Bike Vocabulary: Bike Lanes Edition

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Maggie Awad is the Marketing Director at Arlington Transportation Partners. She says every commute to work is different with so many options in her neighborhood including bus, Metro, and Capital Bikeshare.

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Covering the different types of bike lanes you can come across - from protected bike lanes to sharrows. Know your bike vocabulary and be safe while biking.

Biking comes with a lot of benefits for both your commute and your health. But biking also comes with a lot of vocabulary and new terms that may not fall under the common sense category for new riders. Don’t worry – you’re not alone. It took many new riders a few months to learn these terms simply because they were afraid to ask, but we don’t want you to be afraid to ask. So here is your bike vocabulary and what it actually means – bike lanes edition.

What is a Bike Lane?

due in a bike lane

Bicycle lanes are striped or otherwise separated areas on the roadway designated for the preferential use of bicyclists over motor vehicles. On most streets, bicycle lanes are provided between the curb and the right travel lane, or between the curbside parking lane and the right travel lane. People on bikes are permitted to ride on the roadway in the bicycle lanes or with mixed traffic, even if a bicycle lane is available. Bike lanes are common around Arlington and can be found is most neighborhoods.

What is a Buffered Bike Lane?

buffered bike lane

Buffered bike lanes are similar to standard bike lanes but have a painted buffer space between people on bikes and motor vehicles to indicate a designated space. Buffered lanes give both drivers and cyclists more room for their journey.  Buffered bike lanes can be found in several places throughout the County, namely along Williamsburg Boulevard and along Wilson Boulevard from Clarendon to Courthouse.

What is a Green Lane?

example of a green lane

A green lane is another type of bike lane that has been painted green.  The green paint is a visual cue for drivers that the space is a potential conflict point.  The green paint is great for both cyclists and drivers in intersections as it serves as a prompt for turning vehicles who may not be aware of the bike lane or potential cyclists. Green lanes exist in Pentagon City, North Arlington, and as part of the Protected Bike Lanes in Rosslyn.

What is a Protected Bike Lane?

protected bike lane arlington county virginia

A protected bike lane (PBL), occasionally called a cycle track, is bicycle infrastructure that allows bikers to be on street but separated from motor vehicles.  Protect bike lanes are distinct from the sidewalk and are usually isolated via a physical barrier like bollards, plants, curbs or other inventive urban designs. A great example of a new PBL in Arlington is the Wilson Boulevard protected bike lane extending from Oak Street just past Pierce Street in Rosslyn.  There are also several PBLs in Pentagon City, which were among the first in Virginia to be installed.

bike box example in arlington What is a Bike Box?

A bike box (not to be confused with a bike locker) is a space at an intersection that allows people on bikes to filter to the front of a lane to position themselves ahead of traffic to make them more visible to turning vehicles.

Painted green in Arlington, bike boxes indicate to drivers to stop a few feet further back than normal to allow for bicyclists. Bike boxes help protect cyclists from driver blind spots, specifically when a driver may want to make a right turn. Arlington has a bike box at the intersection of Veitch Street and Lee Highway.

What is a Sharrow?

sharrow on the road with a biker

A sharrow is not technically a bike lane, but it is a road marking that indicates to both people on bikes and people in cars that the road can be used in full by either party. The marking indicates to a biker where on the road they should position themselves. Sharrows exists along several roads in Arlington County, but even if a sharrow doesn’t exist on a road that doesn’t mean bikes aren’t allowed or that the road is unfriendly.

If you need to determine the most bike-friendly roads in Arlington County, check out our recently updated 2017 Bicycle Comfort Level Map and use the following guide to pick your route! Questions on bike lanes? Leave us a comment. We’ll be sharing even more bike vocabulary with you in the coming weeks! Stay tuned.

Photo Credit:

Sam Kittner/

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