A guide to French roundabouts

On this trip I'll be going through a bit of France and driving in France is mostly fairly benign when compared to the more excitable nature of our southern European brethren - looking at you here Spain and Italy. The average French person however is not overly endowed with driving ability and despite their lovely smooth empty roads which pretty much always put our congested and pot-hole ridden strips of crumbling tarmac to shame, they then let French people loose on them. Nothing embodies the French approach to driving quite like a roundabout.

Over a five minute cup of coffee at work I have come up with this amazingly detailed and high-quality representation of how French people can be expected to approach a roundabout and is something the average Brit visitor needs to be aware of.

So, assume we have two lane approaching each junction and one lane leaving, pretty much as standard on most roundabouts here in the UK. 

Person A approaches the roundabout and is on the inside of the road, which the unwary Brit may take to mean they are then going off at the first or second junction, but this would be a mistake. Instead Mr Frenchman will drive all the way around the outside of the roundabout, completely oblivious to anyone trying to leave the roundabout before his chosen exit. Finally at the last possible moment he will dive off at the final exit. He may indicate at any point on this journey, and in any direction. Do not take the direction indicated as any sure sign of his intent.

Person B meanwhile is lost. Rather than go to the middle of the roundabout, round it and then off again, they will chuff slowly around the outside, making the occasional and half-hearted twitch towards any random exit before continuing round. As with Person A, they will be oblivious to anyone trying to leave the roundabout, mostly because they cannot see out of the car through the thick fog of ciggie smoke. You can expect no indication at all from this person.

Person C is a young French person and will slow down to approximately 100kph (if it is raining), before straight-lining the roundabout. When Person C meets Person A or B much excitement can ensue and if you are lucky you may get to witness this. It's like a road-going version of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Person C doesn't have time to indicate and can't hear you swearing at him over the booming noise of his Johnny Hallyday meets Vanessa Paradis remix album.

Person D will approach the roundabout in the outside lane and go to the centre of the roundabout, which may lull you into a false sense of security that they are going round to the 3rd exit. As they are level with the first exit however they will suddenly turn at 90 degrees and cut straight across the roundabout and off. Usually, despite taking the right hand exit they will still be indicating left as though they are carrying on around to another exit.

I have omitted one other French roundabout hazard from the lovely graphic above which is worth mentioning, this is the retired Brit who lives over there but is still hanging on to his beloved Rover. He has spent at least a decade making heroic attempts at single-handedly supporting the French wine industry and probably hasn't been fully sober since 1997. At random intervals he will approach a roundabout and decide to tackle it in the British way and go completely the wrong way around it, meeting all the rest of the traffic head-on in a wine-fuelled haze.

Bear all this in mind and you can be certain of surviving at least the first eight or nine roundabouts you meet.

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