CYCLE RULES IN FRANCE:
For any members taking their bikes to France, they should be warned to pay attention to the state of
their bikes and rules of the road to avoid fines of up to €375. The biggest fines concern the wearing of
helmets. Since March 2017, the law states that it is obligatory for children under the age of 12 to
wear a helmet at all times when on a bike. This applies whether the child is riding themselves, or is
a passenger on a larger bike. Adults accompanying or leading an offending child risk a default fine of
€135, varying between €90 and €375, depending on the situation.
All cyclists - adults and children - need to ensure that their bike is in good condition, especially if they cycle on roads or lanes that are also used by cars; whether in town centres or in more rural zones. This includes having working brakes on both wheels, pumped-up tyres with sufficient tread, a supportive and safe saddle, and tightened bolts on parts such as wheels and handlebars.
Bikes must feature reflective stickers, panels or lights; with a red-coloured light or reflective label at the back; and orange reflectors on the pedals. Lights and reflectors must also be visible from behind and the sides. Bikes must also be able to alert others to their presence, either with a horn or bell, that is audible from at least 50m away. Riders who do not conform to these conditions risk a fine of at least €11 per bike, rising to €33 if not paid within 30 days.
At nighttime, or when visibility is poor, bikes must have a strong red light at the back, as well as a white or yellow lamp in front. Riders must also wear a reflective tabard at all times at night or during low visibility, and risk an additional fine of €22-€75 if they do not.
It is also advised to have two different kinds of locks, including a strong “D” lock for the frame, and another to loop through the wheels, when securing your bike in a town or village.
EMERGENCY NUMBERS :
18: Emergencies: This number connects to the fire brigade (Sapeurs Pompiers) but they also deal with medical emergencies and should be the first port of call in life-threatening situations
15: Samu (for other urgent medical call-outs)
17: Police / Gendarmes
112: Universal European Emergency Services number - works from all phones including mobiles
114: Emergency calls (hearing assisted)
115: Emergency Shelter
119: Reporting child abuse
196: Sea and lake rescue
197: Terror/kidnapping hotline
01 40 05 48 48: Anti-poison centre
British Embassy (Paris) 01 44 51 31 00 UK passport advice + 44 (0) 300 222 0000
USING AN AIRE DE SERVICES
Aire de services are basically parking areas specifically provided for motorhomes -- caravans or campers
are not allowed to use them, and motorhomers are not supposed to put out their awnings or to use/ place
tables & chairs outside (although this rule isn't very well adhered to). The aire generally has a service point
which provides some or all of the following:
Provision of Fresh Water
Disposal of Grey (or waste) water
Disposal of Black (or toilet) waste
Electricity (usually up to 1 hour of low amperage current) to recharge the leisure battery
Bin for rubbish disposal
TYPES OF SERVICE POINT
There are several different types of service point or "borne" that are found at aires but the most common are: EuroRelais service point
Euro-Relais or Raclet
These are basically the same although they come in 3 different shapes (mini, standard & large) & are probably the easiest to use. In general they have two separate water taps (one for refilling the water tank & the other for rinsing the toilet cassette) & a lift up lid in the base to access the black drainage point. There is usually a separate grey drainage grid or platform. If the unit has electricity available then there is a separate socket for this although this is seldom available on a "Mini" unit.
These units are generally controlled by tokens or Jetons (often supplied by the local Office de Tourisme) or euro coins.
These large, usually blue in colour, cabinets are also a common sight on aires & can offer all the main facilities required. The water is usually available in the form of a couple of hoses -- one for refilling & the other for rinsing (be careful when using that these have not been used vice versa), located behind a side door in the cabinet. The waste emptying is often difficult in a Flot Bleu, there is seldom a separate drainage grid/ platform, the grey drainage usually requires a hose to empty & black drainage is also behind the cabinet door with restricted access. Electricity (if available) is via a socket on the front. Payment for these services is either by Jetons or coins, or by credit card - which is becoming increasingly common. Instructions for use are generally printed in French & English. There is also a Mini Flot Bleu which usually just has water & waste facilities, being either free or by cash/ jeton.
The third major type of service points are AireServices, which are generally large, white plastic or stainless steel & oval or octagonal in section terminals. Once again they can offer all the above services, water being supplied in separate taps, electricity via sockets, black drainage in a drain at the front & grey drainage is usually via a separate drain or platform. Payment for these services is either by Jetons or coins, or often by credit card.
The remainder of types of service point are classified in our directory as artisanal, which covers the other various makes found, as well as the "home made" varieties that are very common & can differ greatly in quality & ease of use. The more basic are sometimes merely a single tap & a drainage grid whilst the more sophisticated can rival the best features of the Euro-Relais bornes. Often the artisanal service point may only have a single tap & care should obviously be taken with these with regard to hygiene. These types of service point are harder to apply controls on & frequently they tend to be free to use although the free supply of electricity is becoming increasingly rare as power prices rise. Drainage is commonly via a grid or drainage platform in the case of Grey & with a separate drain for Black -- although sometimes a separate point is provided in an adjacent WC.
