France discontinues interlane traffic experiment


In France, the test phase for motorbike lapping in 11 French departments ended on January 31, 2021 and will not be extended again. The reason for this is an excessively high accident rate. Since February 1st the motorcycle lane is banned throughout France.

It was a long-lasting experiment. About five years motorcyclists with a two-wheeled motorbike (L3e) or a three-wheeled scooter (L5e) were – contrary to the road traffic regulations - allowed to drive between queues on motorways or two-lane roads, if they keep sufficient distance, do not exceed 50 km/h and also do not overtake other drivers. The aims of this experiment were to create a legal framework for a practice that is widespread in urban areas and consequently reduce accidents involving powered two-wheelers. Therefore, the French government initially tolerated interline traffic in the eight departments of Île-de-France, Bouches-du-Rhône, Gironde and Rhône.

Based on the CEREMA (Centre for Studies and Expertise on Risks, Environment, Mobility and Planning) evaluation report, there is no longer any entitlement to practice motorbike lapping in the test departments. Even though the experiment had positive effects on behaviour, compliance with the rules remained in the minority. Indeed, the report reveals that the accident rate of powered two-wheelers has increased by 12% on the roads where intermediate traffic has been experimented, while it has decreased by 10% on the other roads of the concerned departments. This increase has stabilised over the years. Moreover, the deaths that occurred within the framework of the project were mostly due to the disregard of the rules of the experiment.

Even if the road safety delegation acknowledges that the data is difficult to analyse because the circumstances of accidents are not always known precisely, the conclusions of the CEREMA report do not allow the integration of inter-lane traffic into the road traffic regulations. A violation of the prohibition can be sanctioned with a fine of 135 euro and a withdrawal of three points on the driving licence.

Nevertheless, the road safety delegation does not completely omit from this practice. Rather, it is considering a new experiment with new elements that could be included to continue this practice in complete safety.

Ultimately, the ban is a drastic measure with regard to the customs of motorcyclists. It remains to be seen, if this prohibition will reduce the accident rate again. Due to the widespread practice, it seems doubtful that those who are affected will refrain from it. Instead, they might be tempted to drive illegally through the lanes.

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