Motorbiking in France, our Top Ten Tips
So, summer is here, and you're planning to use your 30 days free EU cover taking a tour through picturesque France. Easy to get to, lots of nice riding and maybe a couple of cheeky vineyards on the way? Sounds great!
However, you need to make sure you don't fall foul of the myriad of French motoring laws which apply to all road users, as well as those which specifically apply to motorcyclists. So, flip the kick stand, settle back and read our checklist to avoid being collared by the gendarmes!
1. Remember the French drive on the "wrong" side of the road. This may seem obvious, but if you've gone for an early morning ferry it can be easy to forget, especially if the roads are empty and you slip into autopilot. Pay particular attention when starting out in the morning. I once rode for 3 miles along a road after leaving the hotel at 6am, and it was only when meeting a car coming the other way that I realised!
2. Both riders and pillions must wear gloves which carry the CE kite mark meaning they comply with the regulations for personal protective equipment. Riding without approved gloves will result in a fine and a point on your licence.
3. You need to carry your V5 Vehicle Registration document at all times when riding. You should also carry passport, driving licence and insurance certificate. The penalties for not having your V5 can be severe - you may be required to leave your motorcycle, or have it confiscated until you can prove it is yours by obtaining the V5 document.
4. You are required to carry two disposable breathalysers. This is no longer punishable with a fine but the requirement to carry them remains. Since they are small and cheap, there's really no reason not to.
5. You need a GB symbol on the back of your bike. Either as art of your number plate or as a separate sticker. Not having one gives the French police an excuse to pull you over and check everything else about you and your bike, so why take the risk?
6. You and your pillion must each carry a high-vis jacket or vest. They do not need to be worn while riding, but must be worn at the roadside in the event of an accident or breakdown.
7. You MUST disable any speed camera alerts on your GPS or sat nav. Penalties for using such a device can be up to €1,500, confiscation of your device and of your vehicle. It is important to note that French authorities can also send speeding fines to UK motorists as of May 2017.
8. Also, as of May 2017 and the cross-border directive, offences such as drink-driving, using a mobile phone, and ignoring red lights or stop signals are also prosecutable on UK drivers by the French authorities.
9. By law you don't have to carry a spare set of bulbs, BUT if you have a broken light you cannot use your vehicle – even to go and replace the broken light. So, on balance, probably best to carry the spare bulbs.
10. Priorité à droite. This is an old French law which give right of way to vehicles pulling out from side roads on the right. It only applies in certain places but many older French drivers still assume it applies everywhere – so stay alert for vehicles pulling out without warning… and if there's a car to your right, expect it to pull out.