The traffic circle that surrounds the Arc de Triomphe, known as the Place Charles de Gaulle, ties together 12 twelve city streets. It goes without saying that it is a busy intersection. In fact, as anyone who has driven through it can attest, “busy” is an enormous understatement. The chaos inherent in combining so many streets is compounded by the fact that there are no real traffic controls in the circle – no lanes, lights or signs. Drivers enter the circle where they will, and simply do their best to find the fastest route to their desired point of exit.
At the end of my first week here, I drove through the circle with my relocation agent. And when I commented on the lack of order, she explained how it is managed: if an accident occurs in the Place Charles de Gaulle, there is a unique precedent whereby the legal responsibility is shared equally among the drivers involved, regardless of who actually caused the accident. The resulting fear of liability forces drivers to be more defensive, and presumably, this is more effective than some highly-complex and expensive traffic control system.
I am not sure whether this was a pre-meditated (and quite clever) feat of “psychological traffic engineering,” or just the organic solution that has arisen while the city government continually procrastinated in dealing with the mayhem. I suspect the latter. But in any case it is an interesting phenomenon.