What should we call bike infrastructure that has a physical barrier between it and general traffic? 391 people voted in our poll about whether to call this a “cycletrack,” “protected bike lane,” or “separated bike lane.” “Protected bike lane” won a majority, but we were persuaded by a slight variant several people suggested: “Protected bikeway.”

DC’s newest protecetd bikeway, 6th Street NE. Photo by DearEdward on Flickr.

93 people voted in the original poll, which I had to delete since it was messing up the cache on Chrome browsers. 298 voted in the replacement Google Forms poll.

Of the 391 total votes, 198 (51%) chose “protected bike lane.” 134 (34%) liked “cycletrack,” 29 (7%) picked “separated bike lane,” and 30 (8%) voted for “other.”

While “protected bike lane” garnered a majority, there were two significant substantive concerns. First, not all bike infrastructure in DC is a “lane”; the two-way First Street one, for instance, is at least a pair of lanes.

Second, while the Green Lane Project notes that calling it a “bike lane” emphasizes that it’s in the roadway, some people felt the name should better distinguish these from traditional lines painted on the road.

We like “protected bikeway”

Fortunately, a number of commenters suggested a slight variant: “Protected bikeway.” The word “bikeway” is not that far from “bike lane” except it doesn’t say anything about the number of lanes and is more distinct. It’s also shorter, fewer words, and a bit faster to speak.

Saying “protected bikeway” still allows the key word “protected,” which emphasizes the safety effect of this infrastructure. It still avoids the technical and “speed demon” connotations of “cycletrack.”

Therefore, Greater Greater Washington is going to start calling these things “protected bikeways.” This term can apply to any bicycle path which dedicates space specifically to bicycles (so not a shared sidepath or trail for walkers and cyclists) and has a physical barrier of some kind (poles, curbs, etc.) between the space and the spaces that serve other types of road users.

People are also free to use other terms on Greater Greater Washington articles, particularly “protected bike lane” if they feel comfortable with the “bike lane” aspect. For example, if a road has a single lane for bikes that is in the road but poles divide it from the rest of the road (like on L and M Streets NW), then “protected bike lane” is also equally valid and acceptable.

Thanks so much to all 391 voters and those who left the 48 comments — particularly Eric, David R, Dan, and Michael Andersen, all of whom mentioned the “bikeway” term in their comments, and the five people who suggested a form of “bikeway” as their vote for Other in the poll.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.