Europe – France – The Federation of European Motorcyclists Associations (FEMA) has highlighted its “Riding Abroad” website page which offers information on differing laws and regulation that differ from country to country if you travel abroad on a motorcycle.
FEMA asked the questions to riders – What is the alcohol limit in Portugal? Can I filter in France? Do I need a safety jacket in Slovakia?
Their collective information which is “Work In Progress” also contains information regarding – specific rules on towing a trailer and specific rules on children as passengers.
However one piece of information about riding in France caught our eye – “As a foreigner, you do NOT have to wear reflective stickers on your helmet”
In the past we have rode quite a lot in France usually turning left out of Calais on the motorway straight to Brussels for motorcycle rated “work”. Once we headed across the French Alps, where one of us was introduced by two Dutch blokes, Kees and Wim, in the middle of the Alps somewhere to drinking red wine which was chilled, this was a break on the way to our destination of Nice.
We knew that there were rules about wearing reflective stickers but never bothered, but now we are entrenched in France, we fitted reflective stickers to the helmets, which we still had from previous helmets bought in the UK but made in France – Roof and Shark – the stickers came with the helmets in the box but not fitted.
So with our curiosity risen by FEMA we have looked a bit further on this French requirement for reflective stickers to be fitted on a helmet.
First Port Of Call
Our first port of call was “Google” – other search engines are available – while at the same time asking FEMA about the information – which brought up:
- French requirements – reflective stickers on the front, rear and sides in accordance with the requirements of Regulation 22 – a sticker of minimum surface area 18cm2 must be visible from the front, rear, left and right and within each sticker it must be possible to mark either a circle of 40mm diameter or, a rectangle at least 12.5cm2 in surface area and at least 20mm in width.
- Non-compliance – Class 4 fine of 135 euros plus withdrawal of points from the licence – for French riders.
- There is a regulation now in place between the UK and other European Member States that came into force on the 6th May 2017, which looks like it puts in place any previous European cross-border enforcement – reciprocal arrangement for alleged traffic infringements – to make available the identity of the registered keeper of a vehicle enabling the investigation of a road safety related traffic offence investigation.
- The offence related to the non compliance of the wearing of reflective stickers does not appear to be part of the agreement – although failing to wear a safety helmet – not complying with a requirement to wear a safety helmet – is.
- Regulation 22 is the – Uniform Provisions Concerning The Approval Of Protective Helmets And Their Visors For Drivers And Passengers Of Motor Cycles And Mopeds – introduced in 1972 and now with a series of amendments.
- This regulation is annexed to UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) – 1958 Agreement – one of the three agreements administered by the UN World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29) whose objective is establishing uniform standards for vehicles and their components relating to safety, environment, energy and anti-theft requirement.
- Under paragraph 6.16. of Regulation 22 conspicuity marking requirements are set out. This includes but not limited to – “In order to comply with national requirements for use, the helmet may be required by individual Contracting Parties to contribute to the conspicuity of the user both during the daytime and at night……by means of parts made of reflective materials……The reflective parts shall not be removable without damage to the helmet.
- It also says – The mandating of conspicuity marks is left to the discretion of individual Contracting Parties (Countries). Article 3 of the Agreement to which this Regulation is annexed shall not prevent the Contracting Parties from prohibiting the use of helmets not meeting the conspicuity requirements.
The text in regulation was questioned as to its meaning to the European Commission in a question in the European Parliament by the then Liberal Democrat UK MEP Sir Graham Watson.
“The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s Regulation No 22 stipulates, in paragraph 6.16.1, that motor cycle crash helmets should have conspicuity markings. This requirement includes the need for helmets to have four reflective stickers: one on the front, one at the rear and one on each side, with the surface of each sticker being 18 cm2.
The UN’s Vienna Convention on Road Traffic only mentions in Annex 1(5) that contracting parties may refuse to admit onto their territories motor cyclists without protective helmets.France has recently introduced a national provision requiring all motorcyclists, including those transiting through from other EU Member States, to comply with the rules governing conspicuity markings on crash helmets.
Notwithstanding a note within paragraph 6.16.1 of Regulation 22 suggesting that signatory states can prohibit the use of helmets not meeting the conspicuity requirements, is the Commission satisfied that the requirement in place in France is compliant with Union law?”
The European Commission’s Antonio Tajani replied:
“The use of helmets incorporating reflective stickers for motorcyclists is not regulated under EC law.The Commission considers that in the absence of EU legislation, Member State authorities are entitled to adopt measures aiming at enhancing road safety provided that these measures do not constitute a disproportionate limitation to the freedom of movement.
