As cities continue to resist freeing up spaces for motorcycle parking, there is one country that seems to be paradise for motorcyclists.
Former Brisbane chef Michel Bonnet, who has returned to his native country of France, says we can learn a lot from his country.
He says there are rules, but the gendarmerie seems to turn a blind eye. His favourite city is Toulouse in the southwest which was voted the most ‘liveable city’ in France last year.
There are also hundreds of great motorcycle roads in the nearby Pyrenees!
“Many Australians and English spend time in Toulouse as it is the home of Airbus,” he says. “Pilots and engineers mostly, come and spend some months with their family.”
In 1939, 20,000 refugees moved to Toulouse from Spain after the war of Independence and the great Republican exile. Most were intellectuals, artists or politicians.
“Mix all that with a bit of French flair and you get free parking for motorbikes,” Michel says.
“Motorbike parking is free everywhere in France. I’ve never came across a pay-parking area for motorbikes unless you use a car-parking space.
“There may be some, somewhere but I have never seen it and for the last two years travelling I can’t remember any sort of pay-parking and I’ve never come across any problems. I’ve certainly never been booked.”
All over France the law is the same for motorbike parking so long as you only park in designated spaces. Sounds like bikers’ paradise to us.
“However, if you do park outside a designated area with a motorbike, scooter or bicycle, authorities don’t care and the law is never enforced, except near tourist sites or official buildings.
“Terrorism is still on everyone’s mind and a motorbike is a great escape.”
Advice from police
In Toulouse, Michel talked at great length with the French police and the police municipale who are responsible for enforcing correct parking, cleanliness of the town etc.
“They are like upmarket parking inspectors,” he explains.
“The French police are directed by the government while it is the local mayor who governs the police municipale.
“French police will rarely give out a ticket for motorcycles parked on a footpath.
“However, the police municipale are another story. What they do depends entirely on what the mayor decides. Every town and village has a mayor. My brother-in-law is mayor of a town of 700 people while his son is mayor of a village of 43 people. They don’t care about illegal motorbike parking.
“Bigger towns are different, of course, but the mayor decides how strict they want to be with everything from cigarette-butt-throwing, dog shit on the footpaths, pedestrians crossing streets on red lights, motorbikes parked on footpaths etc.”
But Michel says 90% of French cities are very relaxed about parking as long the parked motorbikes don’t interfere with pedestrian, bicycle or road traffic.
“It is that simple,” he says.
In one of the photos he sent, despite there being no legal parking for anyone, there are cars, scooters, motorbikes and a few bicycles all illegally parked, but in no-ones way.
“The law is made to protect the council in case of an accident,” he says.
“Allow me to explain: If someone falls from a roof on top of your bike, you can say goodbye to your bike if you are illegally parked.
“On the other hand if you are parked legally you will get a brand new bike. I know where I’m going to park my bike from now on!”
But he declares the ultimate biker’s paradise is in Toulouse.
“Everything seems to work. Bikers are well behaved (they still park illegally but in no one’s way), cars give way to pedestrians and bicycles, cars also give room for lane filtering and the police are very approachable.”