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Can you tell me why the weather and traffic people insist on using the word "roadways" when describing conditions on the roads? What is the difference between a road and a roadway, anyway? Seems to me it's like saying "street-streets." Am I missing something here?

-- Ophelia Buttocks (a little light humor), San Diego

MA of Reader:

I was getting on the freeway the other day, when I noticed the sign that said "Pedestrians, Bicycles, Motor-driven Cycles Prohibited." I was on my motorcycle and thought that sure sounded like they were talking to me. What's the deal?

-- LB of netland

We may believe we know what we're talking about, but the legislature is happy to let us know differently. A good chunk of the state vehicle code is devoted to the legal definitions of everyday things, such as person, vehicle, axle, muffler, city, driver, alcoholic beverage, drug, stop, park, traffic, darkness, light, armored car, former prisoner of war, local authorities, essential parts, chop shop, agricultural water-well boring rig, and B-train assembly. (A B-train assembly is a bunch of people who've arrived too late to catch the A train.) Still think there's no difference between a "road" and a "roadway," a "motorcycle" and a "motor-driven cycle"? Ha!

To simplify things, the state says a motor-driven cycle is basically a motorcycle with an engine displacement of less than 150cc. Too small, too slow for the freeway. "Motor-driven cycle" doesn't include motorized bicycles (mopeds), which have their own definition.

For the "roadways" question, we checked in with Monica Zech, San Diego's senior traffic-watcher. She said she picked up the word from her contact with the CHP and Caltrans. According to the CHP, the legal difference between "road" and "roadway" is something drummed into officers at the academy. A road includes the whole thing, from shoulder to shoulder, including parts that can't be driven on (parking spaces, bike lanes). A "roadway" is only that portion of a road intended for normal vehicular traffic. In court it makes a difference.

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