What’s a Greenway?

A greenway in New York City is a combination of paved multi-use trails and select sections of city streets, which form a designated recreational route that mostly connects larger parks in the city.

The trails are perhaps the better known and more obvious aspect of the greenways, as they are situated within parkland where there are lots of trees and plants. Some are located along the waterfront, providing open air and lovely views. Devoid entirely of cars, these uninterrupted strings of paved surfaces are popular for walking, jogging, bicycling, and more, and turn out to also be useful transportation routes used especially by those who travel by bike. These are managed by New York City’s Parks Department.

Looking east down Underhill Avenue and its bike lane (part of the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway) next to Kissena Corridor Park East, at Underhill Avenue and 186th Street east of Utopia Parkway in Auburndale / Fresh Meadows, Queens. Because the ball fields of the park take up most of the right-of-way, and because of several intersections with streets, the greenway must run along the street instead of through the park.
Image by Tdorante10 (CC BY-SA 4.0), via Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes, NYC greenways use city streets to connect otherwise unlinked trails and parks. Here, the cityscape is the greenway, sidewalks and all, and unique wayfinding signs guide everyone along to the next trail. Those on a bicycle will find bike lanes or sharrows, designed to indicate to drivers the presence of a person on a bicycle. These segments are managed by the city’s department of transportation, like all other streets.

A well-maintained and easy-to-use greenway, especially of the type separated from motor traffic, is an asset to the communities it runs through. Greenways are one answer to the increasing demand for safe and stress-free walking and bicycling, especially as alternative transportation. Greenways are also well suited for exercise, such as jogging, making them an ideal way to address public health issues by promoting an active lifestyle. In addition to all of the above, because trees and vegetation are an inherent part of the landscape, there are environmental and economic benefits as well, including cleaning the air, protecting wildlife, reducing flood damage, and enhancing cultural awareness and community identity.

Below are links for further reading on the general benefits of greenways.