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Hook turn sign in Melbourne, Australia

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

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; elsewhere, it is the left-turning cars making the hook turns. The general procedure is as follows:

1 Approach and enter the intersection from as near as possible to the left.
2 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.
3 Remain at the position reached under Step 2 until the traffic lights on the road you are entering have changed to green.
4 Turn right into the road and continue straight ahead.

Details vary by location.

Vehicles waiting in line for signal change prior to turning right.
Vehicles executing right-turn manoeuvre after signal change.
Turning manoeuvres are completed and traffic proceeds on cross street. Cross-traffic now proceeds with a green light.


  • Melbourne, Victoria - Melbourne's Central Business District contains 19 hook turn intersections, with others scattered throughout the inner city area.
  • Adelaide, South Australia - Buses are permitted to make hook turns at the intersections of King William Street and North Terrace and Rundle Road and Dequetteville Terrace [1] .
  • 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.
  • Beijing - Some intersections require all turns to proceed from outside lanes.
  • 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.
  • Taiwan - In Taiwan there are some intersections where a hook turn is signed as required, but only for motorcyclists and non-motorized vehicles (like bicycles); automobile traffic proceeds as usual.
  • 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, 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.

Reasons for use

In Melbourne, the hook turn allows both the clear passage of trams (which are common in Melbourne) and prevents right-turning drivers from having 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.

This diagram is of a hook turn where cars drive on the right; elsewhere the mirror image of the diagram would apply.

The manoeuvre 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 cites 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 streetcars (trams), even though cities in Canada have a wide and well planned street layout, 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.

Australian usage details

The rules and procedures for making a hook turn appear in the Australian Road Rules, a uniform set of road rules adopted by all Australian states. Although hook turns are predominantly used in Melbourne, this means that any Australian state may choose to adopt the hook turn where appropriate.

When making a hook turn, cars must wait and check for hazards when the through-traffic light changes to amber. The "wait" rule has changed numerous times. Motorists used to be permitted to conduct the hook turn as soon as the signal changed to amber, and it was safe to turn. The current version of the Australian Road Rules (rule 34) demands that the motorist wait until the "the traffic lights on the road that the driver is entering change to green". The City of Melbourne website - and other publications - contain obsolete information indicating that it is permissible to execute the turn on amber or red. The interpretation of the law is that, the queue of cars which has entered the intersection and stopped in the left lane has joined onto the front of the queue for the street into which they are turning. They now obey the rules of driving forward through an intersection, and as such turn only once the lights have gone green.

At intersections where the "Right Turn from Left Lane only" sign is present, motorists are not allowed to make a traditional right-turn. Motorists intending to turn right must instead follow the hook turn procedure described below. At intersections without the sign, hook turns are disallowed.

Other vehicles

Taiwanese sign that requires motorcycles to make a hook turn

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[2], which have some hook-turn only intersections, but also in some areas where the hook turn is otherwise unknown, such as Rhode Island[3].

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, then fight from the outside lane to the inside lane in order to make their 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 of 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 and business owners continued to complain about the hook turns, despite the fact multi-state instructional signs have been incorporated into these intersections.

Since the implementation of hook turns in Clarendon Street, these fears have proved unfounded. Hook turns have greatly 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[4].


See also


External links


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