A hook turn is a traffic-control mechanism where cars that would normally have to turn across oncoming traffic are made to turn across all lanes of traffic instead.
Hook turns are relatively rare, but can be used to improve the flow of through-traffic or to keep the middle of the road free for trams or other special uses. For automobile traffic, intersections that permit hook turns generally require them, although the situation may be different for other vehicles (see below).
The procedure illustrated below is that used in Melbourne, Australia, where cars drive on the left. In a country where cars drive on the left, it is the right-turning cars making the hook turns; in countries where cars drive on the right, it is the left-turning cars making the hook turns. The general procedure is as follows:
- Approach and enter the intersection from as near as possible to the left. If there is insufficient room to enter the intersection due to other cars waiting to hook-turn then you must wait until the next cycle of the lights.
- Move forward, keeping clear of any marked foot crossing, until your vehicle is as near as possible to the far side of the road that you are entering.
- Remain at the position reached under Step 2 until the traffic lights on the road you are entering have changed to green.
- Turn right into the road and continue straight ahead. Cars on the cross road must give way to hook-turning traffic before commencing through the intersection.
Details vary by location.
- Melbourne, Victoria - Melbourne's Central Business District contains 19 hook turn intersections, with others scattered throughout the inner city area. Buses are permitted to make hook turns at various additional intersections such as at Hoddle Street and Victoria Parade. A few other roads have right turns or U-turns from a left-hand service lane, such as the top of St Kilda Rd and Clarendon Street South Melbourne or along Footscray Rd, North Melbourne or at the intersection of Banksia Street and Lower Heidelberg Rd, Heidelberg.
- Cyclists may optionally perform hook turns at any intersection in the state of Victoria.
- Adelaide, South Australia - Buses are permitted to make hook turns at the intersection of King William Street and North Terrace; also at Rundle Road and Dequetteville Terrace.
- Arlington Heights, Prospect Heights and Wheeling, Illinois - Palatine Road is a heavily traveled east-west surface road with exterior one-way frontage roads and interior grade-level "express lanes", and all turns (both cross streets and driveways) are taken from the frontage roads with their own traffic signal cycle at Windsor Drive, Schoenbeck and Wheeling roads. Motorists must pay close attention to the lane usage signs as they are strictly enforced by local police (i.e. entry into the express lanes from the frontage roads prohibited at Windsor and Schoenbeck.) On Palatine Road, the hook turn lanes are separated from the through traffic by a concrete median, and have their own separate cycle of the traffic lights. Other arrangements are possible.
- São Paulo - The hook turn is not official there, but the driver can often apply it in order to achieve a quicker conversion. The alternative is the so-called little-square turn.
- China - Dotted yellow lines in certain larger intersections prohibit non-motorized vehicles as they cannot make safe and direct left turns, so their drivers have to make hook turns using the extended solid yellow lines as the stop lines.
- In Beijing, Some intersections require all turns to proceed from outside lanes. In Shanghai, Many bus stops are set shortly before left turns, and road signage gives them privilege to turn left from an outside lane so as not to impede traffic flow by having to manoeuvre through multiple lanes. Also at certain junctions, especially after highway sliproads, the lanes are so marked as a holdover of the pre-merger roadways.
- Germany - Cyclists are permitted to do hook turns, as they are usually obliged to keep on the rightmost lane of the road. Bike lane and track layouts often encourage this turning behaviour. Alternatively, cyclists may change to the correct lane for turning left directly shortly before an intersection.
- Japan - Bicycles must perform hook turns when turning right. Motorbikes and mopeds with engine displacement under 50cc are required to perform hook turns when turning right from a road with three or more lanes of traffic in the same direction. Larger motorcycles and automobiles generally do not perform hook turns.
- In the Netherlands and Denmark, where segregated cycle paths are the norm, cyclists turning left are often obliged to perform what might be considered a hook turn: when the light goes green they cross the side road, but they then have to wait for the lights to change again before they can cross the road they were originally on.
- In Amsterdam, there is at least one instance of a hook turn being required within a single cycle path: cycles turning left from Van Baerlestraat into Willemsparkweg are required to wait in the right-hand lane of the cyclepath for the lights to change, while those going straight on pass them on their left.
- Taiwan - In Taiwan there are some intersections where a hook turn is signed as required, but only for motorcycles under 550 cm3 and non-motorized vehicles (like bicycles); automobile traffic proceeds as usual.
- Portland, Oregon has some hook turn lanes for bicycles at some city center intersections and some obtuse angle residential intersections to give cyclists better visibility when making a left or access to a signal without having to merge into busy motorized traffic.
Reasons for use
In Melbourne, the hook turn allows both the clear passage of trams (which are common in Melbourne) and obviates the need for right-turning drivers to wait or check that there are no trams crossing the driver's path. In the central city, cars are generally not allowed to travel on tram lanes (although it is allowed in the suburbs), so dedicated right-turn lanes are not possible.
