You’ll need to understand French cycling laws and what French road signs mean when cycling in France. In this blog post, we’ve summarised the key points for you. The cycling rules in France are simple, so have fun and stay safe! France has a well-deserved reputation for being hospitable to cyclists.

The Basic Rules For Cycling In France

Ride a roadworthy bicycle! Your bike should have working brakes, properly inflated tyres with good tread, a loud bell, and reflectors on the front, back, and pedals. The law allows for an €11 fine per bike, which increases to €33 if not paid within 30 days.

Use front and rear lights at night, and in low visibility, wear a high visibility jacket – a €22 – €75 fine if you don’t. Do not cycle two abreast after dark.

If there is a cycle path, use it instead of the pavement unless it is marked for bikes.

What Are The Cycling Laws In France Regarding Drinking And Cycling?

Cycling vacation guests frequently inquire about drinking laws and bicycles. In this regard, cycling laws in France are similar to those for motorists, with similar penalties. If you are blind drunk and endangering others, you will be fined – so don’t overdo your wine tasting! The official limit applicable to a cyclist when taking a breath test is 0.02 mg/l of alcohol.

Are Helmets Compulsory When Cycling In France?

Helmets are not required for adults cycling in France but for children under 12. Adults accompanying the child may face fines ranging from €90 to €135, depending on the circumstances.

The French senate proposed making helmets mandatory for adults again in January 2022, but it was rejected. Senators generally supported helmets. But then they felt that making them mandatory would send the message that riding is dangerous.

Adults are increasingly wearing helmets, and younger riders are more likely to do so, as a matter of course.

Listen Carefully

It is illegal to wear any device on the ear that emits sound, such as earphones, headphones, or earbuds. I can only imagine that Tour de France riders must be exempt!

Meanwhile, handheld telephones are also prohibited. If you violate any of these rules, a fine of 135 € will be put.

The number of people riding with earphones in any major French city suggests that this cycling law is not strictly enforced. However, if it resulted in an accident involving a pedestrian, I’m sure a fine would be imposed.

Who Is To Blame In French Cycling Law?

The main distinction when cycling in France is who is to blame if an accident involves a cyclist. In all cases, the driver of the larger vehicle (car, bus, or whatever) will be held responsible, and the driver will have to prove that the cyclist did something extremely stupid that resulted in the accident. As a result, 90% of cars that pass you provide you with a wide margin and do not push the limits, remembering that the law is on your side.

French Road Signs-The Important Ones

France does have some signs that are unique to the country. These French road signs have proven to be the most important when cycling.

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Mandatory Cycle Lane

This circular sign denotes the start and end of a mandatory bike path. Follow the directions!

Advisory Cycle Lane

A rectangular sign marks the beginning and end of an advisory cycle path or cycle lane. For your safety, the local council recommends using this lane.

One Way

Here’s a simple one. It’s a standard one-way street sign, but the text beneath informs you that you can ignore the one-way restriction if you’re cycling. This is common in many towns. In fact, it is the law (though not everyone in France is aware of it) that cyclists can ride up all one-way streets in the wrong direction if they are in a 30 kph zone.

You Have Priority

This sign can be found on many of France’s long, straight main roads. It implies that you have priority on this road, which is self-evident, isn’t it?

One of France’s most perplexing aspects of cycling law is the concept of ‘priority.’ Failure to recognise the following warning signs can result in some terrifying incidents!

You Don’t Have Priority

So, this sign indicates that you no longer have priority on the road – and you might wonder why that is as you cycle along.

This is where the fun begins!

Give Way To The Right

Then you’ll come across one of these signs. Crossroads or a junction?

It actually means that there is no priority at the next junction, but in practice, you always give some way to the right side- ‘priorite a droit’. So take this as a sign that you’re on the right track! Do not be surprised if someone ignores the sign; never assume the driver understands the importance of getting to the right junction.

Priority To The Right

As you enter towns and villages in France, specific signs mention this aspect of cycling laws. They are spelt out in BIG letters that prioritise a droit (give way to the right) in effect. The goal, we believe, is to cause so much confusion that everyone is eventually forced to cycle and drive more cautiously!

So, if you’re cycling in France and someone cuts you by coming out of a side road on the right —- before you throw your bike at them and start screaming, make sure you have priority in the first place!

