A protected intersection or protected junction, also known as a Dutch-style junction, is a type of at-grade road junction in which cyclists and pedestrians are separated from cars. The primary aim of junction protection is to make pedestrians and cyclists safer and feel safer at road junctions.[1]

At a conventional junction, pedestrians are separated from motor vehicles, while cyclists are placed in the carriageway with motorists. Cycle lanes are often placed on the nearside of the carriageway, which can create conflict, for example when a cyclist is going straight ahead and a motorist is turning to the nearside.[1]

At a protected junction, vehicles turning to the nearside (right in right-side driving countries; left in left-side countries) are separated from crossing cyclists and pedestrians by a buffer, providing increased reaction times and visibility. Drivers looking to turn to the nearside have better visibility of cyclists and pedestrians as they can look to the side for conflicts instead of over their shoulders. At unsignalized intersections, it is practice to have one car length of space between the cycleway and roadway, so that cars exiting the minor street have an area to pull forward and wait for a gap in traffic, without becoming distracted by potential simultaneous conflicts along the cyclepath.

A protected intersection in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. A safe way to cross the road on a bicycle.
A protected intersection in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. A safe way to cross the road on a bicycle.

This type of intersection has for decades been used in the bike-friendly Netherlands, and Denmark. An alternative philosophy, design for vehicular cycling, encourages having bike lanes simply disappear, or "drop", at intersections, forcing riders to merge into traffic like a vehicle operator ahead of the intersection in order to avoid the risk of a right-hook collision, when a right turning motorist collides with a through moving cyclist. Design policies which do not allow the cyclist to remain separated through the intersection have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years as not being inclusive to riders of all abilities,[2] leading to lower overall ridership and sidewalk riding,[3][4] and being less safe.[5]

Other countries and jurisdictions where they were not previously common are beginning to install, and/or incorporate into standard details, protected intersections with varying degrees of similarity to those in the Netherlands,[6] including the UK city of Manchester,[7] Australian city of Melbourne,[8] over two dozen U.S. locations,[9] including in Austin,[10] Boston,[11] Chicago,[12] Davis, Pittsburgh,[13] Salt Lake City,[14] San Diego,[15] Seattle,[16] Silver Spring,[17] Jersey City,[18][19] and Canadian cities Ottawa,[20] Vancouver, and Waterloo.


A museum exhibit about the Groningen Grote Markt shows a post-WWII bike lane that forced cyclists to merge with motorists. This design was eventually removed.
A museum exhibit about the Groningen Grote Markt shows a post-WWII bike lane that forced cyclists to merge with motorists. This design was eventually removed.

With the popularity of the bicycle, the Dutch began constructing separated cycle tracks as early as the late 1800s.[21] The separation of road users into neatly defined right-of-ways may be linked to Dutch culture in general, which values cleanness and organization.[22] After World War II, the country's infrastructure was decimated, and some cities like Rotterdam had to be completely rebuilt.[23] This presented the opportunity to create infrastructure more in line with the "modern" way. From the 1940s to the 70s, streets were built following a new design philosophy that attempted to integrate cyclists with vehicle traffic.[24] After three decades, these designs proved to be largely a failure, with the number of kilometers cycled falling by 65% and the per-km rate of cyclists being killed increasing 174%.[25]

In the 1970s, road traffic and urban quality of life began to be seen as a significant issue in Dutch city politics. This, combined with other political headwinds related to party reorganization, the decline of national religious pillars, and opposition to the Vietnam War propelled left wing political parties to office in many city governments. In Groningen, a northern Dutch city with one of the highest bike mode shares, the left wing party put forth a new circulation plan which again prioritized bicycle traffic and moved away from the notion of designing for bicyclists to act like motor vehicle operators.[26] As the nation again began to desire separated bike infrastructure, the protected intersection rose to prominence as an engineering solution for optimizing sightlines. It joined other Dutch innovations in traffic calming and bike design, like the woonerf, and the bicycle street (fietsstraat), a variant of which exists in North America (see bicycle boulevard). Today, the Netherlands is widely considered the world's premier country for cycling, with more than 25% of all trips made by bike.[27] It has reported a significantly lower cyclist fatality rate following the return to separated infrastructure. In the US, 58% of bicycle crashes involving injury, and 40% of crashes involving death occurred at intersections.[28] In 1972, UCLA published a report demonstrating awareness in the US of the protected intersection design.[29]

