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France: compulsory reflective stickers on all helmets

March 16, 2013

In early January of this year, we advised all our readers that the current French Interior Minister, Manuel Valls, had decided to scrap his predecessor’s ludicrous proposals for all motorcyclists to wear any form of reflective clothing while riding their motorbike or scooter. Unfortunately, there has been for some time another (stupid) piece of legislation forcing all bikers in France, whether residents or visitors, to wear a helmet with reflective stickers on, and this one has not been scrapped. Bikers caught wearing a helmet without stickers may face a 135 euros fine payable on the spot and 3 points taken off their licence. The police have recently been enforcing this rule quite severely in Paris and other locations throughout France.

All helmets must have four reflective stickers: one on the front, one at the rear and one on each side. The surface of each sticker must be 18 cm2 and, within each sticker, you must be able to draw a 40 mm diameter circle, or a 12.50 cm2 rectangle with a minimum of 20 mm length, as shown on the below picture.

Helmets with stickers

Rest assured, when you buy a new helmet in France, compliant stickers usually come with it, however, it is your responsibility to correctly stick them on your helmet. There is one more requirement which is that the stickers should not be removable without damaging the helmet and must remain reflective over time. They must also be water resistant and not interfere with the opening and closing mechanism of the helmet (if applicable). If you live in the United Kingdom (or any other country for that matter) and intend to visit France on motorised two or three wheels, you must by law enter France with compliant reflective stickers on your helmet. It is entirely your choice whether you do or not, but if a nasty policeman in a bad mood spots you with no compliant stickers on your helmet, you may find yourself being given a hard time.

As far as we know, France is the only country in the entire world that requires reflective stickers on helmets. We all know very well that the current French socialist president, François Hollande, has no interest other than stealth tax everyone in that country to fund the huge public deficit, so this piece of legislation, which has been in place for some time, is unlikely to be scrapped. On a much wider scale, he has already made thousands of French citizens leave their country and take advantage of the free mobility and relaxed immigration rules within the European Union to escape from the French tax system, which is one with the highest tax rates in the world. Thousands of French citizens have decided to relocate to the neighbouring United Kingdom where London is the sixth largest “French city”, a large proportion of whom have done so purely to escape from the French tax system and the on-going pressures and economic uncertainties in the euro zone. This piece of legislation to force all bikers to have reflective stickers on their helmet, which could have been scrapped considering its stupidity, is a typical example of the current French government’s practice to grab any “centime” they possibly can by deliberately introducing ridiculous laws which the vast majority of residents and visitors would find useless and ignore. Can you imagine how many bikers the French police may have caught so far not having compliant stickers on their helmet and how much they may have cashed in on behalf of the French government? Motorcyclists are already obliged to ride with their bike’s head lights (front and rear) switched on, is this not enough to remain visible at all times? Reflective stickers, like any reflective clothing in general, are precisely not reflective during day light, so where is the logic in this law?

Let’s see how long the reputable and most respected FFMC (Fédération Française des Motards en Colère) will take to force the government to reverse this stupid and money grabbing piece of legislation, now that it is being enforced. In the meantime, you have been warned – put stickers on your helmet or you may get done (or else don’t ride in France all together)! It is time that the French government starts to treat motorcyclists like responsible adults and not like children to whom apply punitive rules.

Further reading – Casque: n’oubliez pas vos autocollants rétro-réflechissants

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If you’re based in France and want to take part in the fight against the Government’s continued policy to ban motorcyclists from filtering through traffic, then contact the Fédération Française des Motards en Colère (FFMC – French Federation of Angry Bikers).

Si vous habitez en France et souhaitez participer aux manifestations pour la circulation inter files des motocyclistes dans les embouteillages, contactez la Fédération Française des Motards en Colère (FFMC).

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57 Comments
  1. Well I have 3 points, if not wearing reflective bits gets 3 points taken off my license then I’m all for it

  2. Well, I was planning a touring holiday in France this year but it seems to me so confusing with a raft of daft rules that I’ve decided not to bother. I’m not likely to be alone so I suggest France will lose more in lost tourism than they’ll get in fines. Pointless!

