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Old 08-17-05, 06:41 AM   #1
genec
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my impressions in France...

In Bandol France... between Toulon and Marselle... Yes, there are cyclists here, and yes, they do have bike lanes...

However the BL are few and far between, and only on the roads of 70km speed that tend to be the connecting roads between the small towns. And just like every where else, they come and go.

There is a lot of vehicular riding here, but with the narrow streets and small cars, the bikes just fit right in. In many cases, cyclists can see right over the autos. The one thing I have noticed is fewer helmet wearers here. Guys in kits may wear a helmet, and I have seen at least one group of riders a'la club riders in the US... all wearing helmets.

I have yet to see how the cyclists handle the roundabouts... seems straight forward, but there is a high dependency on being seen.

Transportational riding is big... I have seen far more "here and there" riders, mostly on the streets, somtimes (rarely) on the sidewalks.

I plan on hitting at least one town that TDF went through, just to get a taste of the ride and area. I also hope to find the bicycle that my host said was available ("but the hills are soo steep... you will not enjoy them... " C'est va)

more later... if I can get used to the keyboard...
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Old 08-17-05, 08:58 AM   #2
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Thanks for the report! My husband and I would like to go to France next March for our 30th anniversary. I'd like to do at least a day of riding while we're there so let us know how it goes!
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Old 08-17-05, 09:26 AM   #3
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France is pretty good for cyclists. The roads might be narrow, but the drivers are polite. Watch out for holidaying Brits on the wrong side of the road!
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Old 08-17-05, 10:11 AM   #4
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Watch out for holidaying Brits on the wrong side of the road!
Also watch out for French drivers on the wrong side of the road on mountain switchbacks.
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Old 08-17-05, 11:04 AM   #5
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Also watch out for French drivers on the wrong side of the road on mountain switchbacks.
Also watch out for French motorists driving on the sidewalk to get around a traffic jam.

I almost got clipped while bicycling in Strassburg by a motorist with his foot to the floor as he was backing up a one way street in the wrong direction.

My experience is that they are better around bicyclists, than US drivers drivers but no where as considerate as German drivers. IMO, it may be because there are far more everyday cyclists of all ages in Germany than found in France.
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Old 08-17-05, 11:04 AM   #6
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I'm going to be in Sanary, not far from Bandol, later in the summer. That's a beautiful part of the world! I'm bringing my Strida with me this year, gonna do some riding myself.
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Old 08-17-05, 12:05 PM   #7
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Interesting, Genec...I vacationed and toured the northern part of France in Normandy and Brittany. Didn't encounter any bike lanes there. What you said about there not being many helmet wearers is true...I first thought it was strange for them not to wear helmets. But through their eyes, I must have looked strange because I wear one.

Most of the roads were very narrow where I toured. Automobiles could barely pass each other. This posed a hazzard, particularly since I almost was run over by an ambulance. I also agree with you about people drinking and then riding their bikes. How do they manage it? I had been offered wine after the caretakers of a museum were done for the day but I turned it down because I was either afraid I wouldn't make it back to the chambre dote where I was staying intact or that I would have a run-in with the gendarmes.

Other than these things, my stay there was pleasant. I hope yours was.

