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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.
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 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 almost globally. However, most examples are known to be in Europe and North America.
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:
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).