French pavements do not seem to be made for pedestrians. Cars are encouraged to park on them. A tiny little sign at the town limit, of a red circle with a blue interior divided by a red diagonal line, that you need to have pointed out to you, will usually indicate which side of the road you can park on. It may say, ‘Stationnement alterné semi-mensuel dans toute l’agglomération’. The numbers in the circle divide the month in half e.g. 1-15 and 16-31. From the first to the fifteenth of the month you must park on the side of the road which has even house numbers. From the sixteenth onwards you must park on the odd numbered side of the street. Cars should be parked half on and half off the pavements to leave plenty of room for emergency vehicles. In practice, cars park very badly and leave no room for pedestrians. Mothers with pushchairs are forced to walk in the road, and pushing a wheelchair is a gruelling exercise of going up and down kerbs and trying to find possible routes. There are often concrete blocks planted in the middle of a path which seem designed to trip up pedestrians. A brand-new road makeover near where we live, took away all the pavements so walkers share the same tarmac as vehicles and bicycles. Bizarre! By contrast in the UK parking on the pavement is forbidden and could get you a fine of £70.

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