Accurate fluid mechanics models are important tools for predicting the flow field in the carotid artery bifurcation and for understanding the relationship between hemodynamics and the initiation and progression of atherosclerosis. Clinical imaging modalities can be used to obtain geometry and blood flow data for developing subject-specific human carotid artery bifurcation models. We developed subject-specific computational fluid dynamics models of the human carotid bifurcation from magnetic resonance (MR) geometry data and phase contrast MR velocity data measured in vivo. Two simulations were conducted with identical geometry, flow rates, and fluid parameters: (1) Simulation 1 used in vivo measured velocity distributions as time-varying boundary conditions and (2) Simulation 2 used idealized fully-developed velocity profiles as boundary conditions. The position and extent of negative axial velocity regions (NAVRs) vary between the two simulations at any given point in time, and these regions vary temporally within each simulation. The combination of inlet velocity boundary conditions, geometry, and flow waveforms influences NAVRs. In particular, the combination of flow division and the location of the velocity peak with respect to individual carotid geometry landmarks (bifurcation apex position and the departure angle of the internal carotid) influences the size and location of these reversed flow zones. Average axial wall shear stress (WSS) distributions are qualitatively similar for the two simulations; however, instantaneous WSS values vary with the choice of velocity boundary conditions. By developing subject-specific simulations from in vivo measured geometry and flow data and varying the velocity boundary conditions in otherwise identical models, we isolated the effects of measured versus idealized velocity distributions on blood flow patterns. Choice of velocity distributions at boundary conditions is shown to influence pathophysiologically relevant flow patterns in the human carotid bifurcation. Although mean WSS distributions are qualitatively similar for measured and idealized inlet boundary conditions, instantaneous NAVRs differ and warrant imposing in vivo velocity boundary conditions in computational simulations. A simulation based on in vivo measured velocity distributions is preferred for modeling hemodynamics in subject-specific carotid artery bifurcation models when studying atherosclerosis initiation and development.