You all know how much I love living in my corner of Forgotten France (hmm – Book Title?) but there is one thing that still infuriates me … driving! That’s a bit of a bind as just to buy bread we have a 25-minute round trip, while visits to the local administrative bodies, big hospitals and shopping centres are two hours’ drive minimum. Multiple vehicles are essential as if one breaks down we are still mobile.
Being on the “wrong” side of the road in British terms is fine. The vehicles are French so it would be awkward to try it. In fact, driving in the UK for me after all this time on the right, is a total nightmare. No, the problem is the old fashioned “priority always to the right” regulation. That, in itself, was fine when it was the only rule but you will note that I said “old” and not in any “good old” way.
Nowadays the rule applies sometimes. So we still find ourselves in the ridiculous situation of hurtling along a main road suddenly having to give way to a cart track that joins from the right and you can bet your granny’s false teeth that the people coming out of that road KNOW they have priority and won’t slow down or stop.
At other times, logic has taken over and the road with heavier traffic has priority, indicated by the joining road having the usual white lines, stop signs etc. Unfortunately many old folk still haven’t caught up with these changes and blunder across roads where they don’t have priorty which is dangerous when you are the driver of the car to their left but possibly fatal if you are on a motorbike.
We sometimes refer to roundabouts as “English junctions” because there the rules are give way to the left just as they are in the UK. We don’t like that – nasty foreign habit. So don’t be surprised if you are on holiday and the car in front of you on the roundabout suddenly stops to allow someone else to enter the traffic flow. Sorry, you are STILL not supposed to ram them up the rear, no matter how much the temptation. Usual rules apply about rear-end shunting.
The other bug-bear is cyclists who seem to have picked up on the Dutch idea that bicycles have priority under all circumstances and in no situation could an accident be deemed the cyclists fault. This leads to the nerve-shredding experience of a lycra-clad eejit shooting out of a tiny side-street to your right, ignoring stop signs and cutting across your bows while hurling abuse at you. In this case winding your window down and replying with suitable hand gestures isn’t just allowed, it’s mandatory. (I have even been known to catch up with said cyclist at the next traffic lights and explain the rules of the road while tapping on his bell-end shaped helmet and telling him it is highly suitable headgear).
This isn’t the law, just as in the UK, cyclists are supposed to obey the traffic regulations like any other road user, but this is France, home of the Tour de France where every geriatric who pads his bottom for a Sunday morning ride out with his mates thinks he is king of the road (and I’m not being sexist, they are almost exclusively male, females being much more sensible and only using their bikes for travelling).
So watch out for the signs on our roads … but don’t expect us to respect them.