Why being a pedestrian in Paris is a high-risk activity

Why being a pedestrian in Paris is a high-risk activity
Pedestrian crossing rules seem to be a challenge for many drivers in Paris. Photo: AFP
Thousands of Parisians have signed a safety petition in memory of a schoolgirl killed while crossing the road, a tragic case that has highlighted the risks pedestrians face in the capital.

In 2018, 4,177 pedestrians were injured in Paris – 19 fatally – and in 2019 16 pedestrians died including the 11-year-old girl who was hit by a van as she crossed the road in western Paris.

Those figures will probably not come as a surprise to anyone who spends a fair amount of time walking in the capital, where it often seems that stepping out on to a pedestrian crossing is the beginning of a game of chicken.

VIDEO of Paris driver in road rage attack on blind pedestrian goes viral

Drivers must give way to pedestrians already on the crossing. Photo: AFP

And as a pedestrian in Paris it's not just the drivers you need to worry about – cyclists and moped riders are, if anything, worse. And there's no escape on the pavements (or sidewalks as our North American readers would say) either where you're just as likely to be forced to leap out of the way of an electric scooter or bike.

Riding scooters, bikes or mopeds on the pavements is illegal, but that message doesn't seem to have filtered through and it pays to have your wits about you at all times.

Then there's the less dangerous but still annoying hazards – vehicles parked any old how all over the pavement, cluttered street furniture and the ubiquitous dog poo.


In fact a group of Parisians were so annoyed at the behaviour of scooter riders that they have created a Twitter account – Ras le Scoot (fed up of scooters) – for people to post pictures and video of some of the most ridiculous behaviour by scooter and moped riders.

READ ALSO Riding on the pavement, blocking cyclists – the tweets that show why Parisians are fed up with scooter riders

All of which makes walking in Paris something of a challenge even for fit active people – never mind the elderly, disabled, wheelchair users and people pushing buggies.

Which is a shame because it's a beautiful city really best seen on foot, and at a very compact 10km from east to west, the majority of things are within walking distance.

Believe it or not, there are actually quite strict rules for cars and other road users giving way to pedestrians, including

  • A driver must stop for a pedestrian who is already on a pedestrian crossing, or who is waiting with a clear intention to cross. If the pedestrian crossing is traffic light controlled then obviously the driver must also stop if their light is red – punishable by a €135 fine and six points on your driving licence if you don't
  • Electric scooters, bikes and motorbikes cannot be ridden on the pavement – €135 fine
  • Cars and mopeds or motorbikes cannot be ridden in cycle lanes – €135 fine
  • Cyclists cannot run a red light at a pedestrian crossing – €135 fine
  • Using a phone or headphones on a bike is illegal – €135 fine
  • Having more than one person on a bike or electric scooter is illegal – €35

And there is a rule for pedestrians too – it's illegal to jaywalk if there is a crossing less than 50m away. If you're guilty of this you can be fined the princely sum of €4.

But having rules and actually enforcing them is a different thing and although more and more pedestrian crossings are being equipped with cameras so drivers who run a red light can be fined, it's pretty rare to see aggressive cyclists or dodgy drivers pulled over.


The most dangerous areas in Paris to be a pedestrian (infographic from Le Parisien @LeParisienInfog)

Chantal Perrichin, who runs the safety group Ligue contre la violence routière (league against road violence) is calling for a crackdown on anti-social road users.

She told Le Parisien – as part of the paper's 'Pedestrians at Risk' series: “The place of pedestrians on pavements is under threat, especially with the multiplication of modern machines, such as scooters.

“Even when pedestrians cross the road with the green light, cars pass.

“In large cities, every two or three minutes, there are motorists who risk six points by denying priority to pedestrians.

“We need to launch a vast communication campaign on bad behaviour.
“But we know that this is not enough. We need more controls in the streets, including calling on the municipal police. We can make all the laws in the world, but they will be useless without controls.” 
The recent weeks of transport strikes have seen more people getting about on foot, but it seems that frustrated drivers and stressed-out cyclists are getting worse in their behaviour towards pedestrians.
Chantal Perrichin warns that the crackdown needs to happen now before these behaviours become habits.

Member comments

  1. OK, so how does it work if a) there’s a traffic list with a pedestrian crossing, and b) the light is green for cars? In the USA, the pedestrian has to wait until THEY get a green light…

  2. I visit every year almost. And I walk, alot, like everyone else. Comming from the USA I think your drvers are as good if not better than ours in many cases. Drivers have been very good at allowing pedestrians cross the streets, especially in central Paris. Having ridden with an american driver who was trying to drive through the Place de la Concorde, I almost freaked out because he had no idea what he was doing there! And a worse spot is the Place de Etoile, give me a heart attack with a non Parisian driver. So personally I thnik your drivers are pretty good.

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