EXPLAINED: The new sign appearing on French roads

If you have been driving in France you might have noticed a new sign appearing on the autoroutes - here's what it means and what you need to do.

EXPLAINED: The new sign appearing on French roads
Image: Vinci autoroutes

Motorway operators have begun introducing new signage to remind drivers about a safety rule when driving on the country’s autoroutes.

The rule itself was actually introduced in 2018, but it seems that few drivers are aware of it – leading to the installation of signs on major routes across France.

This is what it looks like:

Image: Vinci

It refers to the ‘safety corridor’ law, which was added to the Code de la route (highway code) in 2018.

This refers to the rule that if a vehicle is parked or going slowly on the hard shoulder, drivers approaching in the right hand lane should slow down and switch lanes to the centre or left lane, if it is safe to do so. 

It was introduced after a space of accidents in which highways workers died while working on the hard shoulder, after vehicles travelling on the inside lane crashed into them.

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The Code says: “The safety corridor consists of a virtual barrier that all drivers must respect as soon as they approach personnel intervening on the side of a road.

“In concrete terms, when a vehicle equipped with special lights, or any other vehicle whose driver is using its hazard warning lights, is stopped or travelling at a slow speed on a hard shoulder or emergency stop strip, any driver travelling on the right-hand edge of the road must, on approaching it, reduce their speed in accordance with Article R. 413-17 and change lanes after ensuring that he can do so safely.

“If it is not possible to change lanes, the driver must keep as far away as possible from the vehicle while remaining in his lane.”

Failure to comply with this rule is a traffic offence and can result in a €135 fine.

READ ALSO The French driving offences that can cost you points on your licence

The new road signs appear in sets of three, around 300m apart, reminding drivers of the steps they should take.

Je ralentis – I slow down

Je m’éloigne – I am moving away

Je change de voie si possible – I change lanes if it is possible to do do

These steps apply only if you see a vehicle either parked or moving slowly on the hard shoulder – it applies to highways employees but also private vehicles such as a broken-down car.

READ ALSO French road signs – take the test

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France caps visitor numbers at Marseille coves

The Calanques National Park in southern France is limiting entries in a bid to stop its age-old rock formations from collapsing.

France caps visitor numbers at Marseille coves

Two popular coves in the “Calanques” area near Marseille, among southern France’s main attractions, saw visitor numbers capped on Sunday for the first time to protect their fragile ecosystem.

The coast between Marseille and Cassis features France’s best-known Calanques, age-old rock formations featuring steep cliffs, offering spectacular views, rare marine fauna and protected swimming.

Hugely popular with locals and visitors alike, they are often accessible only by boat or hiking trails.

Because the limestone formations have little or no topsoil, plants have had to take root in cracks between the rocks, making their hold tenuous and vulnerable to disturbances.

“The Sugiton and Pierres Tombees calanques have fallen victim to very serious soil erosion because of overcrowding,” said the Calanques National Park which manages the landscape of narrow vertical cliffs, inlets and beaches.

“This phenomenon is threatening the landscapes that we love so much, and bio-diversity,” it said.

Access to Sugiton and Pierres Tombees was limited to 400 people each on Sunday, compared to the usual summer daily visitor numbers of 2,500.

The new measure is to allow “the natural regeneration” of the cove, Nicolas Chardin, the national park’s interim director, told AFP at the Sugiton beach on Sunday.

Online bookings are free of charge, but anyone found at the beaches without a pass on capped days can be fined 68 euros ($72).

“Everything went well this morning, let’s hope it stays that way the entire season,” Mathieu Benquet, who heads the national park’s police team, told AFP.

However, many people — including several foreigners — had been turned away at the several checkpoints along the access path to the cove because they didn’t have the required QR code.

Some visitors, hoping for a cooling swim on a hot day, were unhappy about the new rule.

“We’ve been coming here for 10 years, it feels like our home cove,” said Younes Azabib, a 26-year old Marseille resident.

“We thought of everything, the picnic and the pizzas. But we didn’t think to book,” said his friend, Bilal.

But others appreciated the new-found calmness at the beach.

“This is great,” said Isabelle, a 50-year old Marseille resident who usually stays away during the summer because of crowds. “It’s finally possible to have a swim.”

Nicolas Ponsot, a 41-year-old father of three, also welcomed the visitor cap, saying “it helps to preserve this whole eco-system”.

The new rule is to be applied again next Sunday and then daily between July 10 and August 21, the national park said.