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Mock ‘hen’s nests’ appear in French potholes to fight for better roads

The nests are part of a campaign by motorbike riders to denounce what they call the dangerous and worsening state of roads across the country

A split image with a road pothole on one side and fluffy chicks on the other

The fluffy chicks were a humorous way to draw attention to a more serious problem on the roads Pic: Nigmatulina Aleksandra / Yatzek Photography / Shutterstock

Motorbike riders in France have set up “hen’s nests” – complete with eggs and fluffy chicks – in potholes across the country, as part of a campaign to denounce what they call the “dangerous state of roads”.

The campaign by motorbike campaign group La Fédération Française des Motards en Colère (FFMC), dubbed “Opération nids-de-poule (Operation Hen’s Nest)”, called on motorbike users to set up mock hen’s nests in any large potholes, and add signs or writing on the roads to alert users to their presence.

They particularly focused on areas that they considered to be the least well-maintained and chose hen’s nests and eggs to coincide with the Easter weekend, as well as playing on the French term ‘nid-de-poule’ meaning ‘pothole’.

Potholes can be especially dangerous for motorbikes.

Julien Gainza, a member of the FFMC 33 (Gironde), told France 3 Aquitaine: “‘Potholes are extremely dangerous for two-wheeled vehicles, whether motorised or not. They can lead to swerving, loss of control, a fall, or accidents. And for cars, they can cause punctures, and wheel misalignment.”

Mr Gainza said that the state of roads in France is getting worse, and cited figures from annual reports by the World Economic Forum.

He said: “France went from first place in terms of road maintenance to 18th place in the space of eight years.”

As a result, FFMC joined together with motorbike group la Mutuelle des Motards to launch the hen’s nest campaign, along with an internet site, niddepoule.fr, to compile a list of the worst-maintained roads. This will then be reported to local authorities in a bid to fix the issues.

He invited others to join in the campaign, and explained: “You can add a photo and geo-locate. We’ll take care of reporting it to the authorities, municipalities, and departments, to indicate dangerous places on the road.”

A public spending report from March 2022 found that France has one of the biggest road networks in Europe, with 1.1 million kilometres. Its maintenance is largely the responsibility of local authorities; 380,000km are looked after by the local department, while 700,000km are cared for by local communes themselves.

The report also claimed that authorities have been neglecting the maintenance of roads over the past 20 years, which it said can be "reflected in the low priority given to infrastructure in road safety policy".

It also added that road maintenance and development "could play an important role in reducing risks" in terms of road safety.

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