Who decides which French streets can only be used by local residents?

Reader question: How do you decide which streets are closed to all but local residents? PE

It is quite common in France to see a sign “no entry”, and below, another sign with the words except residents (except for residents of this street).

These signs are more controversial than it first appears, as nothing in the Highway Code specifically refers to exceptions for local residents.

The mayor of a municipality has the right to restrict access to certain streets, or sections of streets, via a municipal decree (local regulations).

This decision should be justified and fully explained in the text.

Article L2213-4 of General code of local and regional authorities specifies that mayors can limit access to certain streets to vehicles which “could compromise public peace, air quality, the protection of animal or plant species or the protection of natural sites”.

Article L2213-2, meanwhile, allows local authorities to prohibit “certain categories of users or vehicles” at “certain hours”, due to “traffic and environmental protection requirements”.

In practice, non-residents are often banned from narrow roads where cars passing in either direction could be dangerous.

Further uncertainty exists around the term riparian and, in particular, whether it encompasses people visiting friends who live on the street, delivery drivers, doctors and others who need access to the road.

The scope of the term is effectively left to the discretion of the officer issuing the potential fine.

This created a particularly delicate situation in the village of Mauléon (Deux-Sèvres) in 2014, when signs “access prohibited, except residents” were placed at each end of a 3.5 km stretch of narrow country lane .

After a villager complained to the mayor that it would prevent him from seeing his doctor or friends, the town hall removed one of the signs which, it turned out, had been installed by mistake.

Lack of legal clarity is not a valid argument, however, if you get caught ignoring one of these signs.

You risk a fine of €135 and four reduction points on your driving licence, the same penalty as for driving in the wrong direction on an ordinary one-way street.

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