A greenway is "a strip of undeveloped land near an urban area, set aside for recreational use or environmental protection". However, the term can in fact include "a scenic road" and though many are in urban areas, there are some rural greenways, as for example the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway, a hiking trail in southern New Hampshire.
A greenway is a trail (and sometimes a wildlife corridor) found in both urban and rural settings that is frequently created out of a disused railway, canal towpath, utility or similar right of way, or derelict industrial land. Rail trails are one of the most common forms of greenway, and they also resemble linear parks.
In Southern England, the term also refers to ancient trackways or green lanes, especially those found on chalk downlands, like the Ridgeway.
The American author Charles Little in his 1990 book, Greenways for America, defines a greenway as:
- a linear open space established along either a natural corridor, such as a riverfront, stream valley or ridgeline, or overland along a railroad right-of-way converted to recreational use, a canal, scenic road or other route. It is a natural or landscaped course for pedestrian or bicycle passage; an open-space connector linking parks, nature reserves, cultural features, or historic sites with each other and with populated areas; locally certain strip or linear parks designated as parkway or greenbelt.
The term greenway comes from the green in green belt and the way in parkway, implying a recreational or pedestrian use rather than a typical street corridor, as well as an emphasis on introducing or maintaining vegetation, in a location where such vegetation is otherwise lacking. Some greenways include community gardens as well as typical park-style landscaping of trees and shrubs. They also tend to have a mostly contiguous pathway. Greenways resemble linear parks, but the latter are only found in an urban and suburban environment.
Though wildlife corridors are also greenways, because they have conservation as their primary purpose, they are not necessarily managed as parks for recreational use, and may not include facilities such as public trails.
Tom Turner analyzed greenways in London looking for common patterns among successful examples. He was inspired by the pattern language technique of architect Christopher Alexander. Turner concluded there are seven types, or 'patterns', of greenway which he named: parkway, blueway, paveway, glazeway, skyway, ecoway and cycleway.
The European Greenways Association defines it as "communication routes reserved exclusively for non-motorised journeys, developed in an integrated manner which enhances both the environment and quality of life of the surrounding area. These routes should meet satisfactory standards of width, gradient and surface condition to ensure that they are both user-friendly and low-risk for users of all abilities." (Lille Declaration, European Greenways Association, 12 September 2000).
Charles Little describes five general types of greenways:
- Urban riverside (or other water body) greenways, usually created as part of (or instead of) a redevelopment program along neglected, often run-down, city waterfronts.
- Recreational greenways, featuring paths and trails of various kinds, often relatively long distance, based on natural corridors as well as canals, abandoned rail beds, and public rights-of-way.
- Ecologically significant natural corridors, usually along rivers and streams and less often ridgelines, to provide for wildlife migration and species interchange, nature study and hiking.
- Scenic and Historic routes, usually along a road, highway or waterway, the most representative of them making an effort to provide pedestrian access along the route or at least places to alight from the car.
- Comprehensive greenway systems or networks, usually based on natural landforms such as valleys or ridges but sometimes simply an opportunistic assemblage of greenways and open spaces of various kinds to create an alternative municipal or regional green infrastructure.
Greenways are vegetated, linear, and multi-purpose. They incorporate a footpath or bikeway within a linear park. In urban design, they are a component of planning for bicycle commuting and walkability.
Greenways are found in rural areas as well as urban. Corridors redeveloped as greenways often travel through both city and country, connecting them together. Even in rural areas greenways serve the purpose of providing residents access to open land managed as parks, as contrasted with land that is vegetated but inappropriate for public use, such as agricultural land. Where the historic rural road network has been enlarged and redesigned to favor highspeed automobile travel, greenways provide an alternative for people who are elderly, young, less mobile or seeking a reflective pace.
Greenways are found globally. However, most examples are in Europe and North America.
In Australia, a foreshoreway is a greenway that provides a public right-of-way along the edge of the sea, open to both walkers and cyclists. Foreshoreways include oceanways, and resemble promenades and boardwalks.
Foreshoreways are usually concerned with the idea of sustainable transport and the term is used to avoid the suggestion that the route favours either pedestrians (footpath) or cyclists (bikeway). A foreshoreway is accessible to both pedestrians and cyclists and gives them the opportunity to move unimpeded along the seashore. Dead end paths that offer public access only to the ocean are not part of a foreshoreway.