The protected intersection is only one of several treatments for addressing motorist-cyclist conflicts. While used in much of the Netherlands, including Amsterdam, local road authorities in other parts of the country do not use the classic protected intersection with middle islands, preferring to have cyclists move during a completely separated all directions green phase.[30] Other options for reducing bike accidents at intersections, depending on context, include the use of bridges and tunnels, and planning or reconfiguring the neighborhood street/path system so that major amenities and schools can be reached without needing to travel along busy roads.

Basic protection

In countries other than the Netherlands, where a segregated cycle lane came near to a junction, basic forms of protection may be used to accommodate cyclist safety.

Early release

Early release uses advanced stop lines and separate cyclist traffic signals to allow cyclists a headstart on motor traffic. This permits them to turn across oncoming traffic without needing to wait in the centre of a junction.[1]

Hold the turn

A hold the turn setup holds turning traffic at a red light while the cycle lane gets a green light in tandem with straight-ahead carriageway traffic. While this setup works well for cyclists turning to the nearside or going straight ahead, there is no provision for turning across oncoming traffic (unless a two-stage turn is permitted). Furthermore, it can lead to increased delay at junctions and is not highly space efficient (it requires a dedicated nearside-turn lane for motorists).[1]

Full protection

The protection of the vulnerable cyclists with a protected junction with bicycle traffic lights.
The protection of the vulnerable cyclists with a protected junction with bicycle traffic lights.

In terms of optimal spacing between the path and motorist lanes, it is generally practice to use 2–5 meters at signalized crossings and one car length >5m at unsignalized intersections. Providing more buffer space allows vehicles, particularly those turning out of smaller roads, to queue in the waiting area. On the other hand, larger buffers could place the cyclist at a less optimal viewing point from the mainline, and delay the signal operation due to longer distances necessitating slightly longer bicycle signal yellow and all red clearance intervals. The exact optimal distance has been the subject of several studies.[31][32]

Singalised junctions

Signal-controlled junctions are less sustainably safe as they normally prioritised the movement of motor vehicles. However, if they are used, they can be designed to provide full protection for those cycling. Cyclists ideally have a protected cycle track on the approach to the intersection, separated by a concrete median with splay curbs if possible, and have a protected bike lane width of at least 2 meters if possible (one way). In the Netherlands, most one way cycle paths are at least 2.5 meters wide.[33]

Clear ground striping is key to define the cycle lane and its priority. Wide strips are painted aside the cycle way and 'shark teeth' (triangles with pointy end oriented toward the non priority vehicles) are used to reinforce who must yield.[where?] In addition to ground marking, the cycle lane color plays a role to remind motorists of cyclist priority. In the Netherlands, the cycle way red color is not painted but embedded in asphalt to increase durability and reduce costs.[citation needed]

The design makes a turn on red possible for cyclists. In many cases, the cyclist who is separated from motor traffic can turn right without even needing to come to a complete stop.[34]

This protected intersection design features a number of common elements that optimise safety:

Some countries such as the UK, do not permit partial conflicts. A partial conflict is where turning motor traffic may conflict with a cycle lane going straight ahead and/or a pedestrian crossing. These may be prohibited on safety grounds to prevent motor traffic colliding if they fail to give way when turning. However, they can also be beneficial as one cycle crossing will not require traffic to wait at a red light while the cycle light is green. They generally shouldn't be used if the amount of turning traffic is high, a bidirectional cycle track is used or outside of built up areas.[35]: 153 

CYCLOPS Junction

A sketch of a CYCLOPS junction
A sketch of a CYCLOPS junction

A Cycle Optimised Protected Signal (CYCLOPS) Junction is a type of protected junction found in the UK. Contrary to both regular UK and Dutch practice, in this setup, a cycle track encircles the entire junction (effectively a cycle roundabout encircling a regular signalised junction), with traffic signals where cycleways meet the carriageway. Pedestrian crossings placed on the inside of the cycle track.[36]

The benefits of this design mean that:[1]

