Camden to get London's first left hook preventing separated junction

Kerbs and phased lights keep cars and bikes apart

by John Stevenson   March 19, 2014  

Left hook.png

Left hook collisions — where a motor vehicle turning left hits a cyclist — were involved in nine of London’s fourteen cycling deaths in 2013. Now the borough of Camden is to get what's believed to be London’s first intersection specifically designed to make a left hook collision impossible.

Known as Cobden Junction, the intersection of Crowndale Road, Eversholt Road and Camden High Street is currently a mess of traffic lights and one-way streets with no provision for cycling. Or, in other words, a typical London intersection.

The dreaded left hook
The dreaded left hook

A proposal from Camden Cyclists — the local branch of the London Cycling Campaign — would replace the current junction with one that uses kerbs between lanes and cycle-specific lights to eliminate the chance of a left hook. Yesterday, the borough’s cabinet member for sustainability, transport and planning, Phil Jones, approved the plan.

According to Camden Cyclists coordinator Jean Dollimore, that means the modification will definitely go ahead. "Officers plan to start in July and complete by the end of 2014-5 financial year," she told road.cc.

Camden Cyclists had criticised an earlier proposal for the junction as “exposing cyclists going straight ahead to unacceptable left hook risks.”

The group’s proposal will allow cyclists to move off from the junction ahead of motor traffic, so they are able to cross the junction before a separate traffic lights phase turns green for drivers.

Here's how it would work for a crossroads — a T-junction is similar, but simpler:


Lights for cycles and for cars going straight ahead are green. Cars turning left are held by a red signal.


Turning cars have a green light while both cycles and cars going straight ahead wait at red lights.

The design was based on an idea described independently by Rik Andrew and Paul James.

Ms Dollimore said that Cobden junction is a good place to start with a prototype implementation of a protected junction. 

She said: "It is made up of a pair of T-junctions and the design would be much less complex than for a cross roads  as there are many fewer potential conflicts from the choice of ways in and ways out — maybe 2 x 2 instead of 3 x 3.

"At Cobden there would be several serious risks of 'left hook' without this design. Also the passage through the part between Eversholt Street and Camden High Street is tricky without a way of safely protecting cyclists."

Camden Cyclists had originally proposed a contraflow cycle lane on Crowndale Road to provide a better west-east route through the area, but that was turned down because of concerns over conflicts with busses.

On Camden Cyclists’ website, Ms Dollimore wrote: “Since we had been very critical about safety for cycling through the junction, we had further discussions with Camden officers and eventually had to decide between safety and permeability.

“Since safety must come first and also the contraflow was unlikely to be agreed, we asked Camden to implement a 'cycle segregated junction' – one that eliminates the possibility of left hooks.

“The officers' report is now on Camden Council's website and the papers include a drawing for a pair of cycle segregated junctions on Crowndale Road – one at Eversholt Street and the other at Hampstead Road.

“At each junction left turning motors are held on red while cyclists and straight-ahead motors get a green. Then when the left turning motors get a green signal, the cyclists and straight-ahead motors get a red.

“In the drawing below you can see the kerbs separating the cyclists and the left turning motors  and another kerb between left turning and straight ahead motors. The kerbs are needed for the different signals.”


Cobden Junction with kerb-separated cycling lanes to prevent left hooks. Click for much larger image.

Cycling provision on London’s streets is guided by Transport for London’s London Cycling Design Standardswhich are currently undergoing a revision process.

Ms Dollimore said: “Camden is being quite innovative in doing this because TfL haven't yet issued their LCDS version 2 which promises to describe designs for this type of junction.”

Note: an earlier version of this story claimed this was the UK's first such junction. It has been brought to our attention that Cambridge previously had a separated left-turn junction on Hills Road.

