This guide, also available as a PDF or Word document, shares the terminology used by the team at the PeopleForBikes Green Lane Project to talk about our work on building better bike lanes. Since we named our effort the Green Lane Project in late 2011, we have determined the term “green lanes” is not the best descriptor of the facilities. This document captures our latest thinking, informed by market research, conversations with leaders in the field and our own experience. The evolution of language is one indicator of the rapid and exciting progress in this field. We anticipate updating this style guide periodically as the practice, and the way we talk about it, evolves.
This is a broad term useful in describing the work of the Green Lane Project. It includes the many flavors of bike lanes that are better than conventional bike lanes. This includes modern bike lanes that use green color, buffered bike lanes and protected bike lanes.
The Green Lane Project is sharply focused on the best bike lanes for big, busy streets, which are protected bike lanes.
As cities work to build out their bike networks, it is important that city leaders, staff and the community can:
Therefore, we suggest standardizing our language when we talk about the best kind of on-street bike lane: the kind that's physically protected from auto traffic and separated from sidewalks. The Green Lane Project's official style is to refer to these as "protected bike lanes."
The term "cycle track" is common in technical circles, and is currently used by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) and the Federal Highway Administration. It is a literal translation from the Dutch “fietspad,” and is used in various ways in different countries, including off-street paths and striped bike lanes. However, market research indicates its meaning is unclear to laypeople. It also carries unhelpful connotations of racing, speed and the implied need for specialty equipment in order to use it. Cycle tracks and protected lanes are the same thing, which we can point out to more technical audiences. Another term, “protected bikeway,” is also sometimes used by NACTO and others. This term encompasses the larger family of protected bike facilities, such as multi-use paths, so is not our preferred term.
Protected bike lanes have three key characteristics:
Protected bike lanes are NOT:
Multi-use paths, buffered and conventional lanes, and other types of facilities are essential parts of comprehensive low-stress networks, and our sharp focus on protected bike lanes is not meant to dismiss their value. Rather, it’s to introduce and institutionalize an important facility type for big, busy streets that has, until recently, been missing from the vocabulary of U.S. practice.
We are aware that some sectors of the technical design and engineer world have concerns about using the term “protected” in official standards and guidance, as it may raise expectations of impenetrability and safety beyond what the facilities provide. Given the breadth of the Green Lane Project’s audience and our desire for simple and compelling communication, we will continue to use the term protected, noting the other terms in use as needed given specific technical and professional audiences.
We use this term to describe bike lanes that have more space than a stripe between bikes and cars, but no vertical separation element.
We use this term to describe standard U.S. bike lanes, which consist of only a painted stripe on the road. It’s been the standard “one-size-fits-all” approach for nearly 50 years in the U.S., and it’s been largely unsuccessful in making trips on big, busy streets comfortable for the majority of the population. Conventional bike lanes have a place in our networks, but only in limited situations. Our goal is to distinguish them from newer, better kinds of bike lanes. We prefer the term “conventional,” as it has a slightly negative connotation, over “traditional.” The NACTO guide uses “conventional” to describe these lanes.
While our effort is called the Green Lane Project, we moved away from using the term “green lane” to describe the specific projects we are promoting. The term causes confusion as the Project’s primary focus is on building protected bike lanes, some of which use green color (paint or thermoplastic) and some do not. And some bike lanes are colored green, but do not include the physical separation that distinguishes them from conventional bike lanes. We should avoid using “green lanes” to describe specific on-the-ground bike lanes. Instead, we are advocating for better bike lanes, or to a more technical audience, protected bike lanes.
In the past, we have used “green lane networks” sparingly as a term to describe the broad family of better facilities that will get more people, and more types of people, out on bikes. The terminology around networks is evolving and we are moving away from using “green lane networks” and towards using “low-stress networks” as a way to describe the networks that serve all ages and abilities. Other terms currently in use are “8-80 networks” and “networks for all ages and abilities.” We continue to monitor and participate in the evolving conversation around the language of networks.
Major components of these networks are protected bike lanes, the low-speed and low-traffic facilities called bicycle boulevards, neighborhood greenways, or 30 km zones in much of Europe, and multi-use pathways. These networks may include bike boxes, bike-specific traffic signals, left turn queue boxes, traffic calming and innovative intersections to provide a continuous high-quality, comfortable experience for anyone riding a bike.