I have just returned from a family holiday, and I have to say I am in love with France again. Our holiday had a major cycling theme starting in Paris for the final day of the Tour de France, cycling in the alps and a chance to tackle the infamous Alpe d’Huez, and a week of cycling and relaxing near to Annecy.
I have come away with many things that I observed about French society that I am missing already…
- saying hello and goodbye to shop and till assistants, and not using the checkout as a time to check phone messages
- using my “survival” french to build a relationship with the local butcher who in French played along with me and complimented my choice of sausages for the barbecue
- not taking my life in my hands and dodging speeding cars around the car park of the supermarket
- nodding and saying hello to people in the street
But most of all I was struck by French drivers, and hence the picture that we passed alongside many of the roads in the areas that we cycled. Cars slowed down behind us, did not burn out their clutches as they revved their engine either intending to intimidate or purely through incompetence of actually driving a car at slow speeds!! But most of all they passed us at the sort of distances in the sign above, and also not accelerating whilst they did it. In fact over the two weeks that we cycled covering over 400km on the bike, I can only recollect two cars that passed us extremely closely. Guess what, they had British plates!!!
So my lessons from France, and maybe its more about passing bikes at a safe distance, that just maybe we have lost something more in our society, and thats just the ability to get along with each other, be interested in each other whatever our language, and that we need to pass each other and give each other a bit of space.
I am sure that French Society has its ills, but I experienced something that Im going to work hard at practising here.
What I ask from you, especially if you drive a car, is that you think about us on a bike and give us 1.5m. If the French, the Italians and the Dutch can, then surely you can?