See below for photos of the above three types of service point
Payment for services
As previously mentioned, very often the services are operated by the use of a small metal token or jeton which are often available either from the Town Hall (or Mairie), the Tourism Office (OT) or from local shops -- sometimes they are free or they may be charged for at 2 or 3€ for a jeton. The jeton will usually get you up to 100L of fresh water or about an hour of electric (at usually 2/ 3A), the second rinsing tap is not usually controlled by the jetons.
In winter you may often find that the service point is unavailable as the water has been turned off as a precaution against freezing & you may have to visit several aires before you find one with the water connected or failing that you may have to find a campsite that is open.
Flot Bleu AireServices Artisanal service point (varies greatly)
Types of service point found at an aire (above)
FRANCE PASSION SCHEME
France Passion is a scheme that allows motorhomes to stay at over 2,000 farms and vineyards throughout France for the annual fee of 30 Euros (including postage), for this fee you receive a handbook of all the stopovers, a window sticker & a map. You are allowed to camp for a period of up to 24 hours but your motorhome must be self-sufficient. The scheme runs from March to March and the fee entitles you to stay at any of the farms listed in the Invitations Handbook during this period for a maximum of 1 night. This is obviously not the same as staying on a campsite, and may not have the facilities of an aire but it does enable you to stay the night in what is often a delightful location for a very reasonable fee. There are however some points that should be taken into consideration:
Although the handbook does list the facilities available at each participating farm, it is always best to assume there may not be any as unlike a campsite there is no requirement upon the farmer to ensure that the various facilities are available. Therefore always make sure the freshwater tank is topped up, the batteries charged and you do not need to empty your waste tanks during your stay.
Do not put up your awning as this starts to make the stay more like camping.
Make sure you arrive before nightfall and preferably no earlier than late afternoon, so as not to disrupt the farms work.
You cannot phone or make a reservation in advance, you just have to turn up and take potluck. On averages there are between 2 to 5 spaces at any farm, if they are all taken when you arrive, then you'll have to look elsewhere.
There are no further fees to pay other than the initial joining fee.
Any queries regarding the scheme will be answered in the Invitation Handbook.
Wild camping or Free camping (camping sauvage) is basically staying
at a spot other than a campsite, aire or other designated site i.e. camping where
you don't have to pay. Because of security problems in the past, camping at
motorway rest areas is not advisable. You are allowed to park on the side of
many roads in France, but you are not allowed to camp and it is illegal to
park near to public monuments or on public & private land without permission.
If you are going to wild camp, you have to draw as little attention to your van
as possible. There are therefore a few pointers to successful wild camping that may help you to avoid any unfortunate scenarios:
Do not put up your awning, or leave any camping items such as table/ chairs, groundsheet or bike around your camper.
Do not use external silver screens, which might hinder a quick exit from site.
Always be mindful of how you park, bearing in mind that you might have to leave in a hurry and would not want to be boxed in.
When you retire for the night, try & pack as much away as possible so that if you do have to move on you can do so with the minimum of trouble.
When you do park up, try & find a spot near to other habitation to give yourself an element of security if an alarm was raised.
Don't park where it is likely to cause a problem, what might not be a problem at 11.00pm, could well be one at 8.00am. We once stopped in a quiet empty car park at night, only to be awoken by the village market traders setting up around us in the morning.
Wild camping does have the advantage of being able to park in some beautiful spots, often completely on your own, but at all times you must be aware of the possible security implications.
DRIVING IN FRANCE
Traffic rules are, in fact, almost the same as in Britain with the difference being that in France you drive on the right and not on the left ("serrez à droite" means keep to the right). Be careful not to forget momentarily that you should be driving on the right, for instance after using a one-way street, a refuelling stop or at a T-junction.
An international distinguishing number plate should be displayed or a GB sticker as near as is reasonable to the number plate at the rear of the vehicle.You will also need the legally required equipment -- Headlamp deflectors, fire extinguisher, warning triangle, fluorescent jacket, first aid kit, and spare bulb kit.
You must carry with you the original of the vehicle's registration document (V5C), a full valid national driving licence (including paper section if it is a photocard licence) and a current insurance certificate (plus a letter of authorisation from the owner, if the vehicle is not registered in your name).
The road network is very well developed in France: nearly a million kilometres, of which almost 8,000 kilometres are motorways. There is usually a toll for motorways & the rate /km can vary between motorways. Upon joining a toll motorway you will pass through a tollbooth (peage), you must take a ticket by pressing a button -- when you exit the motorway you will pass through a manned tollbooth. Hand the ticket to the attendant and you will be asked for an amount corresponding to the distance travelled and the class of vehicle driven.
