Is it really the free-for-all it appears to be or is there some semblance of rhyme or reason to it?
It’s a traffic circle. Presumably the same rules that apply to any other traffic circle apply.
We have many circles in DC. They are all very tightly regimented, with lanes, markings, signs, and even traffic lights. I see not a one of these things there. All I ever see is a total clusterfuck.
I have to assume there are at least customary “rules” involved?
It’s hilarious to watch the traffic from up there.
Generally, the rules are that the farther away you are from your exit, the closer to the center you should be. People should be moving in when the enter and out to exit.
Looks like driving in some parts of Boston (seriously). I have been there and there is a pattern and some rules but it is mainly based on experience and more aggressive than you are probably used to. It takes practice to drive in a rotary like that but the result isn’t just everyone driving around randomly. Cars already in the circle have the right away over those entering and you aren’t supposed to stop or slow down much when you are in it. Lane changes are supposed to be dynamic and fluid merges as you enter and exit rather than controlled by lane markings, lights, and turn signals. You move towards the center of the circle when you enter and back out towards the edge when you need to exit merging the whole time.
If a traffic circle has lights and lane markings it is not being used as it was designed. The whole point of traffic circles/rotarys/roundabouts is to allow traffic to keep moving.
I’ve driven around the Charles de Gaulle-Étoile a few times, and I can tell you it’s quite unlike any other rotary/roundabout/traffic circle you may encounter elsewhere. For one thing, the right of way is the opposite of what you have described - cars already in the circle give way to cars entering. Secondly, there are far more “lanes” of cars than anywhere else I’ve seen (although the flows are so chaotic that you can’t actually talk meaningfully about lanes of traffic). You have to be quite aggressive, otherwise you will get slower and slower as cars continually cut in front of you and eventually you will be brought to a stop.
La Place de l’Etoile isn’t a traffic circle at all, it’s a giant game. It is played feindishly by seasoned Parisian drivers, and bus drivers. The whole idea is evidently to cross the fractal pattern of other drivers, divided as follows:
- other competitors (mainstream Parisians in anything with four wheels, two wheels could be prey)
- late suburbanite mothers with some battle experience, useful for blocking other players
- tourists in what before arriving were cars, now in haystacks
- fanatical bike riders
The main idea is to force entry, passing behind the traffic cop on your particular avenue (sliding behind a good bus driver is a nice technique), impress your total priority on the circulating vehicules with whatever heavy arms you have (a battered truck and big tatoos is good), then coerce madly stationary objects to move a centimeter or two to attain the correct exit point. Flying car parts should be discreet, several tens of police officers will immediately converge, slowing even more your trajectory.
A nice addition is pedestrians, wishing to honor the unknown soldier’s grave in the appropriate center.
I’ve done it for 20 yrs, you can include la Place de la Nation, and finally fled to western France to get away from it.
I drove a van through the Arc “traffic circle” once. I hope to never have to do that again. If there are rules, the only one I could figure out is “go in a vaguely counter clockwise direction.” And get your Type-A gameface on, because this is no place for hesitation. If you don’t take/force yourself into a hint of an opening, you’re never going to get in. It’s bit like playing the most insane level of Frogger ever.
(ETA: Hmm…that might not actually be a bad casual game idea…)
Also, unlike some traffic circles, there are stop lights to get into it. It took me a couple times to get used to it and once you get used to it, it’s not so bad. The first two times I was screaming though.
And, of course, no talk of crazy-ass roundabouts is complete without mentioning the Swindon Roudabout, which is five roundabouts within a roundabout, with traffic travelling in both clockwise and counterclockwise directions. I’ve never been through it, but supposedly it is a very orderly and effective roundabout. (It actually does make a good bit of sense if you look at it and see what’s going on.)
Holy #@^%! What is the point of that? Why not just make one big circle?
Efficiency. If you want to turn right, you don’t have to around the whole circle.
It is very much a circular parking lot. The rules are entering traffic has the right of way(I think to get as many players in the game as possible.) and if there is an opening you take it. Anything short of hitting other cars goes, some would argue rubbing is racing. It seems to work fine for the Parisian’s. Last time I was in Paris my apartment was less then a block away. Thankfully they have tunnels to get to the Arc itself otherwise it would be the worlds most deadly tourist attraction.
Going from driving in Boston to Paris is a fine comparison. Compared to Rome both are tame.
Navigating that circle on a Vespa scooter is one of my more memorable experiences from Paris. It seemed even worse than Shagnasty’s photo.
My business guy from Boston was our driver while in Paris and enjoyed taken us newbies around the arc a few times. Not only was he an experianced big dig detour and shortcut maker; but was a former motor cross champ in his younger days. Four wheeled motor cross was the only description that I could wrap my mind around of the experiance.
I accidentally the whole circle!
My French friends drove me around it at like 1:30 a.m. once, when it was empty. They told me that if an accident happens there, the insurance companies don’t even bother trying to determine fault. Any truth to that?
Another voice chiming in to say that it’s every bit as chaotic as it looks. Probably more so. Everyone to your right has the right of way, so you are constantly being cut off, bumped and terrorized. I had a friend stationed at Embassy Paris who told me of an altercation with a Parisian with whom he collided. Both vehicles stop, both get out, the Frenchman is shouting and gesticulating wildy. Then he makes the mistake of slapping my friend across the face. Bad move to make on an American military man, who then punches the Frenchy across the hood of his car. During all of this, a cop looks on with complete detachment as the pinwheel circus continues around them unabated. It’s insane.
I have only been on l’Étoile as a pedestrian . . . crossing it to the Arch, before I realized there was a tunnel. :eek: