The meaning of green; a Q&A

EUGENE BICYCLIST: It’s time once again to take some questions from our studio audience. You, sir, over there. You have a puzzled look on your face.

TODAY’S QUESTIONER: Yes. Thank you. So, what’s with these green patches of bike lane on East 11th Avenue?

Section of green bike lane in Eugene, Oregon

When did these show up?

We believe aliens dropped from the sky and put them in just a couple of weeks ago.

And what does the color green signify?

Green can signify many things:

  • Green means “go.”
  • It is the color of money.
  • You could be feeling green — if you ate some bad clams, maybe.
  • It signifies the hopeful renewal of life, as in the “green shoots” of resurgent economic prosperity (feeling it yet?).
  • It conveys a deep love of the Earth, i.e., green jobs.
  • Or it might mean you like the Ducks.

No, I mean regarding bike lanes? Are we heaping even more responsibility onto this poor color’s weary shoulders? Can this be fair?

Probably not, but we’re going to do it anyway. The U.S. Department of Transportation has said so. Green will also signify: Safe and happy bike lane.

The U.S. Department of Transportation said that?

Well, they said — in a memo dated April 15, 2011 — that they were blessing:

“… the optional use of green colored pavement in marked bicycle lanes and extensions of bicycle lanes through … conflict areas.”

Like Afghanistan?

Well, more like a place where cars have to cross the bike lane to get into a right-turn lane. Things like that. Here:

I see. Are these the first green bike lanes in Eugene?

No. There’s one on Valley River Drive, near the mall, across from Barnes & Noble and Toys R Us:

Green bike lane by Valley River Center in Eugene, Oregon

Conflict area?

Have you ever been in Toys R Us?

Are there other green lanes?

I’m told there is a green lane on Roosevelt at Maple Street, but I haven’t seen that one myself. And then there is that blue bike lane at River Road and Beltline, which has been there for some time.

Why is there a blue lane?

It’s old. Nobody knew about green when that was put in. But for bike lanes, blue is out. Green is in.

How come?

Blue has been reserved for handicapped parking spaces. Anyway, a bunch of cities have been testing green pavement for bicycles for a while now, and —

Wait. Let me guess. Portland?

Of course.

What did these tests show?

According to the feds’ memo:

“… positive operational effects have been noted in the experiments, such as bicyclists positioning themselves more accurately …”

Like these guys?

Cyclists riding on the sidewalk near a green bike lane

Well, there are exceptions.

Like this woman?

Woman on bicycle mispositioned along a green bike laneThat’s unfortunate.

And what about this guy?

Cyclist going the wrong way on a one-way streetOK, this guy has a legitimate excuse. I saw him emerge from the Bier Stein around happy hour time, hop on his bike and head off. So I think maybe the one-way nature of 11th Avenue was simply not compatible with his need to get home quickly to pee.

What else does the feds’ memo say?

It tells us:

“… bicyclists and motorists both have a positive impression of the effect of the green colored pavement, with bicyclists saying that they feel safer when the green colored pavement is present and motorists saying that green colored pavement gives them an increased awareness that bicyclists might be present …”

Green has some kind of magical powers?

In the field alternative healing known as color therapy, green relates to the “heart chakra.”

You don’t say?

And it “is the color of balance and harmony and can, therefore, be helpful in times of stress.” I didn’t make that up. I got it off the Internet.

Well, it’s a good choice for a bike lane.


Can we expect to see more green lanes in Eugene?

We asked Lee Shoemaker about this. He is the bicycle-pedestrian coordinator for the city of Eugene. He told us that “city staff are working on policies and where we will install them” in the future.

And you probably will see green pavement on parts of the new cycle-track on Alder Street that is being built this summer. So, yeah, it sounds like there will be more of them.

OK, so this green paint —

Whoa, whoa! Hold it! It’s not paint.

It’s not? What is it?



No. Just kidding. We don’t want to be putting out misinformation here. It’s actually “thermoplastic.”

Sounds expensive.

Yeah. Hey. Ever wonder what road engineers discuss with other road engineers when they gather in an online forum?


No, no! The have excruciatingly detailed discussions about the virtues of paint vs. themoplastic in pavement marking applications. The benefits of thermoplastic, you see, are —

[There is a sudden loud bang and then scuffling sounds.]

Hey, who are you? What …! Ahg! Some little fuzzy creature has just barged into the office here at Eugene Bicyclist Central!

[More banging and a crash.]

What? … Hey! … Stay away from that keyboard! …

[Banging, grunting and other sounds of struggle.]

What … Who are you, you fuzzy little beast?

“I am Sam.”


“Sam I am!”

Excuse me?

“Do you like green lanes on roads?”

I do not like them Sam I Am

I do not ride green lanes on roads!

“Would you like them here or there?”

I would not like them anywhere!

I do not ride green lanes on roads.

“Would you? Could you?

With a bus?

Ride them, ride them, come with us!”

I would not, could not with a bus!

I do not ride green lanes on roads!

“A crate! A crate! A crate! A crate!

Would you ride them with a crate?”

I would not ride them with a crate,

I do not think they are so great.

I do not like green lanes on roads.

I do not like these multi modes.

You do not like them, so you say,

Try them and you may, I say.

Say, I like green lanes on roads!

And I would ride them with my kids.

And I would ride on manhole lids.

I would ride them with the cars

And I would ride with aero-bars

And I would ride them with FedEx.

And I would ride them with EmX.

I would ride them with a bag,

And I would ride them dressed in drag.

We will ride them

You will see us

We will ride them with a Prius.

I would ride them with a truck.

that cuts me off … hey! What the —

They are so good, so good, you see

I like green lanes on roads,

Say, weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

10 thoughts on “The meaning of green; a Q&A

  1. thanks for the clarification – I saw the green lane on 11th the other day and didon’t know how to advise the unlicensed but practicing driver who was operating my car. I still don’t know, but at least I know it’s a bike lane.

    1. Well, my understanding is that they are putting these in places where cars cross over the bike lane — and where a cyclist going straight in the bike lane has the right of way.

      So, you could advise your unlicensed driver: “Watch out, there might be cyclists. And if there are, you shouldn’t run over them.”

      And if you say that to a teenager, I won’t be held responsible for whatever reply might come your way.

  2. Green is truly the new Black. I like the way my tires hum over the thermoplastic. Watch out though – same few jerks are still on the road (in their cages and on their bikes) and you can paint rainbows on the streets that will never change- the right hook is still very much alive even at the green intersections in Portland.

    Driver’s do seem to react less vehemently when chastised… annectdotal… just sayin. I think green helps them feel more guilty and less apt to argue with a frothing, self-righteously indignant-at-almost-being-plowed-under cyclist.

  3. Say, I like green lanes on roads! I ride over the thermoplast on Roosevelt as part of my commute. Cars are much more likely to yield to me now then before the green lane–although I still watch them with skepticism.

  4. I rode on the green on 11th just yesterday and it was fun! Thanks for the explanation. Also, I think the heart chakra bit is relevant. Just to mix it up a bit, in the Buddhist iconography, green is the color of the Karma family, which is about all-accomplishing action….

  5. I’m just stuck on you in drag…
    I have yet to see anyone use the green box over by Valley River and I’m to scared to ride that way!

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