Contrary to a number of social media posts appearing from nowhere today, French authorities have not suddenly clamped down on riders of two-wheelers in France. Not that the rule-makers across the Channel necessarily have a good reputation with regards to those of us on bikes and scooters mind you…
What has fuelled these ‘dramatic’ posts is that on 31stJanuary 2021 a five year experiment on the effect of ‘filtering’ (or ‘lane splitting’ as it is also known) on French roads came to an end. Recent sensationalised headlines (either lost in translation from French news reports, or deliberately written to attract readers and create reaction), suggest that the French have suddenly announced such activities are illegal and will be met with a 135 Euros fine and 3 points on your licence.
In actual fact, as The Federation of European Motorcyclists’ Associations put it, “Filtering – or lane splitting – was never officially regulated by French law, but is tolerated.”
As a result of the experiment in 11 French departments (regions) coming to an end, the reminder is to French riders that filtering is once again completely illegal all over France. So yes in effect, you could get fined for filtering. Or changing lanes by not indicating. Or riding in a bus lane. And like anywhere in the world, there are probably some areas where you are more likely to get away with it than others.
As for the experiment, FEMA reported that, “According to road safety experts, showed ‘disappointing’ results. CEREMA (the Centre for Studies and Expertise on Risks, Environment, Mobility and Planning), in charge of assessing the experiment, has submitted its report to the Interministerial Delegate for Road Safety (DISR). This report shows that the accident of motorized two-wheelers increased by 12% on the roads where the experiment took place, while it decreased by 10% on the other roads of the departments concerned.”
Marie Gautier-Melleray, Interministerial Delegate for Road Safety, said: “The aim of this experiment was to reduce the accidents of motorised two-wheelers by framing the practice of lane splitting in the departments concerned. However, the result is not up to our expectations since the ratio of accidents on the experiment’s networks compared to other networks has increased significantly in one zone and is increasing slightly elsewhere. A new experiment, with appropriate rules, could therefore be envisaged in order to ensure the safe continuation of this practice.”
As FEMA suggest, “a second, more in-depth experiment should include the widening of the geographical areas concerned, new traffic rules, an automated data collection methodology, adapted and continuous communication to perfect the education of all road users on the subject.”
According to the CEREMA report, the experiment has strengthened the knowledge about filtering, notably through the training of young drivers. The filtering by motorized two-wheelers with the rules of experiment, was well accepted by other road users.
French motorcyclists’ organization FFMC (member of FEMA) has been involved in the experiment from the start and was one of the organizations that helped set up guidelines for lane splitting. Eric Thiollier, board member of FFMC, says, “The behaviour and the safety records improved significantly during the five-year period of the experiment, showing that setting rules had a positive impact, although not enough to be satisfying. The increase in accidents could also be linked to the fact that more powered two-wheelers were lane splitting.”
FFMC also reminds riders that filtering will only work if everyone takes their responsibility. To help improve riders’ skills, FFMC have even made an instructive video (see below).
So filtering between traffic in France is still as illegal today as it was before the experiment was introduced five years ago. You can still get fined for it, and our guess is that you are more likely to if riding erratically and in unsafe conditions. As for the future, hopefully Marie Gautier-Melleray will get her way and another experiment will follow suit with more positive results. After all, if all those riding mopeds, scooters and motorbikes around the Paris Périphérique in rush hour suddenly stopped filtering and started to queue, the traffic jams car drivers already sit in would get even longer…