Taking Your Bike On The Roof And Using The Autoroutes May Cost You More Than You Think

Here’s a pro tip if you’re travelling through France on the Autoroutes with your bikes on the roof of your car.

Pay attention to the toll booths, or your journey will appear to be very expensive! Here’s why you should keep reading.

The toll you pay is determined by the category of the vehicle, which is primarily determined by size. Cars are classified as category 1, vans as category 2, and so on.

The higher the category, the higher the toll on the autoroute.

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Watch Out At The Toll Booths

If you have a roof box or a bike on your roof and pay at an automatic booth, the automated system can consider your extra height and mistake you for a truck or van, charging you more. Even with a roof box or bike rack, a car remains a category one vehicle and should be charged at a lower rate.

So, to avoid paying more than necessary, take the following simple steps:

  1. Insert your toll ticket and make sure the screen readout says Cat 1 and then the price. If it does, don’t worry!
  2. If it doesn’t say Cat 1, press the help button, and the machine will connect you to a supervisor, who will be either in one of the booths or in a remote management centre.
  3. Tell them you have a roof box and only a car and that you should be Cat 1 – the supervisor will use remote cameras to confirm and will adjust the machine’s price.
  4. After that, you can pay as usual.

The key is to call for help before inserting your credit card!

Claiming Afterwards

However, if you came across this article after travelling through France and thought your tolls on French roads were exorbitant, pull out your receipts and double-check them. Suppose you discover that you have been incorrectly charged. In that case, you must send a letter to the address on the receipt, along with the receipts and a photocopy of your registration documents (to prove your vehicle), and request a refund.

So keep in mind:

  • Check the readout says Cat 1
  • If it doesn’t call for assistance
  • Change the category and enjoy your journey!
  • Spend the extra money you saved on a delicious French lunch!

Bonne Route!

Tips For Tourists And Cyclists

Cycling in France is a fantastic experience for novice cyclists as well as families who enjoy exploring on two wheels. You might think of it as a national sport. Travel through mountainous or rural France on a hot summer day, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that; furthermore, all you have to do is watch the Tour de France on television to see that.

Where To Go Cycling In France

The wide network of country lanes and secondary roads provides by far the most opportunities for relaxed cycling in France. France has 951,200 kilometres (594,500 miles) of road, almost all of which are open to cyclists. Cycling is an excellent way to explore rural France.

The vast majority of the network is made up of minor byways with light traffic and few and far between heavy vehicles. Cycling conditions on the roads are generally safe, allowing cycling vacations to be planned across the country.

Safer than the road network is the expanding network of cycleways, which, while not yet fully crisscrossing France, offers thousands of kilometres of dedicated tracks, with the most serious hazards likely to come from wildlife or pedestrians.

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Accueil Vélo

It is a French label that guarantees cyclists good service and a warm welcome. This label indicates that the accommodation, restaurants, operators, and tourist offices provide specific services for cyclists, such as bike garages, tools, bike washing areas, luggage transport, special menus, and advice.

In France, wherever you see an ‘Accueil Vélo’ sign, you can be sure of a warm welcome.

Bike Rules For Cycling In France

Cycling in France is an unforgettable experience. However, if you are not cautious, it can be costly. You must also maintain your bicycle. You can be fined up to €375 ($425) if you do not follow the rules of the road and keep your bike in good condition.

If you are cycling with the family, ensure children under the age of 12 wear a helmet, whether they’re riding their own bike or riding as a passenger on yours. You could face a minimum fine of €90 ($102) or much more.

One thing you must do is keep your bicycle in good working order. Yes, if you are in a French village in a stranded zone, you are unlikely to be hassled by a gendarme, but the picture will be different in the major cities.

Ensure the tyres are properly inflated and have plenty of treads, that all parts are securely bolted, and that the saddle is secure. That should all be common sense and, hopefully, your standard procedure.

Special Rules For Cycling In France

What you may not realise is that your bike must have working front and rear lights (this can be a reflective red sticker if only cycling in daylight), as well as reflective stickers and reflectors on the pedals. A bell or a horn must also be installed on the bike. In addition, if you ride at night or in low visibility, you should wear a reflective tabard or jacket.

Failure to comply with these standards may result in a small fine, so thoroughly inspect your bicycle before setting out for a ride.

Finally, make sure you have two strong locks with you to secure your bike while you’re out walking or eating.

