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The Lions Gate Bridge from the south end in Stanley Park, Vancouver.

A reversible lane (called a counterflow lane or contraflow lane in transport engineering nomenclature) is a lane in which traffic may travel in either direction, depending on certain conditions. Typically, it is meant to improve traffic flow during rush hours, by having overhead traffic lights and lighted street signs notify drivers which lanes are open or closed to driving or turning.

Reversible lanes are also commonly found in tunnels and on bridges, and on the surrounding roadways — even where the lanes aren't regularly reversed to handle normal changes in traffic flow. The presence of lane controls allows authorities to close or reverse lanes when unusual circumstances (such as construction or a traffic accident) require use of fewer or more lanes to maintain orderly flow of traffic.


Signals and markings

In the United States and Canada, reversible lane markings are typically a dashed or broken double yellow line on both sides. Most often done on three-lane roads, the reversible lane is typically used for traffic in one direction at morning rush hour, the opposite direction in the afternoon or evening, and as a turning lane at most other times. There is also a transition period (typically 30–60 minutes) between reversals prohibiting traffic of any kind in the reversing lane, in order to prevent collisions. Sometimes, lane control signals are placed over the roadway at regular intervals (within sight of each other) indicating which lanes are allocated to which travel direction; a red X indicates the lane is closed or reserved for the opposite direction; a green arrow indicates a permitted travel lane. The center lane is marked with either one of those (depending on time of day), and often a flashing yellow X at other times to indicate an imminent closure of a lane, becoming solid yellow before turning red. Other setups had double-turn-lane signs backlit with white fluorescent lighting instead of the flashing yellow X.

Other streets with reversible lanes (including several in Washington, D.C.) simply have signs posted indicating what lanes are open to which direction when.

Separation of flows

Some more recent implementations of reversible lanes use a movable barrier to establish a physical separation between allowed and disallowed lanes of travel. In some systems, a concrete barrier is moved during low-traffic periods to switch a central lane from one side of the road to another; some examples are the Coronado Bridge in San Diego, California, the seven lane Tappan Zee Bridge on the Hudson River in New York and the 8 lane Auckland Harbour Bridge across the Waitemata Harbour in Auckland, New Zealand. Other systems use retractable cones or bollards which are built into the road, or retractable fences which can divert traffic from a reversible ramp. The two center lanes of the six-lane Golden Gate Bridge are reversible; they are southbound during morning rush hour and northbound at evening rush hour, and are demarcated by vertical yellow markers placed manually in sockets in the roadway.

Many urban freeways have entirely separate carriageways (and connecting ramps) to hold reversible lanes (the reversible lanes in such a configuration are often referred to as "express lanes"). Generally, traffic flows in one direction or another in such a configuration (or not at all); the carriageways are not "split" into two-lane roadways during non-rush periods. Typically, this sort of express lane will have fewer interchanges than the primary lanes, and many such roadways only provide onramps for inbound traffic, and offramps for outbound traffic.

Passing lanes

Typical striping on an old-style suicide lane setup in the United States
Markings for reversible lanes in Sweden

Historically, a suicide lane has also referred to a lane in the center of a highway meant for passing in both directions. Neither direction has the right-of-way, and both directions are permitted to use the lane for passing. Head-on accidents are common. Very few of these setups are left (at least in the United States[citation needed]). One example of a road like this is the Belgian N9, between Lovendegem and Eeklo. In the UK they used to be very common, but few examples remain; one is the A181 near Thornley, County Durham. In a similar layout, three lanes are striped with two in one direction and one in the other, but traffic in the direction with one lane is allowed to cross the centerline to pass. However, this is not as dangerous, because one direction has clear right-of-way.[citation needed] They still however have 2-lane roads with 4-lane right-of-way where only the oncoming traffic in the opposite lane has to be checked as opposed to risking in a center lane.

2+1 roads have replaced some of these in Europe and North America.

Turn lanes

This is a typical 5-lane arterial equipped with a center-turn lane. These are often found in cities, towns and developed areas near cities. In the United States, the sequence line is located on the inside of the lane. In Canada (except British Columbia), the sequence line is located on the outside.

