If you love motorsport, track driving or those lovely European autoroutes and alpine passes, then you may well think that the centre of Paris is somewhere to avoid like the plague. In fact, driving in Paris is something that everyone should experience at least once in their lives, even if it’s only from the passenger seat. And if you love a little door to door competition and you happen to be driving a car some way down your list of cherished goods, then driving in the absolute centre of Paris actually an exhilarating experience. Here’s my guide on how to drive in the centre of Paris and not just survive the experience, instead, you can positively enjoy it.
A Guide to Driving in Paris
1. Never indicate, it’s a sign if weakness. Indicating infers that you might actually be asking permission rather than enforcing your will on those around you. This suggests that you lack commitment and that you’re probably going to back down. Never, ever indicate. Just do it.
2. Never leave a gap. Gaps are there to be filled. Either with cyclists, motorcycles, pedestrians or if you’re foolish enough to let them, larger items such as taxis or even busses. Never ever leave as much as the width of a discarded Gitanes packet between you and the cars around you. That means not just those front and back, but on either side too. You’ll soon be swapping wing mirror paint.
3. Never back down. Back down and you’re dead. Once you’ve admitted defeat to one car, all of it’s colleagues will sense your weakness. Just like the weakest animal at the back of the pack, they will devour you like a weakling. Instead face them down, especially if you’re driving a car with GB or non Paris number plates. They already think you’re going to blink first, so absolutely stick it back at them with all the aggression you can find.
4. Disregard motorcycles as if they were wasps. Their ability to dance between the traffic while still retaining kneecaps is stunning to watch. It’s quite normal to hear the dull thud of a handlebar end rubber against the car and expect your wing mirrors to be rearranged. Would I ride a motorcycle in Paris traffic?
Not. A. Chance.
5. Drive Champs Elysees it has to be done. It’s been the subject of a million TV documentaries and when you get there it really is absolutely every bit as chaotic as it is on TV. There seems to be no rule book whatsoever other than survival of the fittest. And when you’ve fought your way to the centre and the Sat Nav calls out your exit, you’re in for the ride of your life as you fight your way back to the other edge and escape. You’re going to love it.
6. The horn is a weapon. Use it to excess. Use two metrics as a rule on the rate of horn usage. Either for every ninety degrees you turn the wheel or if you’re more of a sniper with the horn, time it to inflict maximum shock and uncertainty on pedestrians or cyclists.
7. Keep your arms inside the vehicle. If it’s a sunny summers day and you have the windows wound down, be sure that everyone keeps limbs and heads inside the car. In the same way that you wouldn’t race holding onto the roll cage, do not stick arms or heads outside as you’re probably risking an impact with a motorcyclist. They come from out of nowhere and just as you lean out to take a picture, they’ll take your eyebrows off.
8. Drive a car with battle damage. For may Parisian drivers, body damage is displayed with pride and serves as a warning. The lower the value of car, the better.
9. When you leave the centre of Paris, don’t forget to adjust your driving style back to normal. Not everyone in France drives in the style of Parisians, so don’t forget that what was OK in the city centre will probably get an outrageous reaction once you’ve left Paris.
Paris is a beautiful city and everyone should experience it at some point. And if you’re a driver, it really is a must. Driving in Paris allows a style of driving that would literally get you arrested in other countries or even other parts of France. It’s simply standard behaviour in Paris.
So pick up a rental car, pay the collision damage waiver and enjoy the fight.