10 years OpenStreetMap and why Wheelmap celebrates along

The OpenStreetMap celebrated its 10th anniversary on the 9th of August. We seized the opportunity to have a look at the success of the free world map. After all, it’s the geo data of the OSM which constitutes the essential core for displaying the wheelchair accessible places in Wheelmap.


It was in summer 2004 when Steve Coast started the project of a free world map in London. 10 years later, OpenStreetMap has mobilised a community of more than 1.5 million mappers helping to collect geo data in all parts of the world – leading to an enormous data base.

Considering the amounts of data needing regular updates it seemed obvious that such a huge project should be based on the principles of open data and a community of voluntary mappers.

In a first step, they record the GPS tracks of streets, ways and buildings with their GPS devices and upload them into the data base. In a second step, the raw data is edited by adding tags. For this, the OSM relies on the expertise of mappers and their local knowledge.

OSM Then And Now: Comparison 2007 and 2014


The geo data is collected in a wiki-like database available to everyone. Nowadays, even some bigger webservices such as foursquare, pinterest and flickr use OpenStreetMap. Moreover, many interfaces have been developed for special interest groups, e.g the OpenSeaMap and numerours maps for biking and hiking.

But there are also some rather unusual mashups. The Ito Map shows speed limits, the OpenLoveMap some sex-related points of interest.

How OpenStreetMap and Wheelmap are connected

Do the principles of community and the functionalities of the map sound familiar to you? Actually, Wheelmap is also based on the geo data of the OpenStreetMap. That is where the node types are coming from as well as the tag “wheelchair status” that can be defined as “yes”, “limited” or “no”. And if you wondered what’s the source of all the grey marks still lacking a wheelchair status: OSM is the answer!

It’s already dawning on you: In Wheelmap the wheelchair status is what you can mark as green, yellow or red – wheelchair accessible, partially wheelchair accessible, not wheelchair accessible.

Now, the big advantage of an OSM-based service: The exchange of geo data works in both directions. All tagging of the wheelchair status and changes of address data and so on, are saved in the OSM as well. The synchronization of data is also the reason why it is necessary to register with an OSM account before editing and adding places on Wheelmap.

To sum it up, also the community of Wheelmap is part of the bigger OSM community. So, let’s join cheering and celebrating the 10th anniversary of the free world map: Happy Birthday, dear OSM, we’re lucky to have you!

Posted in News
Check our FAQ's .
Stay tuned
Hear the latest from us once a month.