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Old 08-17-05, 01:04 PM   #8
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Yeah, those french keyboards are a PITA.
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Old 08-17-05, 01:35 PM   #9
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I can be in Alsace in about 90 minutes by car. The riding in the Voges is excellent.
Places like Colmar, Riquewihr, Ribeauville, Haut-Koenigsbourg are magic.
Be sure to ride up the Col de la Schlucht which was part of a TDF stage this year. The stage was Pforzheim to Gerardmer, 9 of July I believe.
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Old 08-17-05, 02:01 PM   #10
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I can be in Alsace in about 90 minutes by car. The riding in the Voges is excellent.
Places like Colmar, Riquewihr, Ribeauville, Haut-Koenigsbourg are magic.
Be sure to ride up the Col de la Schlucht which was part of a TDF stage this year. The stage was Pforzheim to Gerardmer, 9 of July I believe.
Colmar is an especially pretty town, but my favorite city in the Alsace is Mulhouse - Home of the French National Automobile Museum. This former collection of the Schlumpf Bros. (Swiss duo with a checkered history in France) includes over 200 Bugattis. Also lots of pre war Benzes, and other beauties. Worth the trip; easy bike ride from the German train station (I forgot which one it was.)
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Old 08-17-05, 05:07 PM   #11
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So, did you bring your bike from home, or did you buy one over there? If you brought it, how much did the airline charge you to fly it?
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Old 08-17-05, 07:29 PM   #12
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So, did you bring your bike from home, or did you buy one over there? If you brought it, how much did the airline charge you to fly it?
I resided in Germany for ten years (Heidelberg and Zweibrücken area). I did buy several excellent bicycles in Germany but shipped them back by ship. I can't help you on airline policies/price. Sorry.
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Old 08-17-05, 11:34 PM   #13
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Stridas fly for free.

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Old 08-18-05, 01:03 AM   #14
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What a myth the "politeness" of French drivers is! I almost got clipped innumerable times, every day, be jerks speeding and getting so close to me I could feel there door handles breeze by. The roads are really narrow, and while many drivers do slow down or give space, MANY don't.

I live in Germany, and it is much better for cyclists here. I just rode from Frankfurt to Santiago, Spain, and it's also better in Spain than France. There, ALL the roads have shoulders which are ideal for cyclists. And even with the shoulders, drivers still move over to give some space.

Pfff, if it's this bad in France, I'll never even THINK of going back to America. I can't imagine how bad it must be there.
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Old 08-18-05, 01:54 AM   #15
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In Flanders, Belgium I've never had a problem. It's incredible the different attitudes/culture between cyclists and drivers compared with the US. Also most, if not all major roads I ride on are plenty wide with quality bike lines or paths.
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Old 08-19-05, 12:34 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by randya
I'm going to be in Sanary, not far from Bandol, later in the summer. That's a beautiful part of the world! I'm bringing my Strida with me this year, gonna do some riding myself.

Visited there the day before for the market... the whole area is quite beautiful. I did not bring my bike, but did rent a very small 50cc scooter yesterday. with the low power of the scooter, I was not much faster (albit much noiser) than a cyclist... in fact road designers in the US should be forced to ride these to get a cyclists perspective.

Most of the time there were no problems.. although I did run into a couple classic cycle rider type visibility problems. One in a round a bout... where a motorist did not yield to me, although I was in the circle at the time. The other was a motorist pulling out from an even smaller side street. Saw me at the last minute.

The design of the streets plus the traffic calming of stripes, barriers, and curbs keeps the traffic moving at the proscribed speeds... which in towns is 30kph, outside villages, the connecting roads have BL, and the speeds can be as high as 70kph. The BL are not perfect, trash does sometimes land in the BL and the BL are not continuous... as is the case in most places. But overall there does seem to be more driver courtesy here (at least in the south) than in the US. Perhaps this is due to small cars and narrow streets.
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Old 08-19-05, 12:36 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by julielenore
So, did you bring your bike from home, or did you buy one over there? If you brought it, how much did the airline charge you to fly it?
Neither. one was supposed to be available for me, but was not.
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Old 08-20-05, 09:36 AM   #18
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I'm going to be in Sanary, not far from Bandol, later in the summer. That's a beautiful part of the world! I'm bringing my Strida with me this year, gonna do some riding myself.
If you get a chance, do the Circuit du Castellet. The roads are quiet quiet and perfect... they have just been resurfaced and are quite flawless... This area is just north of Bandol, just west of le Beausset. Beautiful vineyards, winding shady roads.
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Old 08-22-05, 10:44 PM   #19
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I see it on the map, it looks like a park or race track of some sort? Just down the road from the OK Corral. For real! Or are you talking about the area in the valley around the town of Le Castellet? How about hills? Our Stridas are 'onesies' as my wife calls 'em.