The maneuver also allows the passage of traffic wishing to continue straight ahead unobstructed. Assuming there is no tram line and the hook turn is not used, drivers who wish to travel straight ahead at an intersection must enter the left-turning lane and continue straight past the right-turning traffic (and may need to merge back into the right lane if the intersection leads to a road which has one lane partially reserved for parking). Inconsistently such a rule is not found, for example, in other cities with trams, such as on Spadina Avenue in Toronto, Canada, where they simply halt left turning cars (note that in Canada motorists drive on the right) to allow the passage of trams, even though most cities in Canada have wide and well planned streets, as does Melbourne. This is because right (curb) turns on red lights are permitted in Canada and hook turns would create too many turning conflicts on busy downtown streets in Toronto.
The rationale for preferring a hook turn over a standard turn on a bicycle is that, on a heavily trafficked, multi-lane road, lane changes can be difficult and risky; it is easier to perform a hook turn than, for example, to move from the left-most lane (in a left-hand traffic country) to the right-most lane on a four-lane road to execute a right-hand turn.
Australian usage details
The required procedure for making a hook turn at a hook-turn-only sign is set forth in Rule 34 of the Australian Road Rules, a uniform set of road rules voluntarily adopted (not always in their entirety) by each Australian state. Consequently, although hook turns are predominantly used in Victoria, any Australian state could choose to implement a hook turn where appropriate, unless the state has opted to repeal rule 34 within its jurisdiction.
When making a hook turn, a driver must wait and check for hazards when the through-traffic light changes to amber. The "wait" rule has changed over the years. The driver used to be permitted to make the hook turn as soon as the signal changed to amber, and it was safe to turn. In the current edition of the Australian Road Rules, rule 34 requires a driver to wait until "the traffic lights on the road that the driver is entering change to green". The principle applied is that a driver who has entered the intersection and stopped in the left lane to make a hook turn has, in effect, joined onto the head of the queue to cross the street into which they intend to turn. Consequently they obey the rules for proceeding through a signalised intersection, and as such complete the turn only once the lights for the crossing street have turned green.
As of 2012, some intersections in Melbourne had animated hook turn traffic signs which indicate when one may complete the turn.
At intersections where the "Right Turn from Left Lane only" sign is present, motorists are not allowed to make a conventional right turn. Motorists intending to turn right must instead follow the hook turn procedure described above. At intersections without the sign, hook turns are disallowed.
In many jurisdictions, lightweight vehicles such as bicycles and mopeds may make hook turns even at regular intersections. Bicycles are permitted to use a hook turn at any intersection in Victoria for example, while motor vehicles are only permitted to use a hook turn at the designated intersections in Melbourne. Note that this is true not only of Victoria and Illinois, which have some hook-turn only intersections, but also in some areas where the hook turn is otherwise unknown, such as Rhode Island.
In certain busy locations and intersections, buses are given special permission to make hook turns during peak times (the intersections of Hoddle St/Victoria Pde in Abbotsford and Banksia St/Lower Heidelberg Rd in Heidelberg are examples) or at all times (the intersection of King William Street and North Terrace in Adelaide, South Australia is an example). In these cases it is recognised that a bus could not possibly pick up passengers from the footpath immediately before the intersection, then fight from the outside lane to the inside lane in order to complete the turn.
Hook turns do not require drivers to judge a gap between cars coming the other direction; however, drivers do need to watch for traffic from all directions (including pedestrian and emergency traffic), some of which have absolute right-of-way. Some judge this to be more difficult or confusing.
In 2003, it was announced that all intersections in Clarendon St, South Melbourne would become hook turn intersections, the first time that there were hook turns outside the CBD. Residents and business owners in the area protested vigorously, claiming that motorists found hook turns confusing, and they would hence lose business. One year after their introduction, residents, passing motorists and business owners continued to complain about the hook turns.
Since the implementation of hook turns in Clarendon Street, some claim these fears have proved unfounded, believing that hook turns have indeed reduced traffic congestion on Clarendon Street by allowing trams, and hence all traffic following them, to continue unimpeded by right turning traffic. The local council, City of Port Phillip and roads authority VicRoads consider the introduction of hook turns in Clarendon Street to be a great success.
The original standard right turn in the Australian states was from the left side of the road (i.e. what would now be called a hook turn). Over time this was changed to be from the centre of the road. Sydney and Newcastle changed in April 1939.
Melbourne changed most turns except for some city-centre intersections on 1 September 1954 
- Continuous-flow intersection
- Diverging diamond interchange
- Michigan left
- Texas U-turn
- VicRoads: Road rules & fines
- (Chinese)GB 5768.3-2009, page 66, graphic 70, marking 51.
- Article 65 of the Regulations on Establishing Traffic Signs and Indicating Lines (道路交通標誌標線號誌設置規則) publicized by the Ministry of Transportation And Communications and the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of China (Taiwan)
- "New South Wales Repealed Regulations". Australasian Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 17 March 2014.
- Illinois bicycle rules of the road
- RI legal code 31-19-15 concerning bicycle left turns
- Motorists warned as tram incidents leap
- Right-hand turn To Be Made from Centre of Road
- Road Turns Changed
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hook turn.|
- VicRoads: Information for tourists about Victoria's road rules (See "Hook Turns" section)
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