27 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

I honestly don't understand why they don't just allow cyclists to make the left turn on the pavement regardless of the traffic light signal phase. Have a wide run off area, "protected" by low bollards at the apex to prevent cars and lorries cutting the corner, but allow cyclists to just proceed around the turn unimpeded.

posted by alexb [47 posts]
19th March 2014 - 12:13

like this
Like (23)

This isn't the first. In Cambridge, we used to have this arrangement going north bound on Hills Road at the railway bridge. Main cycle flow continues northbound, much of the car traffic turns left. So there was a segregated lane with it's own phase. A lot of cyclists resented the time sat stationary whilst cars turned left/went straight on- the phasing was definitely biased in favour of motor vehicles. As part of the recent redevelopment this disappeared, replaced with a wide central cycle lane leading to an ASL- which not everyone was happy with (I'm not convinced it's a great move). However, my point here isn't the merits- it is trailing this as a "first".

posted by Al__S [520 posts]
19th March 2014 - 12:21

like this
Like (24)

Hell, I've just just checked the author bio- John- you surely knew the old Hills Road layout!?

posted by Al__S [520 posts]
19th March 2014 - 12:26

like this
Like (17)

Why does this need "ideas" from people. Go to the netherlands, find their latest standard for such a junction, use that.

posted by P3t3 [43 posts]
19th March 2014 - 12:41

like this
Like (35)

Good attempt, maybe not the last, but cycle specific traffic lights are a really big step forward, hopefully to be seen elsewhere more often now.

posted by vbvb [231 posts]
19th March 2014 - 13:03

like this
Like (17)

The light phasing will be vital - it's more than possible to make it a 'greenwave' junction, rather than the 'guaranteed red' you have at Bow. The lane will also have to be wide enough too.

posted by teaboy [149 posts]
19th March 2014 - 13:50

like this
Like (25)

Not a criticism as such, as it looks like a big step forward, but in the crossroad examples above, how would a cyclist turn right? As far as I can see their only options would be to get across the two lanes of traffic going left or straight on and join the motor vehicles in the right turn lane, or to go straight on, do a u-turn to return to the junction then turn left from the other direction. Am I missing something?

posted by graham_f [95 posts]
19th March 2014 - 14:06

like this
Like (11)

I guess this would work if both cyclists and drivers didn't jump the lights, and if we didn't see any confusion over which lights are for whom (as experienced elsewhere).

The thing is, the stop line for cyclists places riders in the lorry driver's blind spot, so it will be hard to spot RLJs, plus there's likely to be riders in lanes 2 and 3 trying to turn left as well, to beat the queue of cyclists in the cycle lane, and the "swing" of my trailer puts my rear end damn close to any cars on my right, making it potentially lethal for any cyclist filtering up my right hand side.

All very complicated, and it alarms me when Ms Dollimore says, "I have been trying to explain it to various people and find it hard to convey the details".

Personally, I'd like to see cyclists able to use the pavement when turning left, effectively making the corner a traffic island. Yes, there may be one or two injuries amongst pedestrians, but overall KSIs would be reduced significantly. I can't understand why planners see the pavement as so sacrosanct.

"Hey..... Let's be visible out there."

Neil753's picture

posted by Neil753 [451 posts]
19th March 2014 - 14:15

like this
Like (32)

graham_f wrote:
Not a criticism as such, as it looks like a big step forward, but in the crossroad examples above, how would a cyclist turn right? As far as I can see their only options would be to get across the two lanes of traffic going left or straight on and join the motor vehicles in the right turn lane, or to go straight on, do a u-turn to return to the junction then turn left from the other direction. Am I missing something?

I assume the idea for a right turn (cycling from the bottom of the diagram) would be to go ahead and join the cycle path on the horizontal road to the left, then go straight ahead again completing your right turn. Means you have to wait for two sets of lights, but better than dead I think.

posted by benevans [9 posts]
19th March 2014 - 14:19

like this
Like (14)

graham_f wrote:
Not a criticism as such, as it looks like a big step forward, but in the crossroad examples above, how would a cyclist turn right? As far as I can see their only options would be to get across the two lanes of traffic going left or straight on and join the motor vehicles in the right turn lane, or to go straight on, do a u-turn to return to the junction then turn left from the other direction. Am I missing something?