Have you ever been on some of those one-lane two-way roads hemmed in in some places with four foot stone walls? I've driven some of them before, in the Lancon valley north of Sanary...

Le Gros Cerveau is a nice drive, though probably only for cyclists who are really strong hill climbers. Great views and WWII ruins at the top.
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Old 08-25-05, 08:46 AM   #20
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I see it on the map, it looks like a park or race track of some sort? Just down the road from the OK Corral. For real! Or are you talking about the area in the valley around the town of Le Castellet? How about hills? Our Stridas are 'onesies' as my wife calls 'em.

Have you ever been on some of those one-lane two-way roads hemmed in in some places with four foot stone walls? I've driven some of them before, in the Lancon valley north of Sanary...

Le Gros Cerveau is a nice drive, though probably only for cyclists who are really strong hill climbers. Great views and WWII ruins at the top.
I was actually talking about the area in and around Le Castellet... the roads were just beautiful... they did look "racetrack like" as they were near perfect surfaces. My friends told me about a true racetrack in the area, but I never did see it.

RE the narrow roads with the walls... Yeah, they exist... in fact in Bandol, the very road leading to the villa we are staying in, is much like that... plan ahead... LOL.

Was just in Paris for the last 2 days... Wow, What traffic! Noticed BL and bus lanes as shared spaces... also special lanes just for cyclists with their own traffic lights...

More later including pics. Just back late last night... still jet lagged.
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Old 09-01-05, 06:10 PM   #21
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The view from France:

I saw a complete mix of riders... from the fella riding very vehicularly in the huge traffic circle around the Arc'd Triomphe about 5 deep in an 8-9 deep mess of cars at rush hour, to the sidewalk riders in the resort area near where I stayed.

I saw "club riders" in bike lanes on the 50KPH roads, and I saw riders "taking the lane" on narrow local roads.

One thing I did notice were fewer helmets... The guys with the full kit tended to wear helmets, but otherwise... they were somewhat rare.

I saw very little different from anything I see here... except for a couple minor details (Paris excepted). The details were that drivers seemed to be a bit more friendlier... of course this could simply be due to the subjective nature of the smaller vehicles seen in Europe vice some of the behemoths we have crowding the streets here... IE simply a sense of scale. However the streets were far narrower there then here in the US, so the scaling should have evened out...

Scooters are a pain... They have nearly the speed of a motorcycle, but not quite, therefore they act something like a cyclist, but not quite. (yes, I am humanizing the vehicle... but it is easier to write that way) Their saving grace is the noise they make. One learns to look for them.

Bike lanes: I saw bike lanes only on higher speed roads... those roads over 50KPH that connect towns... in town, the riders were just as mixed as here: Vehicular, sidewalk, but I don't recall any "against the flow" riders.

Now Paris is another story. There are bike lanes... they share the lane with buses. There are also unique bike lanes on the busier streets... and these were more like sidepaths. They were very well marked and even had their own traffic lights.

How likely is it to ride through Paris using their bike network.. I don't know. I only walked.

Outside of Paris, well at least in the south of France, the roads were very very nice... the pavement was generally in good shape, the lanes well marked and the road choices were very well marked. I really wanted to ride some of those roads around and through vineyards between and into small towns. I did not have a sense that any of these smaller roads would ever be a Houston or Phoenix type "urban hiway/raceway." I could not say that for Paris and it's surroundings.

Right of way issues... yup, they exist there too... the traffic circles are the area of potential conflict. While they should allow the smooth flow of traffic, at times the impatience of motorists could lead to situations of, shall we say, "conflict." The conflicts I faced on a scooter were easily brushed off, but I could see the potential for MV-Bike conflicts easily, especially with a much quieter bike instead of the noisy scooter.

I think overall the brute force method of dealing with conflicts here in the US may come from simply the size and perceived strength of the vehicle/driver... this is just my humble opinion mind you... In France, the conflicts that arose were dealt with more on a human to human level... you don't have much car to hide behind.

I will be posting pics this weekend. Just for those that may be following along.
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