19 February 2011

Priorité Pieton

9.5 km - 56.20 min, 9695 steps – cool, pleasant and calm.

At a fork where I turn left a small car with an elderly couple was approaching from the right. I was in their way and slowed down to let them pass, but the car stopped and the driver waved to me to carry on. I waved back with a smile and ran on. That's something unusual, in fact it may signal a big change.
From January this year new traffic rules are in force in France. One serious innovation is that pedestrians – pietons – now have priority when crossing roads. Before the change it was up to the driver whether to stop or not. Where there are no traffic lights, you had to wait at a zebra crossing for the car to stop and let you pass, the driver wasn't obliged to do that. Now they must, like in Britain. 

The difference is not just about road safety – last year in France nearly 4,000 people died in traffic accidents, while the latest figure for the UK is around 2,700. The change is also psychological, it's a democratic advance in the sense that it puts a restraint on the 'I am big and you are small, I can do whatever I like and there is nothing you can do about it' mentality.  

The new priority rule also means that people on foot may cross anywhere, even on the busiest road, if there isn't a crossing within 50 metres, and cars must stop. You bet.

I can see the change in towns already, but on the country roads I'd rather err on the side of caution.

Image: French governmental department

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