There is no right turn in the Camden junction. The choices are straight on or left. If aiming to travel up Camden High Street (your 'right turn') both drivers and cyclists go straight on at the first junction, then straight on at the 2nd one.

The crossroad diagram is not applicable for this scheme. With a crossroads you're better off having a simultaneous green phase for cyclists between every red phase for motor traffic.

posted by teaboy [149 posts]
19th March 2014 - 15:13

like this
Like (26)

Al__S wrote:
This isn't the first. In Cambridge, we used to have this arrangement going north bound on Hills Road at the railway bridge. Main cycle flow continues northbound, much of the car traffic turns left. So there was a segregated lane with it's own phase. A lot of cyclists resented the time sat stationary whilst cars turned left/went straight on- the phasing was definitely biased in favour of motor vehicles. As part of the recent redevelopment this disappeared, replaced with a wide central cycle lane leading to an ASL- which not everyone was happy with (I'm not convinced it's a great move). However, my point here isn't the merits- it is trailing this as a "first".

I think you need to look again. There is no separate light phase for cyclists. It is a new phase separating turning traffic and another phase for traffic going straight ahead.
edit; I note they say if there is room for a cycle lane cyclists could turn left! If cyclists are held from turning left whilst cars can it will not work. I won't wait at a red whilst its green for cars! Don't treat us like 2nd class road users with time to waste.

posted by simonsays [9 posts]
19th March 2014 - 15:26

like this
Like (22)

Neil753 wrote:
.

Personally, I'd like to see cyclists able to use the pavement when turning left, effectively making the corner a traffic island. Yes, there may be one or two injuries amongst pedestrians, but overall KSIs would be reduced significantly. I can't understand why planners see the pavement as so sacrosanct.

In principle I agree with you but the pavement in question is right in front of a Tube station exit and it's already insanely overcrowded. Cyclists would simply not fit.

Username's picture

posted by Username [51 posts]
19th March 2014 - 15:50

like this
Like (29)

P3t3 wrote:
Why does this need "ideas" from people. Go to the netherlands, find their latest standard for such a junction, use that.

Indeed but that would mean doing it properly and we all know the lcc curtail at the slightest bit of pressure from tfl or they'd lose their funding.

posted by northstar [1099 posts]
19th March 2014 - 15:53

like this
Like (16)

Username wrote:
Neil753 wrote:
.

Personally, I'd like to see cyclists able to use the pavement when turning left, effectively making the corner a traffic island. Yes, there may be one or two injuries amongst pedestrians, but overall KSIs would be reduced significantly. I can't understand why planners see the pavement as so sacrosanct.

In principle I agree with you but the pavement in question is right in front of a Tube station exit and it's already insanely overcrowded. Cyclists would simply not fit.

I agree, it's a bit narrow, but we're talking about walking speed here, in single file. Peer pressue is likely to be the moderating factor and mixed pavement use certainly works for the Dutch, even in tight spots.

I hope my fears are unfounded, but a scheme that's dependant on everyone obeying light phases, everyone resisting the temptation to nip into the "car" lane if it's on green, and everyone actually understanding what they're supposed to do, and when, makes me uneasy.

"Hey..... Let's be visible out there."

Neil753's picture

posted by Neil753 [451 posts]
19th March 2014 - 16:23

like this
Like (26)

Risk management reliant solely on traffic signals and user compliance is no 'improvement' to safety. If anything the streaming is likely to increase the hazard by removing the natural risk management habit in general traffic of watching for left turning motor traffic...

