For members


‘Aggressive drivers’: Why cycling in rural France is becoming more dangerous

A new report by the French road safety observatory found that cycling-related deaths have been increasing in France in the last three years, particularly in rural parts of the country.

'Aggressive drivers': Why cycling in rural France is becoming more dangerous
(Photo by Jeff PACHOUD / AFP)

Cycling has become more dangerous in France – particularly in rural parts of the country – according to a recent report on road safety.

Published on January 31st, 2023, the report, by the National Inter-ministerial Observatory of Road Safety (ONISR), compared road accidents and deaths in 2022 to those in the three previous years. It found that there has been 30 percent increase in cycling-related deaths since 2019 (the most recent pre-pandemic year) in France. 

In 2022 alone, 244 cyclists were killed – a rise of 57 deaths in the past three years. 

Deaths concentrated in rural areas

It is the French countryside that has been most impacted, and based on the report’s findings, it may be safer to bicycle in urban areas than in rural ones. In 2022, only one person was killed on a bicycle in Paris.

Rural parts of France saw a 47 percent increase in bicycle-related fatalities when comparing deaths in 2022 and 2019. Of those killed in these incidents, many were over the age of 55 (38 percent). Serious injuries on country roads also increased by 22 percent for cyclists.

The ONISR had already pointed to the trend of danger for cyclists on rural roads in 2021. The Observatory found that mortality for cyclists was increasing at a rate of seven percent for urban areas, in contrast to 37 percent in rural areas.

In general, road fatalities have increased in rural parts of France – of all people killed on French roads, whether they be cyclists, pedestrians, drivers, or scooter-users – 59 percent died on non-urban roads. 

The President of the French Federation of Bicycle Users (FUB), Teodoro Bartuccio, told that there must be urgent action in response to the increased number of deaths and injuries involving cyclists on French roads in 2022.

Bartuccio told the French magazine that the organisation is “seeing more and more aggression from motorists, especially in the countryside where motorists seem to be the most intolerant of cyclists”. The FUB has therefore called for a road safety forum to develop plans to ensure the safety of non-motorised forms of transportation, like bicycles.

Why rural areas?

The report does not offer concrete explanations for why cycling has become more dangerous, namely in rural areas. One explanation that some have signalled to has been the fact that biking has become more common in France.

Florence Guillaume, the inter-ministerial delegate for road safety in France told Le Monde that the ‘concerning’ increase in deaths of cyclists “unfortunately goes hand in hand with the growth of environmentally friendly modes of transport”.

The report also noted that cycling in urban areas increased by 34 percent, and by 17 percent in suburban areas, in the last three years.

Rural parts of France have also seen an increase in cycling – up by 18 percent since 2019.

However, other countries have observed the opposite – as cycling increases, bicycle-related mortality decreases. In fact, the author of “The Power of the Pedal”, Olivier Razemon, told Le Monde that the presence of cyclists actually helps to slow down traffic.

“The more numerous they are, the more they lead motorists and motorcyclists to reduce speeds”, Razemon said, explaining that more bikes on the road push motorists to have to take into account the presence of bicycles and slow down.

This trend was seen in the Netherlands, where more people cycle than in France, but the number of accidents per kilometer travelled is lower than in France, according to Le Monde. 

As a result, others, like Thibault Quéré, a spokesperson for the French Federation of Bicycle Users, told Le Monde that high speed limits for cars may be to blame.

Quéré told the French daily that cars run at speeds two to three times higher than bicycles, and that the départements which saw the highest increases in road deaths for cyclists in 2022 were also those who had raised their speed limits to 90 km/ hour. 

“It is a completely lethal speed for cyclists”, Quéré told Le Monde, referencing the 90 km/hour rule. In comparison, speed limits in the French capital are typically kept below 30 km/ hour. 

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: How much will the new 30km/h speed limit really change Paris?

The FUB spokesperson also pointed to risky behaviour on the behalf of motorists – such as driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs or speeding. 

Meanwhile, some, like Mathieu Chassignet, an engineer specialised in sustainable modes of transportation, have noted the lack of bicycle infrastructure on regional and national roads.

“This is the blind spot in public policy,” Chassignet told Le Monde.

Nevertheless, the report itself did not offer any causal explanations for the rise in cycling deaths and injuries. In the Spring of 2023, the ONISR will reportedly release more details regarding the 2022 road safety report and the data used in producing it.

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For members


What to do if you get a speeding ticket while driving in France

If you suspect you have a speeding ticket coming after driving in France, here is what you should know. 

What to do if you get a speeding ticket while driving in France

In France, you can receive a ticket either by being pulled over by a police officer or from a fixed speed camera. In the latter case you will probably notice the flash from the camera, and there is a good chance you might receive a speeding ticket by post from French authorities in the coming weeks. 

For those looking for information about French parking tickets, click HERE.

How much will the fine be? Are there other consequences?

The amount of the speeding ticket (Avis de Contravention in French) depends on how many kilometres above the speed limit you were driving.

If your infraction is for under 20km/h in a speed zone where the maximum is above 50km/h, then you will receive a fixed fine of €68.

For speeding in an area with a maximum speed limit below or equal to 50km/h then your fine will be €135.

Speeding between 20km/h to 50km/h above the speed limit will also lead to a fine of €135, but you may be subject to point removal from your licence, and possibly a road safety awareness course requirement too. 

For speeding 50km/h above the speed limit, you can incur a fine (amende in French) of up to €1,500.

If you were ticketed while driving a rental car, then your rental agency may impose an administrative fee for passing along the ticket from French law enforcement to the listed address on your contract.

READ MORE: France’s speed camera cars: Where are they and how can you spot them?

What about points on my licence?

If you have a French driving licence, speeding violations will lead to points being automatically deducted from your licence. Keep in mind it may take a few weeks for this to process.

A French driver’s licence (permis de conduire) is made up of a maximum of 12 points – if you lose 12 or more points through accumulated offences then you lose your licence. You can check how many points you have on your licence by going onto the government website “Service Télépoints” (HERE). In order to access the service, you will need to have your file number and confidential code on hand. 

People who are either not resident in France or who are residents but are using a non-French licence face a slightly mixed picture when it comes to points on their licences.

Non-EU citizens who are resident in France need to either exchange their licence for a French one (if their country has an agreement with France that allows them to do this) or take a French driving test within one year of arriving in France. The situation for those with UK driving licences is slight different – full details here.

If you are resident in France and have not yet exchanged your licence, then you may be asked to do so when you receive the fine in the mail.

For non-EU citizens who incurred their speeding ticket while visiting France, whether or not you receive a point on your foreign licence depends on whether your country (or state) has a reciprocal agreement with France. Likewise not all countries have reciprocal agreements with France, so you may never receive the fine notice in the post.

Here is the sliding scale for points deducted for speeding offences:

  • less than 20 km/h – 1 point
  • more than 20km/h if the speed limit is under 50km/h – 1 point
  • between 20km/h and 30km/h – 2 points
  • between 30 km/h and 40 km/h – 3 points; driver’s licence suspension for three years; prohibition to drive certain motor vehicles for up to three years; required completion of a road safety awareness course
  • between 40km/h and 50 km/h – 4 points; driver’s licence suspension for three years; prohibition from driving certain motor vehicles for up to three years; required completion of a road safety awareness course.
  • more than 50 km/h – 6 points; licence suspension for three years, possible confiscation of the vehicle (if you are the owner); required completion of a road safety course. If you have more than on offence of speeding greater than 50km/h above the speed limit then you could be jailed for up to three months and be prohibited from driving certain motor vehicles for up to five years. Your vehicle may also be immobilised and impounded.

If you have a French licence, then you may be eligible for a point recovery courses (Stage de récupération des points du permis de conduire in French). You can find more information HERE

When do you have to pay the ticket by?

In France, fixed fines should be paid within 45 days after the sending of the bill. Typically, if payment is made within 15 days (30 days for online procedures), then you may be eligible for a reduction (minoré) in the fine. If the payment is not made within 45 days (60 days for online procedures), then the amount will be increased (majoré).

If you were ticketed while driving in a rental car, then the rental car will first receive your fine. They will pass along the rental contract to French authorities, who will then send you your fine by post. 

How do I pay the fine?

You can pay in a few different ways. First, you can pay online by using the French website Amendes.Gouv.Fr (HERE) – you will pay your credit or debit card.

Next, if you pay while the fine is still minoré (within 15 days) then you you can pay by a check. You can make it out to the Trésor Public (or the Direction Générale des Finances Publiques, depending on what is indicated on the fine). It must be accompanied by the fine you received in the mail.

You can also pay in person with cash, check or credit/debit card at a public finance centre, but you must do so while the fine is minoré. Cash payment is limited to €300.

What if I don’t pay my fine?

Throwing away the fine will not help you, even if you live outside of France and you got the ticket while on holiday. The fee will increase with time. For example, your original fine was €68 then it can rise up to €180 if not paid within the required timeline. If your original fee was €135, then it can be raised up to €375.

According to Euronews, recent legislation by the European Union has made it so that if you fail to pay a speeding fine in one country, you may be blocked from renting a vehicle in another EU country. Therefore, you should be advised to pay your fine as soon as possible, and within the required timeframe.

On top of that – if you fail to pay a fine that was incurred while using a rental car, the rental agency can also charge more administrative fees if they need to process and send more information to you. 

Can I contest the ticket?

Yes – you can appeal against a speeding ticket either by post or online. The appeal process used to be a lengthy one which involved sending a string of documents to the French Prosecutions Officer, or officier du ministère public, based in Rennes.

Technically, you can still choose this option – sending your appeal and supporting documents to the address in the top left corner of your ticket. However since 2015 it has also been possible to appeal online, and this process is a lot more straightforward.

EXPLAINED: How to appeal against a French speeding ticket