CYCLOPS junctions have been criticised for perpetuating traditional shortcomings of junction design, such as multi-phase Pedestrian crossings.[37]

Protected roundabouts

Protected roundabouts or Dutch roundabouts are a variation of protected intersections for lower traffic flow, without the traffic lights.[38] In the Netherlands, designers have been switching signalised junctions for roundabouts, as roundabouts are safer.[39] Specific facilities for cyclists are not needed at quieter roundabouts (<6,000 PCU / 24 hours), unless connecting roads have segregated cycle tracks. Cycle lanes on roundabouts may be considered by designers to increase the visibility of cyclists, however they are dangerous as drivers, especially lorries, might have an inadquate view of cyclists using a circulatory cycle lane.[35]: 147 

For the safety of cyclists, motor traffic speeds should be reduced. Single-lane roundabouts are generally used in the Netherlands. Otherwise, a turbo roundabout can be used, which has multiple lanes and separates motor traffic going in different directions. The best form of protection is grade separation, however as an alternative a segregated cycle track should be placed around the roundabout. This should not normally be used if there is more than one lane on exit. The track normally circulates one-way in the same direction as motor traffic to reduce confusion for motorists.[35]: 147–148 

As cyclists will conflict with motorists at the exit arms of the motorised roundabout, priority must be established. In the Netherlands, cyclists will normally be given priority to promote cycling over driving.[35]: 148  This is the design that has often been transposed internationally, labelled the 'Dutch roundabout', e.g. in Cambridge, UK.[40] This design has been criticised by environmental campaigner David Hembrow for being less safe for cyclists than motorist priority.[41]

Experimental designs

To bring protected junctions to Ireland, the Dublin City Council trialled an experimental design. The cycle lane remains segregated, but contrary to Dutch practice is brought up to the side of the carriageway to improve visibility. Cycling campaigners have criticised the project for putting people in bikes in conflict with left-turning (nearside) cars.[42]

An innovative design in Zwolle, Netherlands, called the 'bicycle roundabout'. On the city inner ring road, this replaced a gap in the central reservation, with priority to motorists, a roundabout only cyclists could use, while for the motorist the junction is a right-in right-out junction.[43]

Design and publications

In The Netherlands, a not for profit organisation working on standardisation and research on traffic, transport and infrastructure, the CROW (Dutch),[44] have published since 2006 a design manual for all cycling infrastructure, with an English version of the last edition of 2017.[45]

US Design Guide Controversy

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The concept of Dutch protected intersection got international public attention after an April 2011 blog post ‘State of art bikeway design, or is it ?’ by Mark Wagenbuur [46][47] on David Hembrow blog associated with a video [48] criticizing a US junction design published in NACTO design guide, his post trying to explain the Dutch philosophy of pedestrian and cyclist friendly junctions. To emphasize his point, the video schematics were based upon dimensions and schematics of the NACTO publication. A month later, Mark Wagenbuur published another post trying to clarify the concept and avoid misunderstanding: ‘State of the art bike way design - a further look ’ [49][50] with a new video.[51] In the US, Nick Falbo, a member of a US planning firm which was originating the NACTO design, Alta planning+design, published in February 2014 a small web presentation site ‘protectedintersection.com’ [52] of his interpretation of Mark Wagenbuur posts. In February 2014, David Hembrow published a blog post «The myth of standard Dutch junction» [53] The same month, Mark Wagenbuur published on his own blog a new clarification post ‘Junction design in the Netherlands’[54] criticising some design he considers being a wrong interpretation of his posts.

Alta planning+design published in December 2015 a PDF presentation with a short USA history, schematics and dimensions and some examples of realisations of ‘protected intersections’ in the US and Canada which may differ from the Dutch practice.[6] In 2015, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation released their Separated Bike Lane Planning and Design Guide, which includes extensive discussion of protected intersections, and was used as a pilot for the upcoming AASHTO Bike Guide, which is expected to include protected intersections as well.[55] In 2019, NACTO, whose original Urban Bikeways Design guide generated controversy for omitting the treatment, released "Don't Give Up at the Intersection", which encourages protected intersections as an alternative to bike lane drops. They also released "Designing for All Abilities", which again encourages separated treatments along major roads and intersections.

See also


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