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The term greenway comes from the green in green belt and the way in parkway, implying a recreational or pedestrian use rather than a typical street corridor, as well as an emphasis on introducing or maintaining vegetation, in a location where such vegetation is otherwise lacking. Some greenways include community gardens as well as typical park-style landscaping of trees and shrubs. They also tend to have a mostly contiguous pathway.
Greenways are distinct from green corridors. Because green corridors have as their primary purpose connection between areas of conserved habitat for use by wildlife, they are not necessarily managed as parks for recreational use, and may not include facilites such as public trails.
Tom Turner analyzed greenways in London, looking for common patterns among successful examples. He was inspired by the pattern language technique of architect Christopher Alexander. Turner concluded there are seven types, or 'patterns', of greenway which he named: parkway, blueway, paveway, glazeway, skyway, ecoway and cycleway.
The European Greenways Association defines it as "communication routes reserved exclusively for non-motorised journeys, developed in an integrated manner which enhances both the environment and quality of life of the surrounding area. These routes should meet satisfactory standards of width, gradient and surface condition to ensure that they are both user-friendly and low-risk for users of all abilities." (Lille Declaration, European Greenways Association, 12 September 2000)