A foreshoreway corridor often includes a number of traffic routes that provide access along an oceanfront, including:
A major example is The Gold Coast Oceanway along beaches in Gold Coast, Queensland, a shared use pedestrian and cyclist pathway on the Gold Coast, connecting the Point Danger lighthouse on the New South Wales and Queensland border to the Gold Coast Seaway. The network includes 36 kilometres (22 mi) of poor, medium and high quality pathways. Others include: The Chicago Lakefront Trail, the Dubai Marina, the East River Greenway, New Plymouth Coastal Walkway, and the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway.
Public rights of way frequently exist on the foreshore of beaches throughout the world. In legal discussions the foreshore is often referred to as the wet-sand area (see Right of way for a fuller discussion).
- Anne Springs Close Greenway a 2,100 acre greenway and recreation complex in Fort Mill, South Carolina
- Boise River Greenbelt, a 20-mile-long (32 km) trail system in Boise, Idaho.
- Capital Area Greenbelt, a twenty-mile greenway connecting neighborhoods, parks and opens spaces in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
- Capital Area Greenway, one of the nation's oldest community greenway systems in Raleigh, North Carolina
- Cardinal Greenway, Cardinal Greenways is Indiana's Longest Span of Recreational Trails.
- Cherry Creek Greenway, Denver, Colorado
- Chicago Lakefront Trail, a 18-mile (29 km) walking, cycling, and running trail along the coast of Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois.
- Dequindre Cut, a greenway connecting to the International Riverfront in Detroit, Michigan.
- East Coast Greenway, a trail being constructed along the Atlantic coast of the United States
- The Emerald Necklace, a series of interconnected parks in Boston, Massachusetts, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted
- Grand Rounds Scenic Byway, a linked series of parks making a roughly circular path through Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Greater Grand Forks Greenway, large public park on the banks of the Red River and Red Lake River in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and East Grand Forks, Minnesota
- High Line, New York City
- Lafitte Greenway in New Orleans
- Leon Creek Greenway, San Antonio, Texas linking The University of Texas at San Antonio by foot and bicycle path to Leon Valley and beyond.
- Little Sugar Creek Greenway, 20-mile long greenway in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina
- The Loop, a network of 7 linear parks encircling Tucson, Arizona, with over 100 miles of paved trails
- Manhattan Waterfront Greenway, a circumferential foot and cycle path around Manhattan Island.
- Maryville Alcoa Greenway, an eight mile long foot and cycle path extending from Maryville Intermediate School in Maryville, Tennessee, to the end of Springbrook Park in Alcoa, Tennessee
- Midtown Greenway, five-and-a-half mile pedestrian and bicycle path through Minneapolis, Minnesota
- MillionMile Greenway, an organization and a system of connected greenways across metro Atlanta, the state of Georgia and the eastern United States
- Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway, 50 mile trail in southwestern New Hampshire
- Mountains to Sound Greenway, 150 million acres of land surrounding Interstate 90 from Seattle across the Cascade Mountains to Ellensburg, Washington
- Niagara River Greenway Plan, along the US Niagara Frontier
- Ohio & Erie Canalway, follows the path of the original Ohio and Erie Canal in Northeast Ohio, United States. A portion is maintained by the United States National Park Service as a part of Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
- Ohlone Greenway, in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area
- Rahway River Parkway, along the Rahway River, Union Couny, New Jersey
- Rachel Carson Greenway, in Maryland
- The River Ring, a system of connected greenways encircling St. Louis, Missouri
- Rose Kennedy Greenway, a series of parks and open spaces in Boston, Massachusetts
- Fabos, Julius Gy. and Ahern, Jack (Eds.) (1995) Greenways: The Beginning of an International Movement, Elsevier Press
- Flink, Charles A. & Searns, Robert M. (1993) Greenways A Guide to Planning, Design and Development Island Press
- Flink, Charles A., Searns, Robert M. & Olka, Kristine (2001) Trails for the Twenty-First Century Island Press. Washington, DC. ISBN 1559638192
- Hay, Keith G. (1994) "Greenways" The Conservation Fund. Arlington, VA.
- Little, Charles E. Greenways for America (1990) Johns Hopkins University Press
- Loh, Tracy Hadden et al. (2012) "Active Transportation Beyond Urban Centers: Walking and Bicycling in Small Towns and Rural America" Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. Washington, DC. (PDF retrieved 15 March 2012.)
- Natural England Greenways Handbook (PDF retrieved 15 March 2012.)
- Smith, Daniel S. & Hellmund, Paul Cawood. (1993) Ecology of Greenways: Design and Function of Linear Conservation Areas. University of Minnesota Press
- Turner, Tom (1995). "Greenways, blueways, skyways and other ways to a better London". Landscape and Urban Planning. 33 (1-3): 269-282. doi:10.1016/0169-2046(94)02022-8.
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