Abstract Measurements and numerical calculations of laminar flow in a plane 90° bifurcation are presented. The corresponding two-dimensional steady flow Navier-Stokes equations are solved by a finite-difference procedure employing pressure and velocity as dependent variables. The influence of Reynolds number and mass flow ratio on the velocity field, streamlines, local shear stress and pressure drop are quantified and shown to be substantial. The circulation patterns and shear stresses are examined in view of available data regarding the formation of atherotic plaques in the human circulatory system. The calculated velocity profiles are compared with measurements obtained with laser Doppler anemometry and the agreement is shown to be satisfactory. Calculations outside the range of measurements which are of value to biomechanics are also presented.