Differences between driving in Britain and France

All roads lead to ... 

If you work in a French company, chances are you’ll be joining the masses in August when, according to INSEE, 40% of the country takes their annual break, many by car on one of the best road networks in Europe. True, French secondary roads can sometimes be dicey but the route nationale network is miles – or rather kilometres – ahead of the UK in quality and ease of use.

Pity the British motorist says Germaine Greer. The Australian-born feminist icon and Professor Emerita at the University of Warwick wonders why British roads are badly planned, potholed and weed-infested “primitive messes”.

British Potholes

“British roads should be the absolute best that we can manage, in engineering, in design and in construction,” says the outspoken Greer. “They offer a huge opportunity that in Britain is in great part wasted.”

Her suggestion? “Why can’t Britain have roads like the French?” she was quoted in the Daily Telegraph.

The British Highways Agency (an executive agency of the DoT) has been responsible for the construction, maintenance and management of British roads since 1994. It takes little notice of light or sound pollution and loves road signs – lots of them, often contradictory. Different from French motorways, there are few places to stop for toilet breaks or catnaps as if it wasn’t dangerous to drive while tired or with a bursting bladder. Distances between service stations are long, badly indicated and not readily accessible so some drivers resort to carrying extra cans of petrol.

In contrast to French highways, however, British roads are free. The network is financed by a road tax on every car and there is a brisk market for message-bearing tax disc holders in the UK. One favourite model reads: “I’ve paid the bloody tax. Now fix the bloody potholes!”

That one could have been written by Germaine herself.

Photo: Alan Stanton

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