Another type of center two-way lane is a center left-turn lane (for countries which drive on the right), center turn lane or median turn lane, a single lane in the center of the road into which traffic from both directions pulls to make a left turn. It is also used by drivers turning left onto the main road. While this is sometimes also called a "suicide lane", it is actually far safer,[citation needed] as traffic collisions occur at far lower speeds.

These roads are very common in suburban areas and less common in rural areas, though developed areas near Interstate Highway bypasses of a small city often have them. Many were divided highways before the median was demolished or otherwise filled with the turn lane.

This center lane can be used by emergency vehicles like police cars, ambulance, and fire trucks to avoid traffic traveling in either direction. Drivers are never allowed to use the center lane of such a highway for passing slow-moving vehicles.



No (or minimal) lane controls

Lane controls and no (or minimal) physical separation

  • The Peace Bridge between the U.S. and Canada, connecting Fort Erie, Ontario to Buffalo, New York. Three lanes total, all marked reversible, 1 reversed in the direction of rush hour flow with the possibility of all lanes flowing in the same direction based on traffic needs.
  • The Lewiston-Queenston Bridge connecting Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario to Lewiston, New York. Five lanes total, all marked as reversible, 1 to 4 lanes marked daily in the same direction depending on traffic needs. In addition to the directional signals, special signals are also fitted to specify what type of vehicle may use the lane.
  • The Sydney Harbour Bridge in Sydney, New South Wales (8 lanes total, 3 (formerly 4) potentially reversible, 3 reversed daily. AM peak 6 South 2 North. PM peak 3 South 5 North. Other times, 4 South 4 North),
  • The Spit Bridge, Sydney, New South Wales (4 lanes total. AM peak 3 South, 1 North. PM peak 3 North, 1 South. All other times 2 North, 2 South).
  • The Alfords Point Bridge in the south-western suburbs of Sydney, New South Wales. 3 lanes total, with the centre lane reversible using manual placement of plastic bollards. Originally this bridge was built with two lanes, and was to be part of twin spans, but only the foundations and excavations for approach works were built for the Eastern span, and the bridge was opened with one lane used in each direction. New approach works commenced in January 2007 for the second span, at a cost of 45 million AUD, eliminating the need for a reversible lane. However, a 300-metre reversible centre lane will still remain on Alfords Point Road over Henry Lawson Drive, approximately 500 meters north of this proposed bridge.
  • General Holmes Drive generally has 4 north lanes and 4 south lanes, but during morning peak hour one southbound lane is divided from the others with a plastic island with signes placed along the top. The island is shifted across by the RTA with a specialized veichle. This lane is used as a northbound lane for local traffic to get to Botany and Mascot from the St George area.
  • Flagstaff Road in the southern suburbs of Adelaide, South Australia. 3 lanes total, with the centre lane reversible.
  • Johnston Street, Melbourne, Victoria. 5 lanes total, with the centre lane reversible.
  • Queens Road, Melbourne, Victoria. 5 lanes total, with the centre lane reversible.
  • Tasman Bridge, Hobart, Tasmania. 5 lanes total, with center lane reversible
  • The Lions' Gate Bridge in Vancouver (3 lanes total, 1 reversible)
  • The Pitt River Bridge in Pitt Meadows, B.C.
  • The Angus L. Macdonald Bridge, Chebucto Road and the Herring Cove Road in Halifax, Nova Scotia (3 lanes total, 1 reversible)
  • Jarvis Street in downtown Toronto (5 lanes total, centre lane reversed daily for AM/PM rush hours)
  • The Champlain Bridge in Ottawa (3 lanes total; 1 reversible)
  • Sherman Access and Sherman Cut in Hamilton, Ontario (2 lanes, both reversible)
  • The George Massey Tunnel in Delta and Richmond, B.C. (4 lanes total, 2 reversible, with access controlled by gates)
  • Connors Road in Edmonton (4 lanes, 3 reversible)
  • 170th Street from north of 137th Avenue to Levasseur Road in Edmonton (3 lanes total, 1 reversible)
  • 97th Street from 118th Avenue to 127th Avenue in Edmonton (7 lanes total, 3 reversible)
  • Centre Street from 20th Avenue N to 6th Avenue S in Calgary (4 lanes total, 2 reversible; standard configuration is 2 out, 2 in; morning rush is 1 out, 3 in; and evening rush is 3 out, 1 in)
  • 10th Street NW / 9th Street SW from 5th Avenue NW to 4th Avenue SW in Calgary (4 lanes total, 2 reversible; standard configuration is 2 out, 2 in; morning rush is 1 out, 3 in; and evening rush is 3 out, 1 in)
  • Park Avenue in Montreal, five lanes total, centremost lane is reversible, sidemost lanes are reserved for public transport during rush hour; morning rush is 2 in, one out (not including bus lanes), evening rush is reversed
  • Champlain Bridge in Montreal, rush hour bus lanes
  • Jacques Cartier Bridge in Montreal, five lanes total, two for both directions, one rush hour central reversible lane
  • During the 2010 Winter Olympics, British Columbia Highway 99 was subject to lane control in three-lane sections of the highway, via signs on the side of the road that were changed manually.[citation needed]
  • State Route 102 near Kraljevica leading southbound to the Krk Bridge used to have a three-lane passing lane combination, blind curves, and a steep grade. It was later changed to a passing lane combination that makes the northbound traffic dominant.
  • Reversible lanes are frequently used in hilly sections of motorways with heavy truck traffic. Most of them were built during the 1980s and 1990s.
United Kingdom
  • The A38(M) Aston Express Way in Birmingham, England. Constructed in 1971, it was the United Kingdom's first contraflow road. It is 2 miles long.
  • The A38 road across the Tamar Bridge and through the Saltash Tunnel in Saltash, England. The middle lane is reversible, allowing for control of traffic flows in holiday periods and during rush hour.
  • The A61 Queens Road in Sheffield, England, although it is a very short section (4 lanes total, 1 reversible: allowing for either 3 out, 1 in, or 2 out, 2 in).
  • The A470 North Road in Cardiff, Wales, A section of around 1 mile long between the Maindy Road Junction and College Avenue where the road drops from a dual two-lane to a three-lane section. One lane is always dedicated to Northbound (out of town) traffic, and one lane to Southbound (city centre bound traffic) with the centre lane reversing depending on the time of day - i.e. in the morning 2 lanes into the city, 1 lane out, in the evening 2 lanes out of the city, 1 lane in.
  • The A15 in Lincoln (Canwick Road) has a short three-lane section of tidal flow.
United States


