Reader Question: Our road has a sign ‘access restricted to residents’ but does that mean that people visiting us cannot drive to us? What penalty do they face if they do so?
If a French road is marked by a sign reading ‘(interdit) sauf riverains’ (literally: prohibited apart from residents) it is reserved only for the people who live there, meaning that non-residents cannot drive down or park there.
The Code général des collectivités territoriales gives (article L2213-2) the mayor of a commune the right to restrict access to certain streets, or sections of streets, via an arrêté municipal (local bylaw).
It states these can reserve access, either at set times, or permanently, to certain categories of users or vehicles. It also says that they can lay down rules on parking.
The word riverain is linked to rive, meaning sides or edge, and basically refers in this case to someone who lives along a given piece of road (or owns or rents premises of some kind along the road).
Restrictions do not apply to people carrying out a public service – such as ambulance or delivery drivers for example – or people employed in maintaining the natural spaces on the road.
This does not technically include guests being invited to a house on the road or street, although there is a grey area around this point.
A decision on the matter would be left to the discretion of the local police and issues would be more likely to arise relating to parking on the street than just passing through.
What penalty for breaking the rules?
If someone parks on or uses a ‘sauf riverains’ road on which they do not live or own a property, they could in theory face a penalty if the police are aware of it.
The police will send the person to whom the vehicle is registered a notice in the post informing them that they have broken the law and of the fine that they will have to pay.
People breaking the rules face a €135 fine, which can be increased to €375 if it goes unpaid. They also risk having four points taken off their licence (French licences lose points rather than gain them as in some other countries).