Bournemouth & Wessex Advanced Motorcyclists

Riding in France

Resident IAM Observer John Eggleton of Bike Normandy has some words of wisdom for anyone riding in France.

Priorité à droite

Priorite a droit sign

This sign (which, amazingly, isn't included in some leading European motoring advice books) denotes a hazard unique to France. At the next junction (not necessarily a crossroads), priority is to the right (priorité à droite). The sign applies only to the upcoming junction, which will be within 100 to 150m.

At such a junction, there are no road markings, and an approaching vehicle must give way to a vehicle on its right. For example, you must give way to traffic entering 'your' road from a minor road on the right, like a tractor emerging from a side turning. Be warned!

French motorists are generally bike-friendly, and they will still often give way to you in such a situation. But this can't be assumed, and in the event of a collision via this scenario it will be legally your fault, and you will pay for any damage to the tractor.

Conversely, when turning minor to major you may be surprised to find traffic on the major road giving way to you because of the priorité à droite rule.

Priority sign

Opposite of the above, this sign tells you that at the next junction (not necessarily a crossroads) you, the main road traffic, have priority - passage protégé. Minor roads will have road markings and Give Way signs (inverted triangle) with the legend CEDEZ LE PASSAGE, or octagonal STOP signs.

End priority sign

This sign will often be seen (among many others) at the entrance to a town. From here on, priorité à droite applies at all junctions. Its use is increasing in French cities because it calms traffic and promotes caution at junctions, as an alternative to speed bumps. In urban riding you must be constantly aware of the need to give way to traffic entering from the right.

Roundabouts are often an exception to the priorité à droite rule. Most have the more familiar priorities, denoted by Give Way signs at the entrances. But not all: at the Place de l'Etoile in Paris, traffic already circumnavigating the Arc de Triomphe gives way to that entering the system from all twelve entrances.

Priority sign

This sign indicates that from here onwards, the main road traffic has priority, until cancelled by the End Priority sign with the black diagonal bar shown on the opposite page. This will be seen on main roads at the exit from a town.

Speed Limits

Speed limit sign

National speed limits are: 50 kph (31 mph) in built-up areas, 70 kph (44 mph) in villages, 90 kph (56 mph) on the open road, 110 kph (69 mph) on dual carriageways, and 130 kph (80 mph) on motorways.

All except the 50 kph limit are reduced when it's raining, and for new drivers (within two years of passing their test). The 130 kph limit reduces to 110 kph, and the others by 10 kph. In fog or heavy rain when visibility is reduced to 50m, a speed limit of 50 kph applies to all roads.

There are now 1,000 speed cameras in France. The law provides for loss of licence for exceeding the limit by 30 kph, and jail for an offence of 40 kph above the limit. For less severe speeding offences, the police can impose on-the-spot fines from 90€ to 760€.

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