The Hi-Vis day-glow Tohuwabohu in France

I am sick and tired of the endless discussion on Hi-Vis vests, and on who orders me to wear what, when and where. This is a free world, and each individual should be responsible for his own actions. End of rant.

A lot has been written about the new biking laws in France, even more has been hotly discussed, but the final solution is not to flood the Eurotunnel and only cross with ferries to Belgium. It helps sometimes to read the law in its small print (and in its original language) and then, staying very relaxed, analyse what is actually required. (I am reading the French text as published by Reims Chapter on their website under the tab “La Loi”)

Now, regarding visibility and clothing, there are 2 (two, deux) relevant laws, one for hi-vis vests, and one for reflective material on biker clothing.

Hi-Vis vest (Gilet jaune)

This is a old law from 29 September 2008, soon 4 old, that requires drivers to carry a hi-vis vests with them, and to be worn when outside the stationary vehicle. 2 and 3 wheel vehicles are exempt from this. In a nutshell: the french law does not force you to ride around like Ronald MacDonald. You can stay in full black leathers.

I personally carry a orange Hi-Vis HD vest with me, for very bad weather conditions and at nights. But I do not wear it while riding with the Chapter, as this day-glow Hi-Vis orange or yellow should be reserved to the ride leader and their backmarkers, as they need to be clearly and easily identified.

So again: not wearing a Hi-Vis day glow vest or jacket does not break any french law !!

Reflective clothing

But a new law from January 2012 requires a motorcycle rider to wear reflective material on his clothing, either attached or integrated. This is mandatory from January 2013. The law has 2 criteria to be fulfilled:

a) the reflective material has to be visible between shoulders and waist
b) its total surface has to be 150 cm2, in one piece or many.

Now, 150 square centimeter is what I would call peanuts, it is for example a 3M Scotchlite reflective sticker 15cm wide and 10 cm high that you can placed barely visibly somewhere on your jacket.

I have a rain light jacket from Harley, that I would not label Hi-Vis, its not bright orange or yellow, but dark in general tone, however, with some reflective letters and stripes.

I took the time to measured all reflective (silver) material, and to my surprise the total area of reflective material on this jacket is about 600 cm2, this is 4 times the legal requirement.

See these details:

Harley-Davidson are 76 cm2, the word Motorcycles contributes 30 cm2. The bar shield logo is nearly the required size by law.

More surprising are the ams, specially the 3M™ Scotchlite™ Reflective Material piping:

Conclusion: just the fine lines of reflective stripes provide 260 cm2 of reflective surface, and you do not need more to be legal. These lines are about 5mm wide (0.5cm), and in total 5.2 meter long. To be legal, you only need 3 meter of these reflective pipes, and you do not need the letters or the logo at all. PEANUTS, and easily done.

Looking at the present clothes in the official Harley range, this jacket, worn by our very own Katie from Guildford Harley-Davidson, in my view will fulfil all legal french requirements easily with respect to reflective clothing.

… and here is Katie, same day, same jacket, standing next to a day-glow orange Hi-Vis man, clearly showing that reflective in the french legal sense does not need to mean colourful.

And you have lots of space to add rockers, patches and pins to this truly black jacket.

I would like to see from Harley or any other producer a vest (black leather cut) with just the 3 meter of Scotchlite pipelines, and it would be helpful if Harley-Davidson would indicate in its clothing the total area of reflective material. Alternatively, the Chapter and HOG rockers could be made of or with Scotchlite silver piping instead of all gold stitching.  This, with a certificate of reflective area, should convince any french gendarme.

Remember: as everything you read here, this is my very own and personal view and action, and it may be wrong. All you do or don’t do is as usual at your own risk.


7 Responses to “The Hi-Vis day-glow Tohuwabohu in France”

  1. There’s definately a lot to know about this topic. I love all of the points you made.

  2. Mike STOREY Says:

    I have just found this site and, as the hope of spring weather floats around my head in these gloomy days, I thought it would be useful to give an update on the above issues. I am a Brit motorcyclist who has lived in France, and with the absurd French laws, for over 15 years. As of 1 March 2013 the following is correct (and I have checked in the French ‘Journal Officiel’, which is the authority on these things): first, all motorised vehicles (but not mopeds) are obliged to carry one unused and in-date breathalyser, but if they do not carry one, there is no punishment. (In other words, you don’t have to carry one. Yes, it’s unbelievable, and rest assured, there is a lot of debate here on this crazy contradiction!). Second, all reference to any obligation to wear reflective clothing on motorcycles has been removed as from December 2012: it is left to riders’ (and pillions’) discretion – personal responsibility triumphs over draconian laws for once! ‘Phares’ to everyone, as they say here!

  3. I wonder if this is a repeat of the breathtest law. That was brought about because a friend of the Minister for Health, who owned a company that makes breatherlizers had fallen on hard times, perhaps there is another ‘friend’ who owns a refletive strip company??

  4. Top blog post. Top marks!

  5. Be that as it may it’s still a law that targets one community only (motorcyclists) and which will have absolutely no impact on rider safety. That makes it a bad law imo.

  6. A calm and sensible analysis. Excellent. Thank you, Axel.

  7. Graham Manchester Says:

    A very illuminating view of the laws, thank you Axel.

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