Motorcycles in France

Mopeds and other motorbikes

Motorcycles in France

The French are keen motorcyclists and there are more bikers per head of population in France than in any other European country, although there’s only one French motorbike manufacturer.

Perhaps for this reason, the French aren’t generally prejudiced against bikers, as motorists are in many other countries. Nevertheless, motorcycling is a dangerous pursuit: over 20 per cent of road casualties are motorcyclists and, over the same distance, a motorcyclist is 14 times as likely to have an accident than a car driver (although one has to wonder whether this is due to intrinsic dangers of motorcycle riding or to the way most motorcyclists flout the rules of the road ...)

Some rules apply to all motorcycles (collectively known as deux-roues); others apply to certain types of motorcycle only. Speed limits for all motorcycles are the same as for cars – although you wouldn’t think so. Third party insurance is always necessary, as well as passenger insurance. All bikes must also be registered, have registration plates and carry a nationality sticker ( plaque de nationalité).

Approved crash helmets must be worn by all motorcycle riders and passengers. Motorcycles above 50cc are permitted to use motorways (tolls are lower than for cars, although the cost of a long journey can still be considerable). Dipped headlamps must be used at all times by riders of motorcycles over 125cc (see also below).

When parking a bike in a city, lock it securely and if possible chain it to an immovable object. Take extra care when parking in a public place overnight, particularly in Paris, where bike theft is rife.

Mopeds

From the age of 14, children can ride a moped (variously known as a cyclomoteur, scooter, vélomoteur or Mobylette, the last being a trade name) with an engine capacity below 50cc capable of a maximum speed of 45kph (28mph) – despite the contorsions of riders attempting to eke an extra kph or two from their machines.

Mopeds must be registered and riders without a full licence must take a test ( brevet de sécurité routière/BSR) consisting of a theory paper ( attestation scolaire de sécurité routière/ ASSR1), taken at school, and five hours of practical training, four and a half of which must be on public roads, with a driving school (at a cost of around €75). Third-party insurance is necessary, and a metal tab with the owner’s name ( plaque de nom) must be attached to the handlebars.

Mopeds aren’t permitted on motorways, and riders must use cycle paths where provided. Two-stroke petrol ( mélange deux-temps) is available at most petrol stations, although an electric version of the classic Solex (last manufactured in the 1980s, although imitations are still built), known as the E-solex, may be available in the near future.

Mopeds can be lethal in the wrong hands (most teenagers have as much road sense as hedgehogs and rabbits) and hundreds are killed each year. If you have a child with a moped, it’s important to impress upon him the need to take care (particularly in winter) and not take unnecessary risks, e.g. always observe traffic signs and signal before making manoeuvres.

Other Motorbikes

Sixteen-year-olds can ride a motorcycle of up to 125cc (officially known as a moto légère), for which they require a licence A1. The requisite theory test, the ASSR2, can be taken at school. Eighteen-year-olds can begin ‘progessive training’ ( formation progressive) for a full motorcycle ( motocyclette or moto) licence ( A), although they’re limited to bikes below 34 horsepower until the age of 21.

If you aren’t at school, you can take an attestation de sécurité routière ( ASR), which takes the place of the ASSR1 and 2, through an adult education provider such as GRETA. A car licence ( B) entitles you to ride a motorcycle of up to 125cc, provided you’ve been driving for at least two years (although you must retake the theory exam if you’ve held a licence for more than five years without riding a motorcycle). However, it’s recommended that you take a course of riding lessons with a moto-école, which costs around €300.

This article is an extract from Living and working in France. Click here to get a copy now.

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Other comments

  • Keith Read, 06 March 2010 Reply

    Flouting Rules of the Road?

    I take exception at your statement:

    "... although one has to wonder whether this is due to intrinsic dangers of motorcycle riding or to the way most motorcyclists flout the rules of the road ... "

    I've been riding bikes regularly for over 40 years (as well as driving cars) and while it's true that some motorcyclists flout the law, so do many, many car drivers. In my experience, as a general rule a MUCH higher proportion of motorcyclist drive with care and attention than does the average car driver - we have to to stay alive! It is also still true that in most accidents involving the two types of vehicle, statistically the car driver is most often at fault (the I didn't see you syndrone being most common) and the bike rider most often injured as a result.

    So to write in a disparaging way like this is at best mis-informed, at worst it's blatantly prejudiced and not appropriate on a web site such as this.

    Again, in my experience and despite a higher national accident rate than the UK, the average French car driver is much more enlightened and aware of their fellow two wheeled travelers and certainly far less judgemental.

  • Keith Read, 06 March 2010 Reply

    Motorcycling Prejudice

    Again, the following statement is just opinion:

    "Speed limits for all motorcycles are the same as for cars – although you wouldn’t think so."

    Comments like this are just blind prejudice and completely inappropriate on a web site such as this.

    They are very insulting to the many motorcyclist who take their riding very seriously and also drive cars. You would be well advised to take a look at the antics of many car drivers as they drive along oblivious to the world outside their four wheels, as they text or chat on their mobiles, listen to loud music and generally ignore the wellfare of other road users.

    But, of course they're in the majority so must obviously be right!

    The reality is that care and attention, adherance to good practice and general attention to the "rules of the road" are not the exclusive province of four wheel drivers.

    You really should be more responsible than this.

    • Steve Pritchard 01 Feb 2012, 01:35

      Motorcyclists flouting the law

      I agree with the above 2 comments, this is pure prejudice. I ride bikes and drive cars for 30+ years, so again we know the truth.
      Bikes accelerate much faster than cars and to the car driver still sat at the traffic lights, the bike seems to be going much faster than it is. But to reiterate previous posts, the car driver is more often than not at fault when it comes to collision between bike and car. The "A" post being a great hider of motorcycles and of course the average car driver thinks if he can't see it, it isn't there.
      The writer and editor of this page need to remove their personal views and stick to writing fact