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Hook turns for bikes

26 May 2010

Diagram of a hook-turn bike box: When light A is green, the cyclist proceeds to the bike box and waits there. The cyclist completes their left turn when light B turns green. (Diagram by blog author.)

Introducing the Hook Turn

Recently I was in the city of Cairns in the state of Queensland, Australia, when I noticed an interesting piece of cycling infrastructure. It’s was a special kind of bike box (or “storage box”, as they say in Australia) for making hook turns. Hook turns have long been legal in Queensland, but the road markings are new.

Hook turns provide a convenient way to turn left at busy, multi-lane intersections without leaving the bike lane.

The need in Toronto

Hook turns are something we need in Toronto. They are especially important on roads with streetcar tracks, which are otherwise treacherous to cyclists.  Normal left turns place you close to the tracks, where you might slip (especially in rain or winter) or where your tire can get stuck (throwing you from your bike). Hook turns allow you to cross the tracks at the safest possible angle, and keep you at the safest possible distance.

In fact, I already see cyclists making hook turns at intersections like Queen & Spadina, because they know it’s the only safe thing to do.

Hook turns also have the benefit of not holding up motorized traffic behind you while you’re waiting to turn left.

The Law

Unfortunately, hook turns are illegal under Ontario law. That’s something that needs to be changed.

First, we have to get Ontario to legalize hook turns for bicycles. Then we have to get Toronto to put in explanatory road markings like the ones in Cairns, for the benefit of drivers and cyclists alike.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 29 May 2010 16:52

    hook turrns ruuuule!!!!111eleven

  2. 12 September 2010 13:07

    I saw this on Thomson’s Bike City plan and wondered what they were. But then I recalled seeing such a sign at Bloor and Sherbourne. Hook turns are generally illegal except where they are signed, such as there. I’m not sure why the city hasn’t installed more, particularly on intersections such as Queen and Spadina. I may be among the very small minority that will actually make a “vehicular” left turn there.

  3. MaryL permalink
    12 September 2010 16:42

    This looks great! From what I can see, though, Cairns (Queensland) permits right turns on red (links opens PDF), but not at all intersections. So I’m guessing that they don’t implement this on streets with one lane in either direction, as the box would block right turns, but it could be placed in the center or leftmost lane of the cross street.

  4. john permalink
    8 October 2010 11:20

    Yeah, good idea. I hook turn every day at Queen and Spadina, and had no idea it was illegal. Don’t plan on changing though.. it’s safe and I’ve done it right in front of cops, who clearly think it’s the smart thing to do as well.

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