I wanted to quickly talk about terminology. The first Cycle Embassy workshop I attended we had a discussion about the naming of places for bikes, that is cycle paths, cycle tracks, cycle lanes, etc. etc. and what these terms actually mean, there’s a lot of confusion even between the group of us who thought we knew what we were on about. I think we decided we had more important things to talk about, gave up and moved on.
The other day, Two Wheels Good posted a blog post that got me thinking about this again. In it George looked to define two London cycling terms that Boris put in his Cycling Vision, and I think he’s spot on with these succinct definitions:
Cycle Superhighway = completely physically separated from motor traffic + wide enough to accommodate the amount of Londoners who would want to use it.
Quietway = a well-surfaced road with no through-traffic + a 20mph speed limit.
This then reminded me of a tweet by Schrödinger’s Cat:
Why is it always either footway or carriageway? How about a third option: “cycleway”? pic.twitter.com/I2vWj1k5Fy— Schrödinger’s Cat (@AlternativeDfT) June 10, 2013
When I started writing this blog, I took a concious effort to not use the terms cycle path or cycle track. No one really knows what they are. According to the law, a cycle path is anything that it is legal to ride a bike on, so a road is a cycle path, so is a mandatory cycle lane and a cycle track. A cycle track is a cycle path that is separate from the roadway for motorised traffic (and presumably also from the footway).
I prefer to avoid any potential confusion and to use three simple terms which we can all agree upon.
Pedestrians walk on a pavement (or a sidewalk), although it could said that a pavement is only a pavement if it runs alongside a carriageway. Whereas a footway is a right of way for people on foot no matter which way you look at it.
Since a “road” could be the entire road from building to building, and carriageway legally means the whole road that can be traversed along, including the pavement. I’d like to use motorway but we already use that to mean something else, so instead we can use the term roadway to mean the space that motor vehicles use within a road.
And so similarly, the term cycle path or track can be confusing, whereas a cycleway conjurers the idea of not only a separate space for cycling but a kind of motorway for bicycles, something high quality.
You might not think that terminology is important, but it is, if we are to share ideas and talk about common concepts, it’s vital that we have a common language and know we’re all talking about the same thing. This saves us from constantly having to explain what we mean. Hopefully when you and I think of a cycleway it’s the same thing, something a little bit like the example above.