The Surprising Reason There Isn’t a Single Stop Sign in Paris
It has to do with Paris's traffic laws... and a possible stop sign heist.
Whether you’re close to home or far away, it’s always a little nerve-wracking to drive in a big city. Navigating the sea of cars, one-way streets, and traffic lights can be stressful even if you’re a seasoned city driver. You probably know this all too well if you live in the state with the worst drivers in America, but stressful city driving isn’t unique to that state—or America, for that matter.
Take Paris, France, for instance. The City of Lights is famous for its chaotic roads, including the Champs-Élysées, a massive thoroughfare with no median, and the “Étoile,” or “star,” an enormous traffic circle that connects no fewer than 12 separate roads. Even cruising on the Seine can be chaotic. You’d think stop signs would be a necessity—and yet the city doesn’t have a single one.
In Paris, cars don’t come to a full stop at any intersection without a traffic light. Cars on the right have the right of way, at both regular intersections and in traffic circles. While there are plenty of traffic signs in the city of Paris, red octagons are not among them.
Paris hasn’t always been a stop-sign-free metropolis, though. According to a Paris police report, the city did have one stop sign at one point. Yes, just one—a single red octagon reading “STOP” stood at the exit of a construction facility. (In case you’re wondering why a French sign said “stop,” “stop” is “considered a valid French word, borrowed from English.”) Yes, the only stop sign in the city was basically at the exit of a glorified driveway.
via google maps
It was situated on the Quai Saint-Exupéry, a riverside road in Paris’s 16th district, on the outskirts of the city. And despite this sign’s unique claim to fame, it seems that no one paid much attention to it—because it suddenly vanished. Sometime between May 2012 and September 2014, the stop sign disappeared right off the post that held it, and it hasn’t returned. Whether it was an authorized removal or the work of a thief, we can only guess.
Don’t believe us? Take a look at Google Earth. Next to the “No Left Turn” sign, you can still see the post where Paris’s one stop sign once stood.
There may not be stop signs, but plenty of other signs keep the Parisian streets from devolving into chaos. One of the most common is the red circle with the line through it, a “Do Not Enter” sign indicating a one-way street. There are plenty of “No Left Turn” signs as well, just like the one that stood next to the stop sign. This is the reason road signs are different shapes.
Basically, if you ever find yourself behind the wheel in Paris, make sure you’re driving very carefully—just like you would anywhere else.
Next, learn about the surprising history of the stop sign (they weren’t always red)!