British ‘Simultaneous Green’ junctions, in… 1979?

I’m currently working my way through a DVD set of films from the BFI on cycling in Britain. One of these films is called ‘Free Wheeling’, which you can watch yourself on the BFI site (although it will cost you £1).

The film was produced for the Department for Transport in 1979, and appears to be aimed at councils and local authorities, showing them what can be currently be designed for cycling, based around Local Transport Note 1/78, Ways of Helping Cyclists in Built Up Areas, which we see, and is referred to, several times in the film.

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 00.39.19

It’s quite eye-opening – there are some things in there that were obviously radical at the time, like contraflow cycling on one way streets (something that, ridiculously, we still struggle to implement with any consistency 36 years later!).

What really caught my eye, however, was this short section on signalised junctions.

To my (untrained) eye, at least, this looks remarkably like, well, a simultaneous green junction – two of them.

In the first section of the clip, we see a man on a bike setting off from a bicycle-specific signal, heading diagonally across a junction, while other people cycling emerge from the road he is heading towards.

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 00.20.47Note that there is apparently nothing to stop any of these of people choosing to cycle off into any of the exits they want to use.

And indeed this is precisely what happens – the man and the woman emerging from the junction opposite do head off in different directions, the woman ‘yielding’ to the man in the blue jumper.

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 00.22.19As this occurs, the voiceover states

There are many variations [of this type of junction] possible, depending on local circumstances

which funnily enough is exactly what David Hembrow has been saying about ‘simultaneous green’ arrangements for cycling – that they can work at junctions of different sizes and shapes.

The second junction in the clip is even clearer. We see two people arriving at the junction, waiting at the corner on cycle-specific infrastructure, for a green signal to progress across the junction.

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 00.27.22

Note that this ‘corner’ arrangement is precisely the same as that at ‘simultaneous green’ junctions in the Netherlands.

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 00.29.07Positioning on the corner allows people entering and exiting the junction to take the most direct route across it for the destination they want.

As the two cyclists get a green signal, all motor traffic at the junction is held.

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 00.30.38

As in the previous example, people cycling emerge from the opposite side of the junction – not directly opposite, but from a cycle track at 135° to their own entrance to the junction.

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 00.31.34

Note, again, that there is nothing to stop people choosing whichever exit they please. All these (conflicting) options are possible.

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 00.33.00The final lovely detail is that there is an induction loop to detect people waiting at the junction; something commonplace in the Netherlands, but extraordinarily rare in Britain.

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 00.42.28

I’d love to know where these two junctions are – my guess, from the rest of the video, is somewhere in Peterborough – and indeed what happened to them, Do they still exist today?


An eagle-eyed Jitensha Oni has spotted that the second junction is indeed in Peterborough, near the railway station. It looks to have been replaced with a large roundabout, albeit with some pretty decent-looking grade-separated cycling provision.

As others have pointed out, these aren’t strictly simultaneous green, as while any exit can be chosen by people cycling, there are only two (opposed) entries to the junction at the same time. Still, I imagine this was pretty radical at the time, and still is now!

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11 Responses to British ‘Simultaneous Green’ junctions, in… 1979?

  1. Ian says:

    Looks like an incredibly intelligently designed junction. Having spent the last 3 weeks exploring parts of Glasgow I hadn’t previously cycled to before it’s depressing how in 35 years we seem to have mostly gone backwards.

    Glad to see Paris has better ideas:

  2. Interesting, I encounter a newish installation which does the same, albeit for pedestrians on my commute. I have wondered about it as it’s something I’ve not encountered elsewhere, although it seems sensible.

    Basically when I hit the button, after a few seconds all the green men turn to green simultaneously.

    I’ll try and get down and capture a video of it this week. It’s not perfect as the cycle path is shared, but the crossing is pedestrian only.

  3. Interesting junctions, but I don’t think they are simultaneous green junctions, rather a segregated cycle lane with its own set of lights crossing the junction diagonally. There doesn’t seem to be a provision for cyclists coming from one of the other arms, they presumably have to stop/go with the main car traffic lights (the cyclist from the right at the start seems to be “amber gambling” as the car lights just turned to red). And the junctions don’t have pedestrian lights at all.

    We have a similar junction in Edinburgh, Mayfield Rd / West Mains Rd at the corner of the university campus, where part of the pavement was converted into shared pavement, and half of the pedestrian lights converted to toucan, so that people on bikes going between city centre and university can cross diagonally together with the pedestrians. But bicycles from the other arms (no bike lane, just ASLs) cannot legally use this phase (I asked the council official), although many do as it’s safer, in practice you often see cyclists from all directions during the pedestrian / partly toucan phase.

    It seems that (semi-)simultaneous green is easy to do if there are segregated bike lanes or shared pavements, then you just need to convert the pedestrian lights to toucans. But is it possible/legal when no cycle lane is there, or just an ASL? Can you install bike-specific lights next to the lights for general traffic, to allow cyclists to enter the junctions when cars in the same lanes don’t? This is the real issue.

