March 15th, 2016

Written By Rebecca Huval

celebrating green bike lanes

Green on green in Vancouver, Canada.

On the upcoming holiday celebrating all things Irish and green, we should also pause to celebrate the green bike lane. These ribbons of color do more than brighten up an otherwise dull road—they give cyclists a sense of safety, create clarity for drivers, and announce to everyone on the road that bikes belong there. We’ve written about various colors in public spaces, including green bike lanes, in our past blog post “Rolling out the Green Carpet in San Francisco.”

Celebrating the green bike lane

Green bike lanes in Portland, Oregon. Image By Steve Morgan

In the past decade or so, these highly visible routes have rolled out in the United States, from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles. Portland was a leader in the early days, implementing green lanes at a time when there were no clear federal guidelines on bike lane colors. Then, in 2011, the US Department of Transportation officially approved green to mark bike lanes. It was chosen because of its visibility.

Celebrating the green bike lane

Green bike lanes in Santa Monica, California.

That, and because all the others were taken—blue for handicapped spots, even purple for specific toll plaza approach lanes. Now, as one California city’s website explains, “Bright green painted bike lanes are sweeping the nation, and Santa Monica is no exception.”

Celebrating Green Bike lanes

Blue bike lanes in Denmark. Image via Wikimedia.

We in the United States aren’t the first to paint our bike lanes, but we have claimed green as our own. Starting in the early 1980s, Copenhagen painted blue strips to mark the safe zone for cyclists to cross an intersection. On the other side of the spectrum, bike lanes are often red in Amsterdam and even in that country we celebrate with green: Ireland. But a few other countries, including France and Spain, share our green streak.

celebrating green bike lanes

Green bike lanes and rainbow crosswalks in Seattle, WA.

So on St. Patrick’s Day, let’s celebrate Ireland, the color green—and the growth of visible bike lanes across the United States and internationally.

8 Responses to “Celebrating The Green Bike Lane”

  1. JodiG

    I wish we had green bike lanes in the DFW area of Texas. Really, even a bike lane would do! I live in a very “carcentric” area of the world and people literally fear for their lives riding on the streets. Maybe we should have more Public bike stores around:-)

  2. David

    The image above by Steve Morgan is Portland, Oregon. Not Portland, California as the caption reads.

  3. Brock Howell

    Originally, Portland started with blue lanes, but the FHWA decided green was better. In the U.S., blue was already being used for medical & ADA parking. And red is now being used for transit priority lanes. That leaves bikes with green, the best of all the colors! (Plus, #RaveGreen is the primary color of the Seattle Sounders and secondary color of the Seahawks, so we’re very excited about this choice).

  4. S. Hansen

    Bike lanes create a connected system for bicycling around town. Actually bike lanes bring predictability and for busy streets allowing drivers to know where to expect bicyclists. Thank you Rebecca, you are right “protective bike lanes give cyclists safety.

  5. Alice Leon

    First of all I like to thank you for this nice post. It’s really an important issue and I really appreciate your article.