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Speed limits, scooters and car bans: What changes on the roads in France in 2020

Speed limits, scooters and car bans: What changes on the roads in France in 2020
All photos: AFP
A wide-ranging new transport law has meant quite a few changes to the rules of the road in France in 2020 - here's a roundup of the main ones.

From the start of 2020 the Loi d'orientation des mobilités – France's long-term transport plan – came into force.

Part of the bill set out blueprints for the country's future transport on roads, rails and in the air, but other sections included immediate changes that are now in force.

Here are the main ones;

Cars

  • Permission to scrap the 80km/h limit on rural roads. This has been a long-running saga with the introduction of a new 80km/h limit on rural roads (down from 90km/h) becoming highly controversial and a flashpoint for 'yellow vest' protesters. This part of the law is the government's compromise – the law gives local authorities permission to return the limit to 90km/h, if they can demonstrate that there will be no safety problems. So in practice this leads to different limits in different départements. Find out more about the 80km/h debacle here.
     
  • Systematic traffic restrictions during pollution peaks. These are already in force in Paris and several other cities but have now been extended via the Crit'Air scheme. On days when pollution rises above a certain level local authorities can ban vehicles from some or all of the city until the pollution level falls. Find out more about the restrictions and the Crit'Air scheme here.
     
  • The creation of more zones à faibles émissions (low emission zones) where the most polluting vehicles are banned. Again this is already the case in Paris – where diesel vehicles made before 2006 and motorbikes made before 2004 are banned from the city centre on weekdays between 8am and 8pm – as well as Grenoble, Lille, Bordeaux, Rennes, Strasbourg, Toulouse, and Marseille but more ZFEs are likely to spring up across the country.
     
  • The creation of an incentive package for employees who carpool of up to €400 a year. Companies over a certain size also need to offer incentives for people who cycle to work.
     
  • Any new or renovated building with a car park with more than 10 spaces must provide a charging point for electric cars
     
  • Takeaway outlets which sell alcohol must also offer breathalyser tests for sale.
     
  • Ending the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040.

Not related to the Loi d'orientation des mobilités but worth mentioning is the cancellation of the – never fully enforced – rule that drivers in France must carry a breathalyser kit in their car. Read more about this confusing non-law here.

Bikes

Cycle training is to be rolled out in all schools in an attempt to improve safety

The law will encourage (but not make compulsory) the development of more bike lanes in cities and to improve bike storage facilities at bus and train stations and in new buildings

Electric scooters

Previously the electric scooter so commonly seen in French cities had occupied a grey area in law, but the new law officially includes them in the highway code and obliges scooter users to abide by a similar set of rules to those that already cover cyclists. These include;

  • A 25km/h speed limit. In fact many of the dockless rental scooters in cities like Paris are already restricted as to how fast they can go, but this bill adopts a nationwide limit for all scooters – rented or privately owned. People who own their own scooter need to make sure that their machine is restricted to a top speed of 25 km/h. The penalty for speeding or an unrestricted machine is a maximum fine of €1,500.
     
  • An age restriction. Only people aged over 12 years old or over can ride a scooter on the highway
     
  • No passengers. It's a common sight to see two or even more people sharing the same scooter, but the law now states that their use is to be 'exclusively personal'. This will also put an end to the practice of parents having one or more child riding on their electric scooter. 

     
  • No earphones. As with cyclists, it is forbidden for scooter riders to be listening to music or podcasts as they travel. The three above offences are all punishable with a €35 fine.
     
  • Major roads ban. Scooters can only travel on roads with a speed limit of 50km/h or lower. So the days of seeing scooters on the Paris périphérique should be over.
     
  • Pavement ban. Several cities including Paris have already brought in local laws on this, but the new law forbids scooters from being ridden on the pavement. It does, however, contain a clause that says local mayors can overturn this ban in their area if the pavements are sufficiently wide. Outside urban areas scooters are restricted to cycle paths. This is punishable by a €135 fine.
     
  • Parking rules. The law does not ban parking scooters on the pavement, providing pedestrians are not disturbed. However users in Paris should be aware that local bylaws already prohibit this.
     
  • No helmet requirement. The law does not make helmets or reflective clothing at night mandatory in urban areas, only outside the cities. All scooters must however be equipped with front and rear lights, reflectors and a horn.

 

 

 


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