Diverse Directions: Self-Guided Cycling Tours in France

French Rules of the Road

French highway numbers are prefaced with a letter designation. In France you should travel primarily on Departmental roads, which are designated by the letter "D." Because Departmental roads are generally narrow and often curve frequently, motorized traffic on these roads is typically light. Most French drivers stick to the National roads, designated by the letter "N" or the Autoroutes (expressways), designated by the letter "A." Though your route may occasionally include a short stretch on an "N" road, it will never take you onto an autoroute. On the Departmental roads, highway number signs are typically stone markers with yellow tops flanking the road and blending beautifully into the surroundings.

French road signs indicating distances to upcoming cities / towns are fundamentally different from the same type of sign in the United States. In France, upcoming cities are listed from the farthest (at the top) to the closest (at the bottom); this, of course, is opposite the manner in which Americans are accustomed to seeing distances presented on road signs.

Upon entry into a city or town, you will typically see a sign indicating the city / town's name and in most cases, the number of the road on which you are entering the city / town. We suggest you use these road signs to confirm you are on course. Similarly, when leaving a city or town, you will nearly always see the same type of sign, but with a diagonal line through it; this signs means you are leaving the city / town.

Also, upon entry into most cities and many towns, as well as throughout the city / town, you will often see signs directing you to local hotels. Directional signs to individual local hotels are usually grouped together. These signs are often all you need to find your hotel.

On roads where repair / construction is in progress, you will often encounter temporary traffic lights set up to control the flow of traffic in one direction at a time. It's important to note that red means stop and flashing yellow means proceed with caution. Don't wait for green, because there is none.

You will often encounter permanent traffic lights set up at tunnel and bridge entrances to control the flow of traffic in one direction at a time. These however, are standard traffic lights with red, yellow, and green. Therefore, don't proceed until you have the green light. Also, if you are the first to arrive at such a traffic light when it's red, move forward until you are adjacent to the light. Such traffic lights are often triggered by motion sensors; if you're too far back, the light may never turn green.

The French often use yield signs (which look the same as those used in North America) at points where Americans are accustomed to seeing a stop sign or a traffic light. When you encounter a yield sign in France, remember that the cross traffic does not stop! For your safety, treat yield signs as stop signs.

Finally, when approaching traffic circles, remember that you don't have the right-of-way when entering the traffic circle. Instead, before entering, you must yield to traffic already in the circle. Traffic in the circle always travels counterclockwise.

French Road Signs

roadsign

This sign appears in advance of all traffic circles (roundabouts.) Yield to traffic in the circle and then proceed in a counter-clockwise direction.

roadsign

This sign precedes most traffic circles, identifying the cities and points of interest for each exit from the circle.

roadsign

The bike sign is usually accompanied by other instructions. Follow them. This sign is pointing to the bike lane.

roadsign

Yield the right-of-way. Always be prepared to stop, since these often appear where the US would use stop signs.

roadsign

Typical road sign with highway number indicator on top. Autres Directions provides the direction of traffic for all destinations not specifically listed on the sign.

roadsign

This type of sign indicates the location of hotels, camp-grounds, restaurants, and other points of interest.

roadsign

Do not enter! The outside color is red.

roadsign

This is a typical street sign. They are often on the stone facades of buildings.

roadsign

This sign indicates the direction of traffic. Always follow them.