Road rules for cycling in France

Here are the road rules for cycling in France, according to the French Highway Code, or 'code de la route'.

Do you need to wear a helmet in France?

This official illustration from the Direction de la sécurité et de la circulation routières shows what equipment is obligatory under French road rules (in pink writing) and what is optional (in black).

It is only obligatory for children aged under 12 to wear a helmet in France. This covers them if they are riding or if they are a passenger. There is a €90 on-the-spot fine. The official government guidance recommends a helmet for adults but this is not a legal requirement.

NOTE: It is illegal to ride a bike or drive a car while using headphones/earphones.

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The Direction de la sécurité et de la circulation routières (DSCR) is the government body responsible for overseeing the implemenation of French road laws and the safety of French roads (see also here). It is also responsible for the 'code de la route', or the French equivalent of the UK's Highway Code.

The 'code de la route' includes a section on cycling and the responsibilities of cyclists using French roads. You can read the complete guidance here in French.

Note 1: These are the nationally accepted rules; there are some rules governing local roads that only apply in some jurisdictions – such as the 'turn right on red' rule that's in place in some areas of Paris, Bordeaux, Lyon and other cities.

Note 2: Some of these rules are more heavily enforced than others. For example, you will see below that only children younger than eight are allowed to cycle on the pavement. However, in reality, you will often see parents with older kids on pavements near busy roads. Similarly, I rarely see road riders or club cyclists with lights, bells or reflectors on racing bikes as per the official rules. (And in fact I don't have any of these on my bike and have never had any problems). 


Here is a translation of the official 'code de la route' guidance for cyclists.

Cycle in complete safety

Roads are shared by motorists and cyclists, which means that there must be mutual respect between road users. 

Cyclists, the same as drivers, must adhere to the highway code which guarantees the safety of oneself and all road users. To cycle in complete safety, all cyclists must have a well-equipped bike in good condition. Above all, cyclists must know and apply basic rules of road safety, in built up areas and in the countryside, during the day and at night. 

The equipment

A well-equipped bike in good condition contributes to your safety on the road as well as the safety of other road users. 

Obligatory equipment:

  • Two brakes, front and rear 
  • A yellow or white light on the front of your bike and a red light at the back.
  • A horn, bell or way of attracting attention.
  • Reflectors: red at the back, white at the front, orange on the sides and on the pedals. 
  • All cyclists (and passengers) on the road at night or in poor visibility, outside of built-up areas must wear a reflective vest. 

Basic safety rules 

In built-up areas

  • Cycle on the right-hand side of the road, 1 metre from the pavement and from parked cars.
  • Be bold and maintain your cycling line in the road if it would be dangerous for a car to overtake you. 
  • Use cycle paths where possible. 
  • Keep a safe distance of 1 metre from other vehicles.
  • Don’t zig-zag between cars. 
  • At junctions, pull slightly forward of other vehicles so that you can be seen. 
  • Be wary of car doors which can open suddenly and of children who can jump out from between 2 vehicles.
  • Don’t cycle on the pavement. Only children of less than 8 years old are allowed to cycle their bikes on the pavement. 
  • In pedestrian-priority zones, don’t cycle faster than 20km/h and respect the pedestrian’s priority.
  • In zones where the speed is limited to 30 and in pedestrian-priority zones, bikes can cycle in both directions. This allows you to benefit from a greater visibility and to avoid main roads and junctions and make your journey simpler. 

On the road

  • Don’t cycle too close to the sides of the road, to avoid ruts and gravel.
  • When cycling around corners, keep to the right as cars will only see you at the last minute. 
  • Be especially careful when a lorry drives past: the air vacuum might destabilise you and make you lost balance.
  • If you are cycling in a group, cycle 2 abreast or in single file. At night, if a vehicle wishes to overtake or if the circumstances make it necessary (narrow roads etc), then you should cycle systematically in single file. 
  • If your group is larger than 10 people, you should split into smaller groups. 

Don’t forget !

-       Don’t transport a passenger, except on a fixed seat on a bike. If the passenger is less than 5 years old, this passenger seat should be equipped with foot-rests and straps. 

-       At a junction, never position yourself at the side of a lorry or bus in their blind-spot. Make yourself seen. 

-       The highway code applies to cyclists as it applies to all road users. Any violation or infringement can receive a fine. 

-       In the case of rain, increase your safety distance and be careful when vehicles overtake you. 


Many thanks to Helen at the Alpine French School, which has courses combining cycling and French, for helping out with the translation. 

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