pedestrian crossing france

Crossing the Road (Without getting too cross!)

As part of my « survival in France » series

Crossing the road, so simple yet not.

This is a minor quibble, but seriously it would be a shame to come all the way to france only to squished on a pedestrian crossing…

First rule:

  • always use a pedestrian crossing
    • even if you see other people hurtling across the road, throwing themselves willy nilly in front of moving vehicules
    • this means nothing – NOTHING
  • one of those situations where one should not “do as the romans do”

first principle:

  • do not walk out onto the pedestrian crossing immediately
  • generally speaking cars in france do not automatically slow down when approaching a pedestrian crossing
  • if you are lucky, drivers will see you and look at you in order to assess your level of engagement (while probably speeding up in order to get there before you do)


  • this word is used in the french text below
    • manifesting your intention to cross the road

Personally, I am up for a debate on what that means.  Should I carry a “crossing-the-road-now-people” sign with me?  Is there a secret hand wiggle that every French person learns in a dedicated ceremony in their fourteenth year on a full moon waning?

whatever, here is my guide to self-manifestation

  • plant one foot on the big white lines
  • fix the windshield of oncoming cars with a winning smile and an I-mean-business expression on your face (which while stern suggests you are not anal)
  • as the cars pass by in front of you, continue to parlay gently onto the crossing
  • after about three cars go by one will probably stop, hopefully before it squishes your toesies

second principle

  • don’t be surprised if cars then continue to pass behind you once you have crossed one side of the road
  • try to enjoy the slightly disconcerting wind as the car skims your sweet buttcheeks
  • chin down and keep going

follow through

  • once you are engaged, i.e. in the middle of the road – cars will stop for you
  • whatever you do, keep going
  • Otherwise you will get stuck in the middle of the road as drivers will be impatient with your dithering

Personal experience moment

Good experience

While crossing the road, the driver waved me across vigorously and gave me a huge smile – then I realized it was a colleague from work and literally skipped across torn between the pure bonhomie and the satisfaction of a happy coincidence

Bad experience

Nearly stepped out after engaging, realized the car wasn’t stopping, stepped back just in time, looked in the window and saw the driver studiously texting on their phone

  • They hadn’t even seen me

Felt like jumping on the car van damme style and hanging onto the roof by my fingernails to somehow prove the point that drivers should watch where they are going.

Some backup info:


From an Irish Road Safety Website (god bless the innocence of that nation)

You must approach the crossing ready, willing and able to stop if a pedestrian steps onto it, so your speed must be reduced to enable you to do this. You must not approach the crossing so fast that you are not able to stop safely if you have to but on the other hand you must not drive needlessly slowly up to it. Sometimes simply easing off the gas pedal will be sufficient to allow a pedestrian more time to cross before you reach the crossing. If you have stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross and they appear hesitant and undecided give them time to make up their mind. Do not beckon to them to try or to make up their minds for them, also when you enter the zig-zag area you must not overtake the leading moving motor vehicle on the approach to the crossing or the leading vehicle that has stopped at the crossing to allow pedestrians to cross.


And from


Le Décret no 2010-1390 du 12 novembre 2010 (JO du 16 novembre 2010) introduit dans le code de la route de nouvelles dispositions relatives à la traversée des chaussées par les piétons :

Art. 12. − L’article R. 412-37 est complété par l’alinéa suivant : « Les dispositions du présent article ne s’appliquent pas aux aires piétonnes et aux zones de rencontre. »

Art. 17. − Le premier alinéa de l’article R. 415-11 est remplacé par les dispositions suivantes : « Tout conducteur est tenu de céder le passage, au besoin en s’arrêtant, au piéton s’engageant régulièrement dans la traversée d’une chaussée ou manifestant clairement l’intention de le faire ou circulant dans une aire piétonne ou une zone de rencontre. »

L’article 17 était auparavant rédigé de la manière suivante : « tout conducteur est tenu de céder le passage au piéton engagé […] » ; le conducteur est désormais tenu de céder le passage au piéton s’engageant, c’est-à-dire « en mouvement entre le trottoir et la chaussée, en faisant un ou deux pas sur le bord du trottoir ou sur le bord de la chaussée ». D’autre part, le décret introduit la notion de « manifestation de l’intention de traverser » : « ou manifestant clairement l’intention de le faire ». Ce peut être en faisant un pas soit sur le bord du trottoir, près du caniveau, soit sur la chaussée au bord des voitures en stationnement et en regardant le conducteur, et dans ce cas, le piéton s’engagera ensuite si la voiture s’arrête : c’est la consigne qui est donnée dans quelques pays étrangers[réf. nécessaire] et c’est ce qu’on enseigne couramment aux enfants en France[réf. nécessaire].

Un piéton « régulièrement engagé » doit cependant avoir évalué la visibilité ainsi que la distance et la vitesse des véhicules (article R. 412-37)[1]. Il ne dispose pas d’une priorité absolue comme dans une aire piétonne ou une zone de rencontre.

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