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No such thing as “right”

July 6, 2009

Today because of a lunch date with Hadrien and his grandmother, I moved my regular Sunday late-morning run to this evening. And as I jogged out onto the banks of the Canal St. Denis that I follow up to Parc de la Villette, I discovered that there are a lot more people hanging out there in the evening than the mornings (OK, this should have been obvious).

I ran past couples holding hands and practically blocking off the generous sidewalk. As I passed them, I tried to get the word “pardon” out of my mouth between tired, huffy breaths, and I realized something. In France, there is not necessarily such thing as “the right side of the road.” Where I come from, children are taught from a young age to stick to the right side of the sidewalk so that people passing in the other direction can do so without running into them. The rule applies to streets, sidewalks, escalators and practically every path of flowing transport.

In France, people respect this rule in cars and on escalators in the metro. In Châtelet near the walking sidewalks there is a sign that literally says “TENEZ VOTRE DROITE.” This only proves the lack of rule since French people need a sign in order to follow it.

On the sidewalks, there are no guarantees. Children zigzag holding hands or riding on scooters, and motorcycles even occasionally ramp up onto the sidewalk and zoom along for a block or two. In Paris, you need to check every side of the road and plan your winding path as far ahead as possible (especially what with the motorcycles). Because after all, if someone does crash into you, you can’t claim that you were in the right.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Hadrilion permalink
    July 7, 2009 12:21 am

    I am sorry, but there is no lack of rules in France. It’s just that there are a lot of useless rules. Like having to stay right… why stay right ??? We are in a democracy. If we want to walk on the left, we walk on the left !!!!

    • katedarnell permalink
      July 7, 2009 12:28 am

      Fair enough, Hadrien. It’s another way of looking at “the rules,” so to speak. I just tend to think that some of these just make for good common sense. But I have to admit, it seems like French people do just fine without them.

  2. Henri permalink
    July 8, 2009 11:54 am

    Je viens juste de découvrir ton blog!
    c’est vraiment sympa et puis c’est toujours rigolo de voir comment vous nous percevez


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