  3. Andi MacSporran permalink

    what colour does this “reflective area” to be? and reflective means will only be seen in the dark?

    • UK France bikers permalink

      From what we have read, the law is not specific on the colour of the stickers. If you make sure they look like the ones shown on the picture, you should be fine. Make sure that you have the dimensions right. Our best advice is to buy them from a reputable bike shop in France.

      • Andi MacSporran permalink

        being reflective then they only work when a bright light is shone on them like car heradlights at night – is this the reason for having them – I am using retroreflective paints – perhaps if I painted the helmet with areas of the same size or larger it would be seen by those wonderful french cops as compliant?

  4. Kev Garrington permalink

    so friggin ludicrous to be unbelievable, I don’t wear or own a full face helmet, only an open face so where am I supposed to stick the one on the front? on my chin?!

    more typcial crap, I used to ride in France quite regular, I’m now thinking I’ll go elsewhere so they lose out on tourist money

    I’m sure the FFMC will get on the streets again to get rid of this but why should we have to keep telling them what they are doing is completely dumb?……..but there again they are dumb to come up with something like this

  5. Stephen permalink

    Once again the French are penalising bikers. We all know how ludicrous these new laws are. Wearing reflective strips will NOT make bikers safer, whether they are on our helmets or as stupid arms bands. I think if a four wheel driver CANNOT see a biker with headlamps ON then it’s them who should not be on the road! This latest farce will, as some have already posted, stop bikers coming to France all together. I really don’t think the French fully think things through.

    It’s about time the European Council told the French where to get off!

    As yet there’s nothing on this subject on the FFMC site.

  6. tiger permalink

    i have already booked my tour to France this year but i am sure it will be my last.
    I suppose when we get stupid French Politions stoping motorcylelists riding in France we will all stop going to France and make them even poorer.

  7. Nomad permalink

    I find these sort of blogs posting these messages useful if substantiated with some evidence, I can see no evidence to support this so show me where it is being discussed and I MIT believe it is going to happen, I live in France and Ride in France, and I am aware of the requirement, I am also aware that it is not enforced nor have I heard of a hefty fine for not wearing them…

    Please provide the source of this information!

    • UK France bikers permalink

      Nomad, here is the evidence you are looking for:

      http://www.ffmc.asso.fr/spip.php?article2487

      Good luck!

      • Andi MacSporran permalink

        INDEED time to give France a miss – maybe time to explore Scandinavia

      • Direct from the FFMC…

        [img]http://www.ridersrest.net/images/helmetstickers.jpg[/img]

        R431-1 of the code of the road states that all riders and pillions of motorcycles must wear an approved helmet and that helmet must have retro-reflective elements attached. The text does not exempt foreign riders. We can therefore deduce that British riders are subject to these regulations When they travel in France.

        The standards of approval for helmets are the same in France as the UK. They are described in regulation 22-05 which leaves the choice to each State to impose the retro-reflective elements. France chose to impose these elements. Therefore a helmet without retro-reflective elements is deemed as not approved and justifies a fine of €135.

        However, I would like to clarify that to this day, I have had no knowledge of a foreigner being fined on these grounds.

        Catherine Galdos
        Coordinatrice juridique de la FFMC

  8. Phil Randome permalink

    The french emigrés have their own dedicated digital radio in the UK called French Radio London. I listen to it frequently.

  9. Phil Randome permalink

    To Freethinkeruk.
    Try riding in Spain & Portugal by taking the 24hr crossing to Santander & I promise you’ll enjoy the roads, scenery & even the motorways. I going via Portsmouth this year & going down to Lisbon. There’s normally 80+ bikers on the boat every time I go.

  10. Richard Brown permalink

    I can’t see the FFMC doing much about this (if it is correct) as they already have these stickers on their helmets. I also don’t see how the French Authorities can enforce this against riders not domiciled in France as they would be forced to break the Law once in order to buy these stickers.

    • UK France bikers permalink

      Richard, unfortunately the cops may not bother listening to your arguments. Whether you are a visitor or resident in France, regardless of where you come from, the law is there for all to obey. If caught, you may face a 135 euros payable on the spot and 3 points taken off your licence. if you are lucky enough to have been caught by an understanding and friendly cop, good for you, but unfortunately, you cannot assume this. Now that you have been made aware of this piece of legislation, it is up to you to decide whether you adhere to it or not. If you don’t, you know the consequences you may face.