  • In Montgomery, Norman Bridge Road through the Garden District and Old Cloverdale has a center lane with reversible markings and traffic flow lights between Burton Street and Legrand Place.


  • In Phoenix on 7th Avenue between McDowell Road and Northern Avenue, and 7th Street between McDowell Road and Cave Creek Road/Dunlap Avenue. On both roads, the lane configuration is 2 southbound and 3 northbound, with the center lane open for southbound traffic between 6-9am and open to northbound traffic between 3-6pm. No left turns are permitted during these hours for either direction.


  • The Golden Gate Bridge (6 lanes total, 2 reversible, vertical median markers provide minimal physical separation) connecting San Francisco with suburban Marin County
  • Doyle Drive (U.S. Route 101) in San Francisco
  • Lafayette Street in Santa Clara - the center lane is used for northbound traffic on weekday mornings, southbound traffic for weekday afternoons, and as a center turning lane at other times.
  • The Barry-Baker Tunnel, one of only two means of access to the Marin Headlands from U.S. Route 101 in Marin County, is not wide enough to accommodate bidirectional traffic. It consists of a single reversible lane for automobiles and two bicycle lanes. The direction of automobile traffic alternates every five minutes, controlled by a traffic light at each end of the tunnel. The bicycle lanes, one for each direction, are located on either side of the reversible lane; buttons on either side of the tunnel trigger flashing signs alerting drivers entering the tunnel to the presence of cyclists.[2]



  • Vineville Avenue in Macon: the center lane of three is reversed using overhead lane-use control signals.