The European Union has notified the United Nations that it is applying Regulation No 22 mentioned by the Honourable Member, which means that Member States must accept helmets certified under this regulation without being allowed to impose additional requirements to the ones set out in Regulation No 22.Regulation No 22 leaves the mandating of conspicuity marks to the discretion of individual Contracting Parties, allowing them to prohibit the use of helmets not meeting the conspicuity requirements.
However, it is the Commission’s understanding that the obligation contained in the French legislation cannot apply retroactively to helmets already in use.
As a consequence, foreign motorcycle riders carrying a helmet not containing these reflective markings cannot be obliged to bring their helmets in conformity retroactively. Only new helmet types placed on the French market must comply with the new requirements and bear this reflective material.
The Commission will assess whether the French law is in line with the provisions of the Treaty concerning the free movement of goods.”
It is the interpretation of this text that is used to deride the French regulations of wearing reflective thus the advice offered is that reflective stickers are not required for foreign riders.
Earlier on we said that we had asked FEMA about the information on their website. FEMA came back and said first that the information was from the Dutch organisation ANWB – similar to the AA and the RAC in the UK – breakdown and recovery) and secondly that this was confirmed by the French riders group FFMC (Fédération Française des Motards en Colère – French Federation of Angry Bikers).
The text on the ANWB website – via google translate – states, “The rule that a helmet must be provided with reflective elements (ECE 22/04) applies only to helmets sold in France. Dutch motorcyclists do not have to stick any reflective stickers on their helmet.”
Thus the FEMA statement reads – “As a foreigner, you do NOT have to wear reflective stickers on your helmet”
Advice – Never That Easy
In the UK the RAC (Royal Automobile Club) states:
- Motorcyclists and their passengers must also wear safety helmets.Paragraph 6.16 of ECE regulation 22-04 states that helmets should feature reflective elements.However EU and EEA approved helmets without reflective elements are also acceptable, but only if they have been validated by the French authorities. If in doubt, foreign motorcycle riders are strongly recommended to use reflective stickers on their helmets.
Meanwhile the AA (Automobile Association) states:
- All helmets must display reflective stickers on the front, rear and sides in accordance with the requirements of Regulation 22 – a sticker of minimum surface area 18cm2 must be visible from the front, rear, left and right and within each sticker it must be possible to mark either a circle of 40mm diameter or, a rectangle at least 12.5cm2 in surface area and at least 20mm in width.AA – Our Driving Tips In Full
While Brittany Ferries state:
- If your helmet and clothing were bought in an EU country and conform to the regulations where bought, you do not need to wear reflective strips. However, if you buy your helmet and clothing in France, you will need to wear the strips.Brittany Ferries – Motorbike touring in France
So we have conflicting pieces of advice from those that should know. With Brittany Ferries confounding any confusion by the mention of “reflective strips” on clothing, however no mention of the requirement for a rider to carry a fluorescent vest in case of breakdown or an emergency, such as a collision.
We thought we would look at the TISPOL – European Traffic Police Network to illicit some advice.
Apart from some generic policy type advice, to be aware of deer and wild boars as they are numerous in the French woods and a list of useful phrases e.g. Appelez la police! – Call The Police, they suggest that for more information about driving in France to see the European Commission Road Safety Link – ‘Going Abroad’
The advice on the Going Abroad website states – “Reflective vest/jacket (cars, trucks, buses, motorbikes, mopeds and tractors) for use in the event of breakdowns, accidents or other problems on the road” and “All motorcycle and moped riders (including passengers) must wear certified gloves”
Therefore would could assume, extrapolate or even conclude that with no mention of the requirement of reflective stickers on helmets, then they are not required?
What do you do?
So with all this advice for foreign motorcycle travellers to France what do you do?
Either you comply or face the risk of standing at the side of a French road in the presence of a Gendarme while they issue some fine for non-compliance.
However we cannot find any examples of UK riders being stopped, quizzed or fined for the non-compliance of the wearing of reflective stickers on their helmet – unless you know different?
So it looks like you take your choice to comply or not.
Now one could comply with plain simple stickers costing not more than ten pounds sterling, stickers that are not supposed to be removable – permanent – without damaging your (over £500 Arai) helmet or choose function with style.
Step forward Stikare who produce such reflective stickers for French riders to, “respect the code of the road with style” and “meet two too often contradictory demands that are legality and aesthetics.”
The sticker designs available are from original helmet logos to Skulls to Retro, they met French regulations and standards.
You can ride with a certain – je ne sais quoi – but only if your translating to English and feeling particularly suave having something of indescribable quality. (Urban Dictionary)
A Conclusion Of Sorts
So in conclusion as a foreign rider in France it appears to be left to your choice of whether you think that the reflective stickers on a helmet have safety benefits in France or indeed as you return to ride in your own country
Not a legal requirement, usual caveat inserted here of – it’s your choice – we didn’t tell you so..