      • Bex permalink

        The French cannot take points off of a UK license, for example, as there are no points to begin with. It’s the same for if you are caught speeding in France with a UK license (or German, or anything that is not French) as they cannot enter it into their system.
        If you are on a UK plated car, they won’t even stop you. I’m pretty sure that even if they say they will enforce this, if you are on an English bike with an English license, and if you do not speak a word of french, they will not penalise you. It’s not even been largely advertised in France this new rule (much like the breathalisers) so how do they expect tourists to know this information.

        I purchased a bike helmet 2 years ago and they were giving out the stickers then and I was told it was the law, so for most bikers it should be no difference.

        For the open face helmets…very good questions here..maybe you are supposed to wear a bandana on your chin with the sticker?!

      • UK France bikers permalink

        Bex, it’s all up to you but I can tell you that every person at school in France learns English (it is compulsory for all) so everyone speaks a little bit of English and definitely enough to, at least, make you pay a fine. Whilst some cops may be more relaxed and understanding with foreigners breaking the French Highway Code, some others may not. It all depends on who you are dealing with and whether they’re having a bad day or not so to speak. It is entirely up to you whether or not you decide to apply reflective compliant stickers on your helmet whilst riding in France, all we are doing is making you aware that the law is there for you to observe and the potential consequences you may face if you decide not to observe it. Now the choice is yours! Whilst this particular law has not really been enforced in the past few years, it is now being enforced, presumably because the French government is in need of cash! So any legislation such as this one is now being enforced. Again it’s up to you to decide whether you observe it or not.

      • Bex permalink

        I already have them on mine as I have a french bike, and have lived here for 6 years so also have a french license. But I was more on the side of the tourists who drive through, or are on a biking holiday for a short amount of time :)

  11. mitch elliott permalink

    Yet another piece of pointless legislation, those of us who ride in an open face helmet will have difficulty in complying!
    After all the years of being told that applying stickers weakens helmets are the proposed stickers going to have an adhesive that won’t damage helmets?

  12. Stephen permalink

    Mitch – That was my thought from the start. I also thought that by applying stickers it would invalidate any guarantee by the helmet manufacturer. I live and ride in France and put stickers reluctantly on our helmets. The law states the stickers MUST be permanent. Try taking them off and you also risk damaging the helmet … If you wear an open face helmet you can always try applying the sticker to your chin!! ;-)

    The stickers law has been around since 2004. I’m just wondering if the SIZE of stickers has been increased.

  13. bevpook@talk21.com permalink

    Can you tell me when this stupid rule becomes Law. I have not been informed of this anywhere else. Also where these stickers are supposed to be obtained. Much obliged. A group of us expect to travel in May. Onlyvfr

    ________________________________

    • UK France bikers permalink

      This law has been in place for a few years, however, very few bikers have been following it and the authorities have not been enforcing it much until recently. However, French police have lately been enforcing it and caught bikers who (unintentionally or not) have ignored the rule. The penalty is 135 euros and 3 points off your licence if you get caught without compliant reflective stickers on your helmet. Some cops won’t care, others will enforce the law, so it is up to you if you want to comply or not. If you don’t comply, you know how much you may be fined and how many points may be taken off your licence. The stickers can be bought from any reputable bike shop in France and can surely also be ordered online.

  14. Stephen permalink

    They can be found on Ebay.fr under retro-reflechissant auto collants … TBH I’ve just contacted a seller on there asking if the ones he’s selling are compliant with the law, his reply was “I don’t understand your question”. So, I’ve just sent another mail simplifying the question to “Is the adhesive permanent in all weather?” Oh and cost is €4,99 and they don’t ship outside France. They could be available on Ebay.uk under reflective stickers?

  15. Ray permalink

    I’m concerned that the glue used for attaching the stickers will damage my crash helmet and make it unsafe to wear and will also void any warrenty from the manufactuer.

