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Is jaywalking legal in France?

The Local France
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Is jaywalking legal in France?
Crossing a road, Paris-style... (Photo by AFP)

Of all road users in France, pedestrians have the greatest legal protections – but they are also expected to obey road safety rules.


When you first see a French pedestrian stepping out into a road – whether it’s a wide open Parisian boulevard, or a narrow, bustling street  in the centre of a centuries-old market town – you may well fear for them, their family, and their sanity, given French motorists’ fearful reputation.

But – and despite all available horn-honking, furious driver-gesticulating evidence to the contrary – pedestrians usually have priority on French roads. 

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

Failing to give way to a pedestrian in France is an offence that can lead to the loss of six points on your driving licence and a fine of €135.


Article R415-11 of France’s Code de la Route reads: “All drivers are required to give way, if necessary by stopping, to pedestrians crossing the carriageway, or clearly indicating their intention to do so, or travelling in a pedestrian area or contact zone [an area open to all modes of transport, where pedestrians have priority over all except trams, and vehicle speed is limited to 20 km/h].

“Failure by any driver to comply with the priority rules … is punishable by a class four fine. Any driver found guilty of this offence is also liable to the additional penalty of having his or her driving licence suspended for up to three years.”

“This contravention automatically gives rise to a reduction of six points on the driving licence.”

READ ALSO Driving in France: What are the offences that cost you penalty points on your French licence?

Although the docking-points rule doesn't apply to cyclists, they too are required to give way to pedestrians, provided the pedestrians are following the rules on crossing the road.

Yes, that's right, the legal protection for pedestrians isn’t absolute, and doesn’t mean they have carte blanche to cross the road wherever and whenever they like.

The fact is that jaywalking isn’t quite as legal as some pedestrians may like to believe.

The following rules apply:

  • Pedestrians are required to use a pedestrian crossing, if there is one within 50m. If the crossing has a traffic-light system for pedestrians, they must wait for the green figure to light up before crossing;
  • If no crossing is nearby, they can cross the road at any point, as long as it is safe to do so, and using the shortest, most direct route [this means going straight across, not sauntering over at an angle];
  • Where pavements are available and passable, pedestrians must use them. In the absence of any such pavement or sidewalk, or if the pedestrian is handling a large object – such as pushing a bicycle, for example – they can walk in the road, but must remain vigilant; 
  • Wheelchair users can also travel along the edge of the roadway, as long as they exercise vigilance;
  • Pedestrians are prohibited from crossing a railway line when the red light signal is flashing.

Contravention of these provisions can lead to a fine. But, in truth, it’s unlikely that a pedestrian will be fined for contravening them. 


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Pam Gully 2024/02/05 11:55
I don't recognise your description of French drivers gesticulating, or being boorish. Maybe it happens in Paris. Near La Rochelle, where I live - and this is true of Nouvelle-Aquitaine, as a whole - drivers are courteous. By this I mean that they give way to pedestrians, who want to cross any road without a zebra crossing. They let other cars into a queue, ahead of them and they give bicycles plenty of room. There are no blasts of the horn, when someone is slow to move on a green light and there is hardly any speeding, on motorways. It's very stress-free, walking, cycling, or driving, here.

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