Belgian Mapper of the Month: Stijn Rombauts

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Stijn Rombauts is a 37 year old bio-engineer who works for the Flanders Enviroment Agency, where he builds and maintains computermodels of streams and rivers. Those models are used to predict floods and to plan of e.g. fish steps and waiting basins. Because he spends a lot of time in front of the computer for his job, he tries to be active, in the nature, during his spare time: be it on foot, with the mountain bike or in a canoe.

Stijn Rombauts

How and when did you discover OpenStreetMap?

As a mountain biker, I am constantly on the lookout for interesting unpaved paths and roads. In the end I got disappointed in the dated maps of the NGI. Field roads and forest paths have the tendency to disappear and to reappear elsewhere or to become a paved way. This lead me to OpenStreetMap, somewhere in the autumn of 2012. A map that was often worse with respect to those unpaved roads, but at least I could improve it myself.

Do you Use OpenStreetMap?

I rarely use OpenStreetMap. I do have an OpenStreetMap-map on my GPS, but that is used only to check the existence of the paths during one of my excursions. I have to admit that I still rely on Google Maps and StreetView most of the time.

How do yo map?

When I just started, the focus was on field roads and forest paths. After awhile I also started to add walking and mountain bike routes. But gradually, it became clear that other aspects also needed refinement. I expect that most roads are mapped when the first aerial images became available. But most of those roads are not located correctly. And new roads have been added, crossings have been redesigned, cycleways have been created, etc. That is why I have entertained myself already during many evenings by checking each and every road segment, not only the positions, but also the tags. I worked myself through the roads in the north of the Limburg province. Right now I am doing the same in Vlaams-Brabant. During this task I also look at the errors reported by Osmose and Keepright. Sometimes I get distracted by the railways, or some land use issues or some other problems. My action area is rather small: Limburg, Vlaams-Brabant, Luik and Luxemburg, with an occasional dodge to France or Norway.

What is your biggest achievement as mapper?

I only add small building blocks in several different places to the impressive OpenStreetMap-castle. But in the meantime it seems that I have added or checked almost 300 walking routes.

Stijn's Achivements

Stijn's Achivements

Why do you map? What motivates you?

I always had a light autistic interest or fascination for maps. And now I am allowed to draw real maps myself! What more can I wish? :-) There are periods during which I loose interest, but they never last long.

Do you do other things for OpenStreetMap besides mapping?

Maybe not enough. It is not the first time that I wonder whether I should spend more time in the wiki. A lot of interesting information passes on the Belgian mailing list, but in the end that is a fairly volatile and cluttered medium. This means that a lot of information gets lost, especially for new mappers.

Do you have ideas to extent the community?

The most difficult question, I assume? I am not so familiar with this topic, but maybe the interest in OpenStreetMap and its community can grow the fastest via contacts with organisations such as Trage Wegen. (which is an organisation that works around roads for non-motorized traffic).

What are the strong points of OpenStreetMap?

I think that the main strength of OpenStreetMap is that mappers from all over the world can contribute to the creation of a map on the other side of the world, especially for countries or regions for which no decent maps exist. Many small ones make one great.

What is the biggest challenge for OpenStreetMap?

In Belgium, we have already mapped a lot of things already once. I think that the biggest challenge for the years to come is to keep all of this up-to-date. When a piece of land use is missing, one can easily spot this. That a piece of land use has not been checked, is much harder to see. The same holds for roads; hiking, cycling and public transport routes and all other objects in OpenStreetMap.

How do you stayed informed about OpenStreetMap news?

Actually, only through the talk-be mailing list. This is of course a limited view on the activities of the world-wide OpenStreetMap community.

Do you have contact with other mappers?

I have visited meetups in Leuven and Antwerp, but it was a long drive from Limburg.

Anything else you want to mention?

Damn, such a long interview. Another night I could not map ...;-)