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

A V Lowe's picture

posted by A V Lowe [481 posts]
19th March 2014 - 20:34

like this
Like (17)

Bit concerned these "improvements" are coming from same group that ruined Royal College Street (nw1) with their 'soft' design and then blamed all the damage to the soft infrastructure on 'careless' and 'idiotic' motorists, rather than understanding why physical segregation requires hard infrastructure- the misguided belief in 'Dutch' design being accepted by UK motorists.

posted by hampstead_bandit [123 posts]
19th March 2014 - 20:57

like this
Like (20)

We keep saying that things don't/won't work because plans for cyclists are designed and implemented by non-cyclists. Here we have a plan designed by cyclists for cyclists.

Lets put it in and see what happens. If we don't we'll never know.

posted by levermonkey [357 posts]
19th March 2014 - 21:03

like this
Like (7)

Not only is this not a first in Camden, it didn't work last time. Some sort of collective amnesia is being experienced among Camden Cyclists here. Have they already forgotten Tavistock Place eastbound at the junction with Marchmont Place? Just in case, this is taken from the Camden Cyclists website:

'Then in 2006, we received complaints from cyclists that people cycling straight ahead eastbound on the cycle track were experiencing near misses from left turning motorists. So to solve that problem, Camden Council installed a separate signal for cyclists on Tavistock Place (it ran after the vehicle signal in the cycle of phases). Many cyclists were annoyed at having to wait so long and then having only a few seconds in which to proceed. So they mostly went at the corresponding vehicle signal.'

So, the sort of rubbish being put in at Cobden junction didn't work there and had to be stopped. Why is it going to work here? Camden Cyclists will argue there are differences but fundamentally, the same dirigiste approach applies here: we and the Council will now decide by use of a traffic light when it is safe for you to make what was previously a legal manoeuvre in the name of cycling safety.

posted by AnthonyD [1 posts]
19th March 2014 - 21:45

like this
Like (16)

Here's a dead simple way to make all junctions safer for cyclists. Make red mean give way for cyclist unless there's a separate red cycle light. At the same time increase the duration of the red phase for cars.

posted by Initialised [112 posts]
19th March 2014 - 21:47

like this
Like (7)

No room for an eastbound cycle lane on Crowndale Road? But room for three - count them - westbound vehicle lanes?

No room for a contraflow cycle lane southbound on Camden High Street? But room for three northbound vehicle lanes?

These are just typical traffic sewers with the usual minimal cycle facilities. We have _so_ far to go to make London a cycling city.

posted by drmatthewhardy [303 posts]
19th March 2014 - 23:03

like this
Like (14)

benevans wrote:
graham_f wrote:
... how would a cyclist turn right? ...

I assume the idea for a right turn (cycling from the bottom of the diagram) would be to go ahead and join the cycle path on the horizontal road to the left, then go straight ahead again completing your right turn. Means you have to wait for two sets of lights, but better than dead I think.


I guess I should have thought of that - it's basically how it seems to work in Copenhagen, but doesn't that then put them into conflict with the pedestrians crossing the road on the left while the traffic lights are green for N-S?

I think another potential issue with this layout is that, while motor vehicles are separated into lanes for each direction, the bikes are all in together. It would only take the first few cyclists in the queue to be waiting to go straight on, with other cyclists behind them wanting to turn left on the green for that direction, for there to be chaos!

posted by graham_f [95 posts]
20th March 2014 - 9:38

like this
Like (12)

Probably workable on the ground, but it does not help the westbound cyclist approaching the junction along Crowndale Rd. The smart move, I'm afraid, is to skitter across the zebra to the W of Mornington Cres tube into Mornington Cres itself, a nice quiet back road up to Parkway and thence to Swiss Cottage and St John's Wood. Otherwise you have to flog up the High Street and get across to the left for the turn into Delancey St (often masked by buses in the bus-lane on the L side of the High St).

Still, it is progress!

harman_mogul's picture

posted by harman_mogul [121 posts]
20th March 2014 - 14:21

like this
Like (5)

Well I am all for good ideas that increase safety but .... I am wary of schemes that purport to provide a solution.