You will find orange emergency telephones every 2 km, parking and resting areas every 10 or 20 km. 24-hour petrol stations offer a basic maintenance service, and are located approximately every 40 km. Credit cards (Eurocard, MasterCard, Visa, Carte Bleue) are accepted as payment for tolls and at service stations.
The charges for assistance on a motorway are fixed by the Government. Since October 2005 the tariff for breakdown service and towing is 97€, for vehicles under 1.8 tonnes on motorways or express roads equipped with emergency telephones. This covers the cost of repairing the vehicle on the spot (up to 30 mins) or of towing it up to 5km beyond the next motorway exit.
A 50% supplement is added for assistance at night (from 6pm to 8am), at week-ends and bank holidays.
Motorists can only call the police or the official breakdown service operating in that area, and cannot request assistance from their own company if they break down on a motorway. The same applies on the Paris périphérique. On the Paris périphérique panels indicate the time needed to reach the next exit (Porte) taking traffic jams into account.
At peak times (7.30 -- 9.00am and 5.30 -- 7.30pm generally during the week), take care on the approaches to large towns and town centres: the traffic is often very dense. Some problems can also be found at "sensitive" places at the start of holiday periods (approaches to large towns, toll booths, etc).
Unless otherwise signposted and on dry roads:
· 130 km/h on toll motorways
· 110 km/h on dual carriageways and motorways without tolls
· 80 km/h on other roads
· 50 km/h in towns. Town name starts the limit, a bar through the town name is the derestriction sign.
On wet roads:
110 km/h on toll motorways
· 100 km/h on dual carriageways and motorways without tolls
· 80 km/h on other roads.
Speed limit of 50 km/h:
· On motorways in foggy conditions, when visibility is less than 50 m.
PRIORITY TO THE RIGHT & ROAD SIGNS
In built-up areas, the priorité sometimes still applies and you must give way to anybody coming out of a side-turning on the right.
However the priorité rule no longer applies at roundabouts which means you give way to cars already on the roundabout: watch for signs and exercise great caution.
1)Traffic on a roundabout has priority.
2)Main road - You do have priority.
3)Written signs include: gravillons (loose chippings), chaussée déformée (uneven road and temporary surface), nids de poules (potholes), déviation (diversion).
RAPPEL under a sign means a continuation of the restriction.
Parking in towns is controlled and there is sometimes a charge. Authorized parking spaces are shown by road markings (white dotted lines). Parking is strictly regulated in many areas. Remember that you can only park on white spaces; those marked 'Payant' are pay-for-parking spaces and unmarked spaces are free. Yellow markings indicate spaces reserved for utility vehicles and other markings (e.g. Blue Zone) for people with the relevant discs -- available from tourist office, police station, etc. Dotted yellow lines on the edge of a pavement indicate that brief stops are authorized (for dropping off passengers). Many parking spaces in major cities are regulated by parking meters that can be found along the edge of pavements. You can pay for between 15 minutes and 2 hours. Your ticket must be displayed clearly inside your car. In case of non-payment or parking longer than the time allowed, you risk a fine.
As in Britain, motorway service stations tend to be the dearest & supermarket petrol stations tend to be the cheapest. Motorway service stations are usually open 24 hours whilst other stations vary -- some remaining open but with an automatic booth -- payment is by credit card but be careful as often you will find that UK cards don't work in these machines. If you run out of fuel on the motorway then stop on the hard shoulder & phone 112 or use the emergency phone -- fuel will be brought to you but at a premium price.
Traffic wise, the busiest times on the roads are during the summer holidays, this means that the last weekend in July is about the worst period for delays & every weekend in August can also be very busy. The weekend around the 13th/ 18th of July is also one of the first weekends for departing holidaymakers & should be treated with caution.
FRENCH PUBLIC & SCHOOL HOLIDAYS
1st January - New Year's Day
· Good Friday (only in the Moselle, Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin)
· Easter Sunday 4th April
· Easter Monday 5th April
· 1st May - Labour Day
· 8th May - VE Day
· Ascension Day (40 days after Easter Sunday) 13th May
· Pentacost /Whit Monday 24th May
· 14th July - Bastille Day
· 15th August - Assumption Day
· 1st November - All Saints Day
· 11th November - Armistice Day
· 25th December - Christmas Day
· 26th December - Boxing Day (only in the Moselle, the Bas-Rhin
and the Haut-Rhin) FRENCH SCHOOL
TELEPEAGE - What is it?
If you ever use the autoroutes in France, whilst queuing at the Peage booths to pay & struggling to find the money, you may have looked on with envy at the lorries & cars that sail through the booths marked with a "t" -- barely bothering to slow down before their barrier automatically rises. This is the Telepeage system that enables motorists to pay the motorway toll charges automatically. Whilst this system was mainly the domain of lorries & regular users of the autoroutes, it is now becoming increasingly popular with "leisure" motorists.
