We fled Switzerland as soon as possible, but not so soon as to avoid paying around $16 for lunch fixings at a grocery store. The Swiss must enjoy traveling in Europe. Everything to them probably seems as if it’s on a blowout sale.
Getting out of Geneva proved to be difficult. It’s suburbs literally stretch into another country. Although we attempted to find quiet roads there were none on offer. We were forced to endure car after car whiz by.
This brings us to the topic of the French driver. Before arriving in France we talked with several other tourists who mainly had lovely things say about French drivers. They’re respectful. They’re patient. They were all born cyclists.
Now that we’ve spent two weeks on French roads, here’s my take. The people we talked to must have been confusing French drivers for the Irish. The Irish may drive like mad when there’s no cyclists or pedestrians around, but they make every effort to be kind to the more fragile road users.
My theory is that yes the French are born cyclists. They love the sport. There are cycling decorations in most villages. The cities usually have great infrastructure for cycling. But because road cycling is in their blood, they end up driving like roadies.
They zip around in their petite cars as if the maillot jaune is on the line. They don’t slow down when overtaking cyclists, and they overtake cyclists without a moment’s hesitation. Yes, they will give cyclists room when overtaking, but only if there is room. If there isn’t room they’ll still overtake. Around a blind corner on a narrow mountain road? They overtake. Throw in a cement truck coming in the opposite direction around the same turn. They’ll overtake.
Several times in the past few days we’ve been forced off the road because a large vehicle was overtaking us too close for comfort. We’ve also heard drivers coming in the opposite direction honking their horns because the driver overtaking us was about to careen into them. In the morning, a dad driving his family in a station wagon with small boat in tow decided it would be wise to overtake me on a narrow road with a small sedan coming in the other direction. He timed it just right so the station wagon passed me just as the sedan was passing. The problem was the boat was still taking up most of the other lane. So dad swerved quickly, sending the boat perilously close to me.
In my opinion the French are the worst drivers we’ve encountered on the trip. British drivers would take the top slot except they openly acknowledge that cyclists shouldn’t be on the roads by forcing us to ride on sidewalks and pedestrian paths. The French pretend to care but they don’t show it.
I know this sounds so negative. We’ve been loving our time in France. There are many reasons why France is perhaps the best place in the world to ride a bike. The weather. The food. The dense road network. The quaint villages. The language. The varied landscapes. I could go on. I just wish the French would take more care when driving, if not for the cyclists, then for themselves.
On another note we met a nice French cyclist named Chloe at our campsite in Saint Jean de Sixt. She gave us some great advice about where we should go during the rest of our stay in this great country. After climbing a few cols in the Alps, we’re now planning to head through the Vercors region and then heading to the Árdeche, an isolated area of dead volcanoes.