    The NL examples also have segregated paths with separate lights, no need for two different sets of lights that apply to the same general traffic lane. Of course this is what we should aim for, but given the state of UK cycle infrastructure we won’t get segregated paths at most junctions anytime soon, so the question is if a simultaneous green or even just bike-specific lights are (legally) possible without any kind of segregation?

  4. You note: “there is nothing to stop people choosing whichever exit they please” but in my understanding exiting the junction is not really the question, it is whether you can enter from conflicting directions simultaneously. In any light controlled junction people on bicycles (and in cars) can decide to go straight or turn left and right, and have to avoid oncoming traffic.

  5. T.Foxglove says:

    Rather than simultaneous green isn’t that just a normal junction with bike specific traffic lights? Wouldn’t a ‘Simultaneous Green’ allow cyclists to come from all directions at once rather than allow specific cyclists to travel to the exit they desire?

  6. Space Hobo says:

    There are “scramble” junctions in many parts of London. Oxford circus is a famous example, but there are some in Ealing as well:Pope’s lane and Little Ealing come to mind, as well as one behind the old Acton town hall that even has surface treatments to show you can cross in an X. I tend to use the pedestrian scramble to get out of the ASL at Pope’s Lane, and it works great for an otherwise overcrowded and pinched junction!

    Now if only we could get this made legal/official. As it stands, I’m abusing pedestrian right of way for cycling: it’s the safest thing I can possibly do, but it’s also not permitted.

  7. nuttyxander says:

    I wouldn’t quite call these simultaneous green, but what they do appear to show are relatively swift cycle phases to cross complex junctions. There are similar efforts in the GLC work during the 80s and elsewhere in that phase. You could say that some other current UK treatments also meet the “nothing to stop people choosing whichever exit they please” test where there is a distinct cycle phase. As an example you can see that at the Southwark Bridge junction (in the southbound direction) from Queen Street onto the start of Superhighway 7 in London. When I watched this off the DVD myself (and I even brought it to the Leicester AGM and meant to share it!) I also had a hunt to find it and my suspicion is that it’s in Peterborough but obliterated by progress. Possibly by changing the busy road into a dual carriageway.

  8. Bob Currell says:

    Ooh, I do love a challenge. Especially as I have lived in Peterborough since 1980 and near-by since 1949 (except for 8 years in London – 72-80!)

    The still maps are of Bedford. The inner city open spaces are Cambridge – probably Parker’s Piece. Some of the early cycling images e.g. around 2 minutes in, are certainly not Peterborough, neither are those around 7.05 and 7.48 mins.

    But those around 6.43, and those featuring Bretton and Westwood direction signs certainly are. As indeed are most if not all of the ‘good practice’ suggestions appearing later.

    Peterborough was of course an Expanding Town under the New and Expanding Towns scheme. The Peterborough Development Corporation (PDC) existed from 1968 until around 1988 and was at its peak around 1979. The population rose from 60,000 in 1966 to around 160,000 by the late 1980s. It’s now around 200,000 and there are still large scale new developments under construction.

    The title page shot is from the Westwood area

    – the cyclists are coming over the Westfield Road railway bridge; probably heading to work at the old Baker Perkins factory. The cycle route is still there but remodelled . The factory is demolished and the site now occupied by HMP Peterborough – to the left and rear of the shooting location.

    Of your other images, these guys are heading towards the railway bridge; they will be going slightly left over the old Lincoln Road, onto Westfield Road. The road they have come along, Taverners Road, is extremely narrow.

    Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 00.27.22

    That’s all changed now, with a dual carriageway replacing the Lincoln Road they were crossing. It’s now an underpass area for cyclists.

    This arrangement still exists in principle but has been redesigned to give motor traffic priority. Cyclists are leaving Geneva Street to get diagonally across onto a short stretch of tarmac that gives access to the cul de sac end of Russell Street

    Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 00.20.47

    Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 00.22.19

    And vice versa of course

    The current situation is HERE . Note how the island has been removed and cyclists have no visibility behind the new stop line, several yards short of the main road.

    Peterborough prides itself on being a cycling city, but I was staggered at the volume of cycles in this film – in comparison, they are indeed a rarity these days. Any decent provision is generally inherited from the PDC – THIS is about as good as the City Council gets.

    My biggest disappointment is that in new areas like Hampton, where I live, there is plenty of open space – but what a waste it is when proper cycling priorities could have been created instead of token gestures and old ideas like THIS , where cyclists have to stop at every joining road.

    Keep up the good work.


    Bob Currell

    Tel: 01733 240678 Mobile: 07808 167 887

    2 Wayside Crescent, Hampton Vale, Peterborough PE7 8HX

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