of her privacy) is not named on the map, even at the highest resolution. And most of the houses on it were built before 1900, before you ask if it's a brand new road.

  19. Sam Liddicott
    Thumb Up

    not hopeless UI

    To the anonymous who was trying to "add a road" - I'm glad you didn't manage to add your road, you were probably doing it wrong.

    A good UI helps people who know what they are doing to do it well. You clearly didn't, and I'm glad you failed or you would likely have subtracted from the quality of the map. Clearly the UI succeeded here in preventing you from adding a road.


  20. deelkar

    re: hopeless UI prevents additions - FAIL

    Yeah, right. 90,000 people are using OSM on a near daily basis, so I guess the UI really prevents everyone to contribute.

    Of course if you don't like to read stuff on the wiki on how to map stuff, or view the videos on showmedo, youtube and other sites, you're probably better off sticking to openstreetbugs to mention "bugs" in the data.

    Yes, contributing to OpenStreetMap is a bit more complex than editing Wikipedia, but it's not impossible.

    (anyone who finds any sarcasm or irony in this post may keep it)

  21. deelkar


    Why make Wikipedia when there is the Encyclopedia Britannica?

  22. DJ
    Thumb Down

    walk in the woods

    Seems that someone took a walk through the country park near my moms, and suddenly there is a major road there! Good look getting up the waterfall in your 4x4 :)


  23. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @Bostin - Altitude maps

    Since Google Maps and the satellite / aerial views came out, elevation data has stayed the expensive and jealously guarded preserve of the professional cartographers.

    I've been looking for good open source altitude maps for 3D modelling of real places and it's hard to get anything in a practical scale. NASA published a global radar survey but that's not enough resolution for anything you'd want to walk around.

    But a big "well done" to the people of Brum who put in the effort.

  24. Kevin Whitefoot

    @Why By Rich

    Because OS maps cannot be re-used without paying royaties even though they were produced using your money in the first place (I assume you are a UK tax-payer).

    Also the name of the project is Open Street Maps, so I imagine that the principal ambition is mapping streets not geographical features which means that they do not need the same level of detail.

    And what do Thatcher and trains have to do with the affair? You aren't seriously suggesting that a bunch of volunteers editing maps in their spare time is a threat to commercial mapping in the same way that the wholesale sell off of community assets to private companies was to efficient operation of transport networks under Thatcher (and is under the current government), are you?

    And while I'm on the subject I'd like to record my thanks to Yahoo for allowing the use of there aerial photography in this effort. I used it to map the centre of the little Norwegian town I live in. It wasn't that difficult AC.

  25. Wize

    Who pays for OS maps to be produced?

    We do, its paid by our taxs.

    So why do we have to pay a second time to get them?

  26. Anonymous Coward

    @AC & FAIL


    Changes are set live each Thursday!


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