17 June 2010

Understanding road signs in France

This should be part of any pre-training for your cycling trip to France

Of course the road signs in France make sense, but they are different than the road signs in the United States. Upon suggestion I have collected them for display. (Every European is now terrified to think of Americans out on their roads). Study up Fans.

Directional Signs
Get used to seeing these go by (time and again) while driving traffic circles in France.
Oh, the choices ...

 The number of the road you are traveling upon, or need to transfer to, will be on the top of the road sign. You should aim for the large city down the road, most likely beyond your true destination. Be sure to review your map and know the direction of all major cities or towns around you. The Peage (freeway tollroad) road number will be in red. Sortie = exit! Sorties are not marked by a city name (as they are in the United States), but are instead numbered. Know your number. 
Read an additional blog post by PedalDancer.com about:
Understanding Autoroutes and Toll Booths in France

Traffic Circles
What does all this mean?:
  • In 100 meters you will enter a traffic circle. This traffic circle has 5 options to exit, important landmarks at each exit are labeled.
  • For the Peage (blue toll road symbol) and the Airport (plane symbol) - take the first exit off of the circle
  • For the tourist site Grange de Meslay continue in the straight direction on the opposite side of the traffic circle. Note: your car GPS system will tell you to "take the third exit" rather than saying go straight.
These are the basic How To drive road signs in France
The basic danger signs in France
If you happen upon an area of road construction and see a temporary traffic signal set up, always stop until the red light turns green, even if you see no one else around!

Red means danger

Accept that you will not be able to read all signs in one quick fly by

To interpret written road signs (French - English)

Other driving terms:

Aire de repos: rest stop
Allumez vos feux: Turn on your lights
Attention au feu:  Beware of traffic signal
Attention travaux:  Beware roadwork
Autre directions: Other directions
Barrière de dégel: Trucks not allowed
Chaussée déformée:  Bumpy road
Cédez le passage: Give priority to the other road
Centre ville:  Town center
Chambres d’hôtes:   Bed and Breakfast
Col:  Mountain passes
Fermé:  Closed
Gendarmerie:  Police station
Gîte:  Simple bed and breakfast
Gratuit:  Free of charge
Gravillons:  Loose chippings
Haute tension:  High voltage power line
Hors gabarit:  Road, bridge, or tunnel closed to vehicles exceeding certain dimensions
Interdit aux Piétons: No pedestrians
Nids de poules:  Potholes
Ouvert: Open
Péage:  Toll road
Rappel:  Remember
Route barrée:  Road closed
Sens unique: One-way
Serrez à droite:  Keep to the right
Sortie:  Exit
Suivre:  Follow
Sur: On
Toutes directions:  All directions
Verglas: Ice
Vitesse adaptée sécurité:  Adapt your speed for safety
Voie unique: One-lane road
Voitures: Cars
White Lines
White lines are used to divide traffic in Europe. Never cross a double white line. They are now issuing fines of 175 euros. You may cross a dashed white line if safe. If the dashes seem long, then you must pass at a slower speed.

Driving Tips in France:
  • There is no “right on red” in France. Cars entering highways from the right have priority unless marked otherwise.
  • It is illegal to use a handheld mobile phone while driving in France.
  • My brother always warns danger comes from behind in France, and he is correct. Look behind you frequently and always before changing lanes. Drivers will come upon you very fast from the rear.
  • don't hog the fast lane. The left (fast) lane is for overtaking only, not for traveling in.If you hog the fast lane, you may also be reminded to move over with a flash of headlights from the car behind trying to pass. Stay as far right as possible at all times, even the middle lane is used for passing.
  • every car must contain an emergency triangle and vest. These items must remain in the main part of the car and not in the trunk.
  • don't pull up too far into the intersection, be sure to stop at the line next to the signal. If you out of habit pull to the intersection you will no longer be able to see the signal and become a nuisance to the drivers behind you.

Priorité à Droite - right-of-way to cars entering from the right

This is a totally different concept for American drivers so read carefully. Cars entering roadways from the right have the priority in France, even if you are moving in your vehicle and they are not and you are on a larger road. All cars on the right have priority unless it is signed otherwise (yellow triangle). In America if we come to an intersection and both cars are stopped, the car and the right has priority. But in France all cars entering on the right have the right-of-way, and cars continuing straight must yield. I believe that survival of the fittest has prevailed over time in France, and cars will not blindly enter from the right when it is not safe. But understand that they can, and you will be at fault if there is an accident.

Almost all round-abouts (traffic circles) will be marked “cedez le passage” which means entering traffic yields to the traffic already in the circle (cars entering on the right do not have right-of-way in traffic circles). At traffic circles look left for approaching cars and do not enter the traffic circle unless it is clear to your left. Keep your left blinker on while in the circle, and turn the right signal on when exiting.

Study these signs well because they are not instinctual to American drivers. A gold triangle means you have the right-of-way, a gold triangle with black line means end of the zone where you have right-of-way. The default is that you do not have right-of-way priority and the car on the right does. These are not yield signs:
 Expressway / peage signs in France
 The bike signs you should recognize in France
*if you see a round sign, with a red border around a bike it means NO BIKES 
(it may not have a line through it. Do NOT enter that road on a bike)

Do not enter
 Watch out for road furniture on your bike (stay to the right)
Some of the most common signs I saw while riding a bike in springtime - Gravel and construction.
Sprint any time you see one of these! (City Limit sign, a tradition in cycling!)
(with the number of the road above the sign, but I think it should be the points you earn for the win)

Fore more facts and information about driving in France please read: Driving Guide to France