  • The Clay Wade Bailey Bridge in Covington (3 lanes total, 1 reversible)
  • Nicholasville Road (U.S. Highway 27) in Lexington, has reversible lanes (lane signals, no physical separation) starting at its intersection with Rose Street at the University of Kentucky campus and ending at New Circle Road, the city's inner beltway. During morning rush hour, southbound traffic (away from the UK campus and downtown) is restricted to one lane between campus and Southland Drive, and two lanes from Southland to New Circle. Northbound traffic faces the same restrictions in the evening rush hour. During off-peak hours, an equal number of lanes are dedicated to traffic in each direction.
  • Baxter Avenue and Bardstown Road (U.S. Highway 31E) in Louisville have reversible lanes (lane signals without any physical separation) for 2½ miles starting at their intersection with Lexington Road and ending at Douglass Boulevard. Southbound traffic leaving downtown Louisville is restricted to one lane during the morning rush hour, with northbound traffic having the same restriction during the evening rush hour. Electronic signs over the roadway alert motorists to the traffic flow dedication of each lane.


  • In Indianapolis, Fall Creek Parkway North Drive between Central Avenue and Evanston Avenue has 5 lanes (7 in some sections) with 1 lane marked as reversible. Configuration is typically designed to allow for 3 in 2 out during morning rush hours, and 2 in/3 out during afternoon rush hours. Due to Fall Creek Parkway's proximity to the Indiana State Fairgrounds, lane configurations change periodically to facilitate traffic flow during events at the fairgrounds.[3]


  • The Chesapeake Bay Bridge near Annapolis (5 lanes total, all marked reversible, 1 usually reversed for normal peak traffic). However, due to its dual spans, when there are 2 eastbound lanes and 3 westbound the opposing sides are completely divided, this is the usual configuration.
  • The Hanover Street Bridge in Baltimore has 5 lanes total marked reversible, with 1 usually reversed for normal peak traffic).
  • Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring has 7 lanes. During most hours, the center lane is marked with a yellow lit X as a left turn lane for both directions. During morning and evening rush hours, the lane is marked with a down facing green arrow – southbound in the morning, northbound in the evening – or a red X – northbound in the morning, southbound in the evening – and left turns are prohibited.
  • Colesville Road in Silver Spring has 6 lanes. During off-rush hours, three lanes go in each direction. During morning rush hours, four lanes (marked with green arrows) go southbound, while northbound (marked with Xs in those lanes) is relegated to two lanes. During afternoon rush, the process is reversed.


  • A portion of Dodge Street west of downtown Omaha: no physical separation; lanes marked with overhead lane-use control signals.

New York

  • Delancey Street in New York City has two lanes on the eastbound side adjacent to the median used for westbound traffic in the morning rush hour between the Williamsburg Bridge and Allen Street. All traffic in these lanes must continue to and then turn left onto Allen, during these times left turns are prohibited from the regular westbound roadway onto Allen Street.
  • Manhattan Bridge (New York City) lower level has three lanes, which can have all lanes used in one direction or reversible with two lanes one way and the other for the opposite direction.
  • The upper level of the Queensboro Bridge in New York City has 4 lanes and can have all flowing outbound (PM peak), or two lanes each direction in normal configuration.

North Carolina


  • At least one road in Sandusky has reversible lanes, for the purpose of allowing quick departure of Cedar Point guests.


  • The Liberty Bridge near the southern terminus of I-579 in Pittsburgh has 4 lanes, all of which are potentially reversible, and 2 of which are reversed based on rush-hour times.
  • The West End Bridge in Pittsburgh has 4 lanes, which are all potentially reversible.
  • West General Robinson Street near Heinz Field in Pittsburgh has 4 lanes, and 2 are reversible.


