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LIVING IN FRANCE

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

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?

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

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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LIVING IN FRANCE

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer's here and the time is right for national celebrations, traffic jams, strikes, Paris beaches, and ... changing the rules for new boilers.

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer holidays

The holiday season in France officially begins on Thursday, July 7th, as this is the date when school’s out for the summer. The weekend immediately after the end of the school year is expected to be a busy one on the roads and the railways as families start heading off on vacation.

READ ALSO 8 things to know about driving in France this summer

Strikes

But it wouldn’t really be summer in France without a few strikes – airport employees at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports will walk out on July 1st, while SNCF rail staff will strike on July 6th. Meanwhile Ryanair employees at Paris, Marseille and Toulouse airports will strike on yet-to-be-confirmed dates in July.

READ ALSO How strikes and staff shortages will affect summer in France

Parliamentary fireworks?

Prime minister Elisabeth Borne will present the government’s new programme in parliament on July 5th – this is expected to be a tricky day for the Macron government, not only does it not have the parliamentary majority that it needs to pass legislation like the new package of financial aid to help householders deal with the cost-of-living crisis, but opposition parties have indicated that they will table a motion of no confidence against Borne.

Parliament usually breaks for the summer at the end of July, but a special extended session to allow legislation to be passed means that MPs won’t get to go on holiday until at least August 9th. 

Fête nationale

July 14th is a public holiday in France, commemorating the storming of the Bastille which was the symbolic start of the French Revolution. As usual, towns and cities will host parades and fireworks – with the biggest military parade taking place on the Champs-Elysées in Paris – and many stores will remain closed.

As the national holiday falls on a Thursday this year, many French workers will take the opportunity to faire le pont.

Festival season really kicks in

You know summer’s here when France gets festival fever, with events in towns and cities across the country. You can find our pick of the summer celebrations here.

Paris Plages

The capital’s popular urban beaches return on July 9th on the banks of the Seine and beside the Bassin de la Villette in northern Paris, bringing taste of the seaside to the capital with swimming spots, desk chairs, beach games and entertainment.  

Summer sales end 

Summer sales across most of the country end on July 19th – unless you live in Alpes-Maritimes, when they run from July 6th to August 2nd, or the island of Corsica (July 13th to August 9th).

Tour de France

The Tour de France cycle race sets off on July 1st from Copenhagen and finishes up on the Champs-Elysée in Paris on July 24th.

New boilers

From July 1st, 2022, new equipment installed for heating or hot water in residential or professional buildings, must comply with a greenhouse gas emissions ceiling of 300 gCO2eq/KWh PCI. 

That’s a technical way of saying oil or coal-fired boilers can no longer be installed. Nor can any other type of boiler that exceeds the ceiling.

As per a decree published in the Journal Officiel in January, existing appliances can continue to be used, maintained and repaired, but financial aid of up to €11,000 is planned to encourage their replacement. 

Bike helmets

New standards for motorbike helmets come into effect from July 1st. Riders do not need to change their current helmets, but the “ECE 22.05” standard can no longer be issued – and all helmets sold must adhere to a new, more stringent “ECE 22.06” standards from July 2024

New cars

From July 6th new car models must be equipped with a black box that record driving parameters such as speed, acceleration or braking phases, wearing (or not) of a seat belt, indicator use, the force of the collision or engine speed, in case of accidents.

New cars II

From July 1st, the ecological bonus for anyone who buys an electric vehicle drops by €1,000, while rechargeable hybrids will be excluded from the aid system, “which will be reserved for electric vehicles whose CO2 emission rate is less than or equal to 20g/km”.

What’s in a name?

Historically, the French have been quite restrictive on the use of family names – remember the concern over the use of birth names on Covid vaccine documents? – but it becomes easier for an adult to choose to bear the name of his mother, his father, or both by a simple declaration to the civil status. All you have to do is declare your choice by form at the town hall of your home or place of birth.

Eco loans

In concert with the new boiler rules, a zero-interest loan of up to €30,000 to finance energy-saving renovations can be combined with MaPrimeRénov’, a subsidy for financing the same work, under certain conditions, from July 1st.

Rent rules

Non-professional private landlords advertising properties for rent must, from July 1st, include specific information about the property on the ad, including the size of the property in square metres, the area of town in which the property is in, the monthly rent and any supplements, whether the property is in a rent-control area, and the security deposit required. Further information, including the full list of requirements for any ad, is available here.

Perfume ban

More perfumes are to be added to a banned list for products used by children, such as soap-making kits, cosmetic sets, shampoos, or sweet-making games, or toys that have an aroma.

Atranol, chloroatranol (extracts of oak moss containing tannins), and methyl carbonate heptin, which smells like violets, will be banned from July 5th, because of their possible allergenic effects.

Furthermore, 71 new allergenic fragrances – including camphor, menthol, vanilin, eucalyptus spp. leaf oil, rose flower oil, lavendula officinalis, turpentine – will be added to the list of ingredients that must be clearly indicated on a toy or on an attached label.

Ticket resto limits

The increased ticket resto limit ended on June 30th, so from July 1st employees who receive the restaurant vouchers will once again be limited to spending €19 per day in restaurants, cafés and bars. The limit was increased to €38 during the pandemic, when workers were working from home.

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