  16. Bladerideressex permalink

    I tour France regularly and have never had any issues with French Police at any time… suspect this will go the same way and just be a non issue and not enforced!

    • UK France bikers permalink

      Bladerideressex, the decision is yours but the reason why we have written a post about this issue it’s precisely because this piece of French motorcycling legislation is now being enforced a lot more actively than it has ever been. Of course you are entitled to continue to ignore it but at least you have been made aware of it and its potential consequences if you are ever unfortunate to deal with a narrow minded cop (there are quite a few of them).

  17. Tim Rose permalink

    Can anyone come up with an actual instance of a UK biker being actually fined for not having the reflective stickers on their helmet? Fully accept the theoretical possibility of nasty cop etc. but isn’t biking all about playing the percentages?

  18. I have two helmets which I wear depending on the journey. The white flip has no reason to be covered in reflective stripes but on the Black Nolan I put hi-viz type stripes which is not only for safety but looks quite good.

  19. BeemerBaz permalink

    I have been riding in France every summer for the last 10 yrs and this issue has never raised its ugly head before. In fact the police have been nothing but friendly in my few dealings with them.

  20. Bob the Biker permalink

    Come on let’s not get carried away. If anyone from abroad visits our country we would expect them to respect and abide by our laws and regulations. If for no other reason out of respect to what ever country you visit you abide by their laws. Simples.

  21. Marmalade permalink

    Hi
    The stickers above are sold by myself and I’ve looked into the glue issue.
    The adhesive is a self curing acrylic resin which is the what the surface of most helmets is made of so should cause no ill effects.
    Full specs on the material used can be found here http://www.nikkalite.com/Type-1-engineering-grade/retro-reflective-sheeting-engineering-grade.html

    My basic back ground. I’m a motorcycle courier doing mainly London > euro deliveries on a ST1100 and making stickers in my spare time (which I get far too much of) I made these stickers to spec on request of a member of a bike forum I am a member of.
    I do have an online shop selling these if anyone is interested but I won’t post it here and spam up the site.

  22. Dave permalink

    Why is this requirement not been published either by the AA or RAC as part of their advice for riding abroad?

  23. Have ridden thro France countless times over 50 years of touring and never had a problem. Will be off again for the Stella Alpina in July and will be packing the traditional anti frog equipment , a longbow. Should any frog plod try to get 135 euro,s I may remind him of Henry 5 and why Englishmen use two fingers !

  24. mike permalink

    Where do you put the front sticker on an open face helmet, is it above the visor line I presume.

  25. Johnny permalink

    Like most, I’ve been pulled for speeding in every country I’ve riden. Sadly, English is widely spoken. The French cop didn’t even speak to start with. He wrote 155kph = 1000F (it was a while ago and the limit was 110kph!), and for good measure told me that if I didnt pay, they’d confiscate the vehicle, sell it and send me any money left. That’s the law. Whine about it all you like, but law is law. You must respect the law of the country you are in, or pay the consequences. Just be grateful they don’t make you reduce your bike power to 100BHP. Oh, and they can now enforce the fine across borders and doubtless points soon.
    As it only affects tourists, I don’t see how this will help the deficit.
    You can get reflective stuff of UK ebay easy – search for reflective sheet. About £3 for a A4 sheet.
    The requirement is the sticker on the front face, so open face helmets should have enough space above the opening.
    Remember it’s all about risk. Pay £3 and no chance of a fine, or risk €135. I’ve lived and riden in France for the last 3 years without an issue, but might get a tug for a duff bulb tomorrow and whilst he’s sniffing around I get €135 for no stickers. Except I’ve bought some stickers which I’m just putting on :-)

  26. bob craven permalink

    I believe that there are reciprical laws concerning points and or disqualification being honoured between Euro contries. So that if you receive points in any one of them then they are valid over here.

    Is that right or just a rumour.

  27. Sheila permalink

    Surely the recommended size for these stickers should be in mm, not cm? 18cm2 is a huge area of sticker to be sticking on a helmet. 18mm x 18mm sounds more realistic (if we have to have them at all).

  28. Sean permalink

    Does the legislation govern the colour of the reflective decal? I run a small vinyl business and can print and cut on reflective film, then clear laminate to protect the print. you can even have a black reflective film. The graphics can be just about any shape or colour to blend with your helmet graphics making the them less obvious during daylight.