  • In Dallas, two of the major streets leading into downtown (Ross Avenue and Live Oak Street) have five lanes with three different lane configurations. During morning rush hour, three lanes go inbound to downtown, with one lane going outbound and a turn-only lane in between. During evening rush hour, three lanes go outbound, still with the center turn-only lane. All other times, the streets are configured for two inbound lanes and two outbound lanes with a turn-only lane in the center.
  • West Alabama Street and North Main Street in Houston – both are three-lane streets, which operate in a 2 in, 1 out configuration during the morning rush, a 1 in, 2 out configuration during the evening rush, and a 1 each way + two-way left turn lane at other times.

Lane controls and physical separation by empty lane

  • The A38(M) motorway (otherwise known as the Aston Expressway) in Birmingham, England. The road heads out of the city centre towards Spaghetti Junction on the M6. It is a 7-lane section of motorway with no central reservation, while one lane remains closed to traffic. Overhead lane control signals allow for 4 lanes in, 2 out in the morning rush hour, vice versa in the evening, and 3 lanes either way at other times.
  • The U.S. Route 78 portion in Snellville, GA, United States, has 6 lanes in total. This occurs from the limited access portion through Stone Mountain Park to G.A. State Route 124 (Scenic Highway) for several miles. The middle two lanes are reversible (usually occurring during rush hour) with a varying lane always reserved a center turn lane while the 3 lanes are used for one side and 2 for the other. Example of an intersection on U.S. 78. However, due to rising traffic volumes during peak hours that made traffic flows equivalent, the reversible lane system was removed in 2009.[4]
  • The Caldecott Tunnel between Oakland, California and Contra Costa County, California has three separate bores, with the middle bore switching direction twice daily for rush hour traffic.

Lane controls and physical separation by movable barrier

Third (reversible) carriageways on freeways

Entire roadway routinely reversed

South and Marion Roads in Adelaide, provide access to the Southern Expressway at its northern end. Here, southbound access to the expressway from South Road is restricted.
  • The Anchieta/Imigrantes highway system in Brazil contains the world's longest fully reversible road (The Imigrantes variant at a length of 58.5 km). It comprises a total of 10 lanes distributed over 4 separate roadways (3+3+2+2), each of which can be reversed. Traffic flow is unidirectional on up to three roadways at a time, in different combinations, depending on demand. Since this highway system is the only quick route from São Paulo to the beach, the majority of the traffic on Fridays and Sundays are cars on weekend trips, creating highly asymmetrical demand.
  • The Southern Expressway in Adelaide, South Australia is the world's longest exclusively one-way reversible road, spanning 21 km though the city's southern suburbs. It changes direction to carry peak hour traffic to the city centre in the morning and away from the city in the evening. On weekends the directions are reversed.
  • In Washington, D.C., the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway between the Lincoln Memorial and Calvert St. is converted from two lanes in each direction to one-way southbound in the morning and one-way northbound in the evening rush hour Monday through Friday, excluding federal holidays. The P Street exit, usually unavailable northbound, is an allowed left exit in the evening. South of Virginia Avenue, two lanes are closed during rush hours to facilitate the merge to or from Virginia Avenue. There are no overhead markings, but police barricades block wrong-way entrances to the roadway.[1]
  • In Washington, D.C., parts of 15th Street NW and 17th Street NW are one-way during certain hours. There are no overhead markings on either road.[1]
  • Canal Road in Washington, D.C. (between Foxhall Road and Arizona Avenue)[1]
  • Sherman Access in Hamilton, Ontario. 2 lanes total, both marked as reversible, with both lanes flowing in the same direction during rush hour each weekday.
  • The lower deck of the Centre Street Bridge in Calgary, Alberta is fully reversible. It normally allows for two way traffic, but both lanes flow in the same direction during rush hour each day.
  • Victoria Bridge, in Montreal, Quebec, normally allows for two-way traffic. But during rush hours, it only allows one-way traffic, northbound in the morning, and southbound in the afternoon.
  • Farnam Street in Omaha also is a normally two-way, two-lane street that becomes one-way during rush hour.
  • Sierichstraße in Hamburg, Germany, a fully-reversible, two-lane city street.
  • The 4th Street Bridge in Los Angeles, a fully reversible street controlled by overhead signals. It switches direction every rush hour and on weekends. In case of emergencies, the bridge can be one-way to or from Los Angeles.

See also



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