I don't cycle up the inside of traffic.

I can't avoid traffic overtaking me sometime but generally at junctions the traffic is going relatively slowly. So you should be in the lane not on the inside of it.

If you are going straight on then you are in the normal flow of traffic.

Most drivers don't mind. In fact despite what gets said the thing that most drivers hate is not seeing cyclists, or seeing them late, or anything unpredicatable.

Overtake on the outside if it's safe or join in with traffic in the lane. Being on the inside of moving traffic is a bad place to be.

Unfortunately lots of cyclists and lots of motorists are convinced that this is where you should cycle.

Absolutely years ago I was overtaking stationary traffic quite properly on the outside. Nice and wide and at sensible speed There was nothing oncoming. Up ahead a chap get out of his car to stop me to tell me I was "breaking the law". "cyclists" he told me can't overtake cars on the outside."

I politely told him that it certainly wasn't against the law it against the law and that he'd just imagined that but in fact it was the recommended practice.

Then the usual "I've passed a driving test ..." stuff was profitted. I let him finish and then told him that I not only held a licence, I owned 3 cars, was an advanced driver.

But sometimes that's what you are up against with some drivers. On the other hand I have seen plenty of cyclists being their own worst enemy by squeezing through (one footed) on the inside if vehicles when they could easily be safely passing on the outside.

So I am wary of silver bullets that purport to fix problems in this manner.

I have never been a fan of compulsory cycle training but I do think that encouraging newbie or inexperienced cyclists into such training may well be a good idea. Plus lots more ads on the telly aimed at cyclists and motorists concerning where cyclists should be positioned. Taking the lane etc.

Loads of ignorance out there on both sides (and the police could benefit as well since they have some issues too).

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [559 posts]
20th March 2014 - 17:29

like this
Like (10)

I think the right turn facility needs more thought and much more work done on it. As for making a left turn ON the pavement, that would wrong on so many levels. Within metres of Cobden Junction there are facilities for blind & visually impaired people, frail older people and children & young adults with learning difficulties, all of whom need to use the pavement and cross this junction as pedestrians. Cycling on the pavement in the Netherlands and Denmark only works (for cyclists) because those two countries show such little regard for vulnerable pedestrians. Oh, and then there are all those stupid people walking out of the tube station, checking their phones rather than looking where they are going.

By all means, let's have left-turn cycle lanes, but if additional space is to be taken it should be to the detriment of motorists, not pedestrians.

posted by creakywheel [1 posts]
20th March 2014 - 19:23

like this
Like (8)

Looking at the Camden plan...
http://road.cc/sites/default/files/images/News/Cobden%20Junction.jpg

the difficult bit will be getting cyclists wishing to turn left to move out of the straight on only bike lane with a green light and into the left turn vehicle lane with a red light and wait to turn.

IMO without clear instructions 99% of them will stay in the bike lane, go through the green light & make the left turn, straight through all the pedestrians on the crossing.

Cue "#bloodycyclists"

posted by tarquin_foxglove [79 posts]
20th March 2014 - 23:27

like this
Like (6)

Neil753 wrote:

Personally, I'd like to see cyclists able to use the pavement when turning left, effectively making the corner a traffic island. Yes, there may be one or two injuries amongst pedestrians, but overall KSIs would be reduced significantly. I can't understand why planners see the pavement as so sacrosanct.

Where do we(inclusive of you) go after making the left turn on the pavement?

posted by Ush [389 posts]
21st March 2014 - 3:28

like this
Like (7)

Big problem is drivers ignore/defy restrictions on turns. E.g. "Ahead Only" at Cromwell Rd/Exhibition Rd, or Marylebone Rd/Marylebone High St, or New Bridge St/Queen Victoria St all have this sign, but there is significant failure to comply and no penalties are imposed!

Cyclist27

posted by Cyclist27 [3 posts]
21st March 2014 - 11:17

like this
Like (5)