  29. Ken Polle permalink

    Does this apply to pillion passengers?

    • UK France bikers permalink

      Yes, it applies to all bikers, including pillions.

  30. John permalink

    It is a little peculiar to read so many criticisms of a weird French Law. Of course the British authorities are total bike friendly, lets ignore the multitude of speed cameras and anti bike attitudes, charging for parking, anti bike police activities as in North Wales and discriminatory bike checks we have to tolerate. With empty roads, few cameras and a mainly bike friendly population I know where I’d rather ride, on the other side, with stickers if necessary.

  31. Well said John. I holiday in S. France every year and love the place as I find it very ‘bike friendly’. N. Wales I avoid like the plague, and if I do travel through try not to spend any money there. Much of Yorkshire is also to be avoided where policemen hide behind garden hedges with speed guns. It seems much of the criticism is really aimed at the French Govt which calls itself socialist; in reality as socialist as Tony Blair and co who screwed us to the floor. Not as much as this lot though. A few helmet stickers won’t stop me from having a great time. Btw, do people honestly believe a few paltry Euro’s in fines is going to solve the debt problem that most Western countries have? ;-))

  32. Ben Gill permalink

    What if just one hard up person decides to comply with this idiotic law by fabricating their own relective material to the required dimentions and sticking it onto their helmet with glue that has a chemical reaction with the plastic/fibreglass construction damaging the impact resistance of the helmet? what then? do we have to simply put up with needless deaths for the sake of a cash greedy government expoiting the public. Surely this sort of thing was why the French Revolution happened. Come on Monsieur President Francois Hollande, Lets see your true colours and let common sense prevail

  33. Marmalade permalink

    They would need to be very hard up to not be able to afford £2.50 for a set of stickers.

  34. Hey chaps, it is not that bad, just read up a bit before you go on your overseas tour. For France main difference is, reflective stickers on helmets, head lights on at all times, reduce speed in the rain and respect speed limits. Not much to endure for the experience of open quiet roads with no potholes.

  35. This sticker rubbish must be fought tooth and nail. Get on to the French embassyand the French tourist board now. IAn Mutch, MAG President

  36. Err, suppose I spend one day in France, then I have to put four stickers on my helmet that I can’t remove without damaging the helmet? I suppose there’s a reason why “idiot” originally is a French word.

  37. SuperTed permalink

    Personally while I will respect the law and go to France to enjoy the almost empty roads with reflective stickers on my helmet they are in no way going to be permanent when I’m only going for three days. As for the comment from Johnny “Just be grateful they don’t make you reduce your bike power to 100BHP.” I remember when Jeremy Clarkson asked a Swiss bike dealer of he knew anyone in Switzerland with a Swiss legal 50hp bike. After a long pause the answer was ‘No’.

  38. Peter Easter permalink

    I have done a fairly unscientific survey of reflective helmet stickers this morning (27/9/13) in my area of Paris (17eme) and around 40% of those seen had no stickers.

  39. Andrew Lovell permalink

    This also used to be mandatory in Portugal (they have a nasty habit of trying to copy the french) and is still part of the legislation, however in Portugal it is never enforced.

  40. Steve permalink

    Amazing, the helmet stickers are a legal requirement in France, its not about liking it or not, its not about hoping for a friendly cop. Its your choice. Stickers on not. But remember if you get caught without them, you chose to break the law.

  41. We’ve managed to conquer the ‘glue’ issue and crack the correct surface area without producing ugly large stickers. As bikers who often venture in to France it has taken a LOT of trial and error to produce these stickers but we’ve successful got it spot on and have since sold thousands to bikers across the UK!

    Permanent enough to keep the law enforcement off your back but with a subtle hint of temporary. With a bit a tough love, you can get these stickers back off, then simply use an alcohol wipe and hey presto – no sticky residue OR damage to the helmet. Tried and tested (several thousand times)

    http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=161282019931&ssPageName=STRK:MESE:IT

  42. Mick permalink

    Is this still an issue as i heard it did not apply retroactively?

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