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
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.”
Cycling provision on London’s streets is guided by Transport for London’s London Cycling Design Standards, which 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.
Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.