Cycle Routes In France

Cycle route signs can be found throughout cities and rural areas. They are as follows:

  • Cycle-way: a clearly marked bicycle route, either on a dedicated path or on a minor byway.
  • Velo route: A dedicated cycle route with a smooth, tarred surface.
  • Hard surface: compacted graded hard surface: smooth cycling
  • Unsurfaced: a rural road or towpath with an old gravel surface.

Cycling Tours In France

Join one of the many cycling tours, hop on your bike, get a map, and head off down narrow country lanes to discover much about France that you would otherwise miss, not least a variety of small village eateries perfect for a ‘Plat du Jour’ halt… Just don’t overdo it on the wine.

Cycling holidays in France are becoming increasingly popular, with companies organising everything from routes to equipment to lodging.

Furthermore, there’s a lot to be said for exploring the rural part of France at a leisurely pace – and I do not mean a Tour de France pace. The value of being able to stop at a moment’s notice to take a picture, decide to take a break and have lunch at that charming auberge you just discovered, or simply relax on the riverbank with your feet in the water cannot be overstated.

Drivers – Be Aware Of Cyclists

If you’re driving around on the weekends in France, keep an eye out for cyclists. Individual cyclists or cyclists as a family out for an afternoon ride will always be encountered, as will groups of speeding cyclists on expensive bicycles preparing for or participating in local races.

That is almost always the case throughout the year. During the summer, you may see cyclists attempting to conquer the mountainous sections used in the Tour de France with varying degrees of success.

France On Two Wheels & Routes

While France is not as cycle-friendly when compared to the Netherlands, and some parts of the country have a distinct lack of dedicated cycle paths, cycling holds a special place in the hearts of many Frenchmen, as evidenced by the level of national fervour aroused by the country’s most important annual sporting event, the Tour de France.

On weekends in France, drivers on country roads know to keep an eye out for cyclists – either groups of speed cyclists on sleek bicycles preparing for or participating in local championships or races or just cyclists out for an afternoon ride. That happens all year long. In the summer, local cyclists are joined on the roads and cycleways by an increasing number of international cycle tourists, who take advantage of the opportunities for long-distance rides or circuits that France provides.

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Bikes On Trains In France

It is worth noting that bicycles can be taken free of cost on many trains in France, most notably on almost all “TERs,” the regional express trains that cover the entire network. Bike space must be ordered in theory when purchasing your ticket – but this service is not available online, according to the French train company SNCF. On rural routes in France, the most common practice is to purchase your train ticket at the station, indicating that you have a bicycle. Except for commuter services, TERs are rarely full.

The situation with intercity expresses, and TGVs is perplexing. Some accept bikes for free, while others charge; the majority of those that accept bikes have limited space, while others do not accept bikes at all.

The safest option is to purchase a lightweight bike bag. You can carry the bike as hand luggage. Bike bags count as regular luggage and are not charged or require a reservation.

Byways

The vast network of secondary roads and country lanes in France provides by far the most opportunities for relaxed cycle tourism. France has approximately 880,000 km (550,000 miles) of roads, excluding motorways, and nearly all of this network is accessible to cyclists. The large majority of this road network is made up of minor byways with little vehicle traffic and few and far between lorries.

Byroads through France is a great resource for cyclists looking to travel through France to the Mediterranean. This route will take you from Rouen in Normandy to the Camargue on the Mediterranean was designed for motorists, but the quiet byroads it follows are suitable for cyclists in most places.

The Main Cycleways In France Are Dedicated And Well-Marked.

It is now possible to travel safely by bicycle from the Channel to the Mediterranean, as well as from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean or the German border. See the table below for important route information.

Terminology:

Cycle-way: marked bike path, either on a dedicated path or on a minor byway

Velo route: or “Voie verte”: a designated cycle path with a tarred surface.

Hard surface: smooth cycling on a graded, compacted hard surface, but not suitable for rollers.

Unsurfaced: A rural track or towpath with an old gravel surface is typical.

