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The 18 cycling offences in France that could see you fined

The Local France
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The 18 cycling offences in France that could see you fined
In France there are many cycling offences that could end with a fine. (Photo by MEHDI FEDOUACH / AFP)

In France, bicycles are also considered within the country's 'code de la route'. This means that there are several penalties you can incur if you fail to respect the rules.


From having no lights at night to not using headphones while bicycling, there are several rules to be aware of when using a bicycle in France. 

Cyclists might not have heard of many of these rules and more often than not there is no police to issue fines. But there are in place and could lead to a fine. And it's worth remembering that they in place to protect the safety of cyclists so worth respecting them.

It's is worth keeping in mind that penalties in France are charged at the fixed-rate if paid without delay. However, if you do not pay within 45 days, you risk the fine being increased (majoré).

Fines range based on their 'class' (1 through 4, increasing based on severity) from €11 to €135.

It is also worth noting that some rules differ based on whether you are cycling in rural areas or in towns and cities. 

Cycling under the influence of alcohol 

You can be fined €135 for cycling with a blood alcohol level greater than 0.2 mg/l. 

Serious offences committed while cycling, such as hit-and-runs or drunk driving, can incur further penalties, based on the decision of the court. 

Running a red light or stop sign - Fine of €135

Failing to obey a red light when cycling is an offence punishable by a fixed fine of €135. This is the same fine that is applied to motorists. 

Although it's worth remembering that at many traffic lights in French cities cyclists are allowed to pass through when in certain directions if there is a sign (see below) that indicates it's allowed.

READ MORE: LATEST: How close is Paris to its goal of being a 100% cycle-friendly city?

Using your phone - Fine of €135

If you are caught operating your mobile phone in your hand while cycling, you risk a €135 fine. Keep in mind that you can technically use your device for directions, but it must be attached to the bicycle.

This is the same rule as for motorists - basically you cannot have your phone in your hand.

That being said, you can technically use it hands-free (like a phone call on speaker, or music played out loud).

Using earphones - Fine of €135

You cannot use headphones, air-pods or any other kind of earphone to listen to music while cycling. The idea is that you need to be able to hear the world around you.


Nevertheless, you can still listen to music using a Bluetooth speaker.

Helmets for children - Fine of €135

While adults are not legally required to wear helmets, the rules are different for children under 12. 

Children must wear a helmet when cycling, whether they are operating the bike or as the passenger. It is the responsibility of the adult transporting or accompanying the child to ensure this is the case and that the helmet has a 'CE' approval marking. 

Failure to comply with this requirement is punishable by a fixed fine of €135. 

Riding on the pavement - Fine of €135

Cyclists cannot ride on the pavement (sidewalk) in built up areas - the only exception is for children under 8 years old. If you break this rule, the fixed fine is €135. 


READ MORE: 'Aggressive drivers': Why cycling in rural France is becoming more dangerous

Reckless speeding - Fine of €135

This is also called 'speeding that is inappropriate based on the circumstances'. This might involve a cyclist technically complying with the stated speed limit, but going too fast based on the pedestrians present or road conditions.


Failure to give way to pedestrians - Fine of €135

Cyclists can technically ride in certain pedestrian areas, subject to signage. However, it is up to the cyclist to move at a 'walking pace'.

Similarly, in areas shared between cyclists and pedestrians (zones de rencontre), cyclists should not go more than 20km/h and should give way to pedestrians.

Going against traffic on a one-way road - Fine of €135

This depends on the signage. If the sign indicating a one-way says 'sauf vélos' then you can use that road. 

Technically, bicycles can go against traffic in areas where the speed limit is under 30km/h, according to Ouest France. However, if there is no signage present or the limit is 30km/h or higher, then you can be fined €135.

Passing cars on the right - Fine of €135

Cyclists cannot pass cars on the right-hand side. All passing should be done on the left and with proper hand signalling.

Using a bicycle without an effective braking system - Fine of €68

This is an important safety concern when bicycling - you could be fined €68 for failing to have a functional breaking system. This charge may be lower - some news websites and blogs list it as €11, though France's Road Safety authority lists it as €68.

Failure to wear a yellow safety vest (gilet jaune) - Fine of €35

When cycling outside of built up areas at night or on a low-visibility day, cyclists must wear a 'high-visibility' jacket (yellow vest). Keep in mind that this rule is not required in urban environments.

Failure to comply leads to a fixed fine of €35.

Changing direction without indicating - Fine of €35

Failing to signal before turning is considered a 'second class' offence, and it can lead to a fine of €35.

Riding with a passenger in an unsuitable seat - Fine of €35

Cycling with a friend on the handlebars or hanging on from behind you is a second class offence can result in a fixed fine of €35. 

All passengers must be in 'suitable' seats.

Speeding - Fine of €35

Keep in mind that this rule differs from the reckless speeding charge listed above. This simply entails going faster than the posted speed limit.

'Inconvenient' parking - Fine of €35

You must park your bike in reserved areas for bicycles. Some poles and street signs might allow bicycles to park there, based on signage. If you fail to do so, you could be fined €35. 

Using a bicycle without reflectors - Fine of €11

All bicycles must have a light-reflecting system for safety purposes. At night and on low-visibility days, your bicycle should also be fitted with two lights: one emitting a yellow or white light going forward and another light in the rear position.

These include:

  • One or more rear reflectors (and on the trailer if you have one)
  • Two orange wheel reflectors
  • One white reflector at the front of the bike
  • Two orange pedal reflectors

Using a bicycle without a bell or horn - Fine of €11

This is a first class offence. You must be able to signal audibly for safety reasons.


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Iain 2024/01/12 17:30
If only we had these laws (and had them enforced) in the UK!

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