How does it work?
Basically it involves subscribing to the Liber-t system & setting up a direct debit via your credit card or bank account through which the toll charges can be paid each month -- you are then supplied with an electronic box (transponder) that fits on your motorhome windscreen. As you approach the Telepeage barrier, the transponder is recognised by the toll booth, the box beeps & the barrier rises automatically to let you through. The system records on their computer each journey you make (where you entered & left the autoroute) & bills you accordingly each month. The transponder works throughout the entire motorway system of France & is currently used by over 2 million motorists.
How much does it cost?
The autoroute system in France is operated by several different companies -- each controlling a particular area of French autoroutes & it is possible to subscribe to the Liber-T system via any of these companies. Whilst the toll rates are the same as if you were paying cash at a booth, some of these companies offer discounts on their particular sections of the autoroute system -- it can therefore be more beneficial to subscribe to a company operating in an area that you use the most i.e. Calais. To look at the various offers go here
Is it easy to join?
Most of the motorway companies now accept UK credit cards & bank accounts & it is possible to apply either online or by downloading a form, once you have subscribed, the transponder is sent by post & it only requires to be stuck onto your motorhome windscreen. It is also possible to join up at some of the autoroute service areas. The various low useage schemes on offer are mainly restricted to motorhomes upto a GVW of 3.5 tonnes & with a height upto 3metres (Class 2).
Is it worth it?
The scheme shouldn't cost you any more than what you would pay if using cash or credit cards, the main advantage is in not having to queue at the toll booths. There is also the advantage of avoiding the delays in waiting whilst your cash or credit card is processed & in not having to be sure of having sufficient cash in case your credit card doesn't work. It is also possible to achieve savings on the toll rates as some of the various companies offer reductions on their particular sections of the autoroute system.
AIR QUALITY or CRIT'AIR CERTIFICATES
All motorists, including foreign ones, are now subject to a €68 fine if they don't display
their “CritAir” anti-pollution sticker on their vehicle, when driving in certain parts of France.
Stickers are already required to be displayed by any vehicles entering Paris, Rennes,
Grenoble, Lyon, Strasbourg, Annecy & Lyon. In 2021 they will also be required in
Clermont Ferrand, Marseille, Aix en Provence, St Etienne, Reims, Toulon & Rouen.
Signs on the road side will let you know you are in a Zone of restricted Circulation (ZCR).
However by 2021 they will be obligatory in some 22 towns and cities across the country.
The stickers indicate how environmentally friendly the vehicle is according to a colour
code, the criteria is based on how old and how polluting the vehicle is.
CritAir stickers are obligatory in these areas & those without one will be subject to a
€68 fine. For those who are heading to France this year and have just realised they need
to get hold of a sticker, you can do so by visiting this website: www.certificat-air.gouv.fr
Stickers cost €4.18 & can take upto 30 days to arrive, the website has an English translation.
Note that all motorized vehicles need one, including motorbikes and scooters.
The stickers are essentially aimed at cracking down on pollution, with authorities able to
ban the oldest and most polluting cars from driving at peak pollution times.
Note that in Paris vehicles that are classed “level 5” – the most polluting are banned from
driving in the city from Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm.
The city of Lyon has already banned any vehicles that have a Crit’Air badge of category 4
or higher with commercial vehicles displaying category 3 being further restricted from
1st January, 2021. The city is gradually increasing the area of its’ Low Emissions Zone &
it has now announced that it intends to completely ban diesel vehicles on its roads from
What colour sticker should I have?
There are six categories and colours, depending on the year of the vehicle's registration,
its energy efficiency, and the vehicle's emission quantity.
The stickers range from "green" for electric or Hydrogen vehicles, to a level 5 sticker for
the most polluting vehicles. See the list adjacent for full details.
FRENCH TRAFFIC RULES FOR MOTORHOMES
For motorhomes over 3.5 tonnes: 110km/hr on autoroutes, 100km/hr on duel carriageways (with a normal limit of 110km/hr), 80km/hr or 90km/hr on other roads.
Seat belts must be provided for all passengers & children under 10 must have an approved restraint that should not be used in a front passenger seat (apart from rear facing baby chairs).
Motorhomes should carry a warning triangle, fire extinguisher & safety vests for all passengers.
Over 7m long
On roads with more than 2 lanes in the same direction, vehicles longer that 7m can only use the 2 most right hand lanes.
It is not allowed to park overnight near to a listed historic monument or on the public road for more than seven consecutive days. Tourism tax is only payable for parking where a parking fee is charged.
Blind Spot signs
For motorhomes over 3.5 tonnes, stickers are required to indicate the 'blind spots' on the vehicle. See the item in the 'News Blog' for more details.