Major long-distance cycle routes in FranceBrief description of the route
North-south route (blue):Euro veloroute EV1.
Atlantic coast cycle route
Route (Roscoff) La Baule to Biarritz.A nearly continuous dedicated cycle path from La Baule, at the Loire, to Biarritz. The route is almost entirely tarred veloroute south of the Gironde in Aquitaine. France’s most comprehensive long-distance cycling route.
East-west route (red):

Euro veloroute EV6.Loire – Danube cycle route
The almost complete cycle path from La Baule at the Loire’s mouth to Orleans. The surface is hard. Between Orleans and Digoin, there are some gaps in the Loire Valley. The route is nearly complete from Digoin to Strasbourg through Besançon and the Doubs valley. Much of the EV6 follows rivers and canals on former levees or towpaths.
East-west route (violet):Atlantic-Mediterranean route – mostly V80Route: Atlantic coast to Mediterranean coast.Tarred dedicated veloroutes from Lacanau or Arcachon on the Atlantic almost to Bordeaux’s Langon s-e. Then take the tarred veloroute “Voie verte du Canal du Midi” to Montferrand, which is 49 kilometres southeast of Toulouse. The route then follows the surfaced or unsurfaced canal towpath to close to Sète on the Mediterranean.
Northwest-France (green)Normandy and Brittany cycle routeRoute: from Cherbourg to Roscoff or Brest through Coutances, Dinan, Loudéac, Mont St. Michel, and the Nantes-Brest canal. The majority of this is on dedicated hard-surface cycleways, with the remainder on tracks or minor roads. It connects with the north-south tarred veloroute from Mauron to Questembert, as well as La Baule, through a mixture of dedicated routes and byways for EV6 and EV1.
North-south route (orange)Cherbourg to la Rochellethrough EV4, EV40 and V43Route: EV4 Cherbourg-St Lo, then EV40 Mortain-Domfront. After Domfront, take the V43 through Laval, Saumur, Niort, Parthenay, and all the way to La Rochelle. The majority of this is on dedicated hard-surface cycle routes, with the remainder – particularly south of the Loire – on marked cycleways.It is accessible from Ouistreham (Caen) as well.
Normandy (sky blue):Channel-coast cyclerouteEV 4Route: From Fort-Mahon beach, 50 miles southwest of Calais, to Le Havre via Dieppe and Fécamp. The EV4 Atlantic Coast Cycleway.Cycleways are mostly marked on small byways. There are many hills.

More Ideas For Cycling Through France

V16 London To Paris Cycleway

Route: Cycle to the channel port of Newhaven, then take the ferry to Dieppe. The route then heads southeast toward Paris, passing through Saint Vaast, Forges Les Eaux, Gisors, Arthies, Conflans Ste. Honorine and V32 along the Seine towpath to Chatou and Le Pecq. Cycling into Paris is not recommended for riders who are unfamiliar with city cycling. In Paris, however, there is a network of cycle paths. Find a venue to stay in the suburbs to avoid riding bikes in Paris. At Rueil Malmaison, 800m far from the RER (express transit rail) station connected with direct trains to central Paris, there is an Ibis Budget hotel with a garage. Cross the seine at Chatou to get to Rueil Malmaison. The Campanile hotel in Montesson is 400 metres away from the cycleway and 1300 metres away from the RER station Le-Vésinet-Le-Pecq.

North-South Route From Cherbourg To Provence

Route: Ride the route from Cherbourg to Saumur via St Lo and Angers. Then take the EV6 east, following the Loire Valley cycleway all the way to Cuffy, just southwest of Nevers. Join the new V70 Via Allier cycleway here, which extends all the way to Langogne, near the river’s mouth. It passes through Moulins, Vichy, Vic le Comte, Brioude, and Langeac. There is no marked cycleway after Langogne, but the quiet D906 road is downhill all the way from the route’s highest point, the Col du Thort, to Villefort in the centre of the Cevennes mountains and then to Alès. The V70 will eventually run south from Alès to the coast at Palavas les Flots, near Montpellier. But for Provence, take the Vézénobres exit and then take byroads all the way to Uzès. The V66 will lead you far from the Pont du Gard (Roman aqueduct) and then to Beaucaire on the Rhône, where it will connect with the EV 8 and EV 17 Mediterranean coastal routes.

Final Words

These are the main cycling rules, tips and routes in France. We hope this guide thoroughly helps you understand bicycle rules in France. Burgundy is famous for its wine, but it also has some of the best cycling routes in France. When exploring France by bike, there is 1,700km of cycle routes that are hilly without being mountainous and extremely picturesque. Make sure to follow the bicycle rules for your safety and also for the safety of the pedestrians and people around you. Don’t forget to learn what the relevant bicycle signs mean in France. Once your memory gets used to it, you will be able to explore France on two wheels safely.