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Heading to France? Pedestrian priority laws have changed!

If you’re planning to take your bike (or car, etc) to France in the near future, be aware that the rules regarding pedestrian priority have been changed as of 1 January 2011.

The new law, which is already in effect, gives pedestrians and cyclists in France priority over cars when crossing a road.

“Be aware there is a hefty €135 fine for DRIVERS who fail to give way to pedestrians!”

“If a pedestrian or cyclist “shows a clear intention to cross” (described as “an ostensible step forward or a hand gesture”) drivers will be required to stop for them. The only exception is where there is a designated pedestrian crossing less than 50m away.”

“They need to “show a clear intention to cross” a road – described as “an ostensible step forward or a hand gesture” – and vehicles are required to stop for them.

“The only exception is where a designated pedestrian crossing is less than 50m away. “

Previously, pedestrians only had priority only at crossings, though if you have ridden much in France, you’ll no doubt be aware that about the only riders and drivers who DO stop at crossings are the British! French drivers have always tended to treat pedestrians on crossings as slalom practice! I’m going to have to update my info for travellers to France.

In practice, I doubt we’ll see pedestrians leaping randomly into the traffic lemming-style, nor can they ignore pelican-style crossing lights, but there will undoubtedly be a few people (just as there are in the UK) determined to enforce their new right-of-way by stepping off the pavement.

However, it might well encourage more positive use of zebra-style crossings by pedestrians. Currently they tend to stand hesitantly on the pavement and be reluctant to cross even when you stop for them. I suspect they will now use them more like the British by stepping onto them to make traffic stop.

There will no doubt be a period of total confusion in many towns and cities as everyone tries out the new laws, particularly I would suspect in Paris where drivers are notorious for refusing to stop at pedestrian crossings.

Until everyone gets used to the new system, my advice in streets with lots of pedestrians would be to keep well back from the vehicle in front so you can stop if they have to, and so that pedestrians can cross ahead of you without forcing you to brake hard, and to approach crossings slowly.

Remember to keep an eye on your mirrors too – even if you safely stop, the driver behind may still be caught by surprise!

The other thing to be aware of is that the changes to the law also allow cyclists to legally pass a red light if they are turning right at crossroads where there is a sign to that effect, something that many do already, so it’s unlikely to cause any problems.

And finally… be aware there is a hefty €135 fine and four points for RIDERS and DRIVERS who fail to give way to pedestrians!

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