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From speed limits to scooters - what does France's new transport law mean for you?

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From speed limits to scooters - what does France's new transport law mean for you?
The transport bill plans to move French transport into the 21st century. All photos: AFP
16:20 CEST+02:00
Regarded as one of the centrepieces of Emmanuel Macron's presidency, the new transport bill has now been passed by the French parliament, but what does it mean for people travelling around France?

It's had a stormy passage through parliament, but the loi d'orientation des mobilités - a €13.4 billion package of measures to improve both France's transport networks and its carbon emissions - has now been passed by the National Assembly.

So, provided the bill is approved by the French senate, what exactly will change for motorists, cyclists and public transport users in France?

Well the bill has 140 different articles and has already been through 3,500 different amendments but here are some of the big changes:

1. 80km/h limit on secondary roads

This is a biggie that has become a political hot potato. We've got a full look at the issue here, but basically the speed limit on secondary roads in France (mostly rural, single carriageway roads that are not motorways) was lowered from 90 km/h to 80km/h last year. The government said it was a safety measure but people in rural areas saw it as a way to make money out of them via speeding fines, and the limit became a major issue for 'yellow vest' protesters.

After months of pressure the government performed a semi climbdown and included in the loi d'orientation des mobilités a provision that allows local authorities to scrap the new speed limit if they want.

READ ALSO Is your département planning to scrap the 80km/h speed limit?

2. No more petrol or diesel cars for sale

The law sets 2040 as the date by which cars powered solely by petrol or diesel will no longer be available to buy in France. This only applies to new cars, it will still be legal to drive a petrol car by that date.

The law strikes a complicated balance between making transport better, cheaper and easier for people to use on a day-to-day basis and France achieving its green targets, which include being carbon neutral by 2050.

Both aims have a political aspect to them which make it important for French president Emanuel Macron that the right balance is struck. On the one hand it was an environmental measure - an increase in fuel duty - that sparked the months of sometimes violent 'yellow vest' protests that rocked his presidency. He and his ministers were accused of forgetting that for many people living in rural or small-town France, cars are often the only way to get about.

On the other hand, more and more French people are concerned about green issues and at the recent European elections the green party finished third - with many of their voters former Macron supporters who had become disillusioned with his presidency. 

3. Stricter rules on scooters and bike share schemes

The law introduces new road safety measures including extra video surveillance on bike lanes and sets out provision for local authorities to set up their own rules to crack down on problems with electric scooters or bike shares of the type that have erupted in Paris. The minimum age for scooter riders is now 12.

4. Electric and driverless car provisions

These technologies are both still being developed, but France wants to prepare for what it sees as the inevitable future of cars.

Among the measures to encourage use of both electric and autonomous (ie driverless) cars is a law that makes it compulsory for all car parks of more than 10 spaces in new or renovated buildings to be equipped with a charging point. The cost of installing charging points will also be subsidised. There is also the provision to set up special 'shuttle' lanes for driverless cars over short distances, for example between a station and a city centre.

5. The opening up to competition of bus and train routes

The bus routes in the greater Paris Ile-de-France region will be opened up to tenders from private companies, in a move that has stirred some controversy. It follows news that SNCF train lines are also open to bids from private firms. The government says this will result in better and cheaper services for passengers, but unions are not happy and there may well be more industrial action.

6. Reducing the cost of getting a driving licence

A particular bugbear for young French people, who fork out an average of €1,084 in order to become a qualified driver. The government wants to make the process quicker, cheaper and simpler and is also setting up an online registration system. Driving instructors have already been protesting about this one, with several rolling roadblocks on the Paris périphérique.

7. Bans on heavy polluting vehicles in city centres

From 2020 Paris, Marseille, Nice, Strasbourg, Toulouse and Toulon will create zones à faible émission (low emission zones) or ZFE. If air quality in those zones does not meet requirements the the most polluting vehicles (designated by the Crit'Air sticker scheme already in use in some parts of France) will be banned. Other local authorities may create ZFEs if they wish. 

8. Measures to promote cycling

The bill also contains the "Bike Plan" introduced last September, which aims to triple its share of travel by 2024. It includes several measures, including the creation of a €350 million fund to adapt roads. Rail operators SNCF and RATP are also ordered to provide secure bike storage facilities at all stations by 2024.

READ ALSO On yer bike! How France plans to convert commuters into cyclists

9. An airline tax

The bill lays out a possible contribution from the airline industry of €30 million, which will be used to finance other forms of transport. If this is not forthcoming, a tax on kerosene will be introduced.

10. A sustainable transport contribution from employers

This tariff will initially be voluntary, but employers are expected to make available a fund of €400 to be used to help their staff get to and from work in an environmentally friendly manner, for example installing extra bike storage facilities and showers or offering inducements for car sharing.

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