Monday, August 27, 2012

French Maps

On our recent trip across France we bought a number of the excellent Michelin 1:150 000 departement maps. These maps classify roads into motorways where cyclists are forbidden; “red” roads – international and national with heavy lorry traffic, less congested interregional “yellow” roads and “white” roads which are often very quiet. The white roads are further classified into D (departement), C (community) roads and unnumbered roads (think of tarred farm tracks). The latter suffer from the disadvantage that they are rarely signposted. Conventional cycling wisdom is that “white” roads are almost traffic-free and they are the best to follow. However the lack of signposting on the most basic roads can mean slow progress due to the need to orient oneself at frequent intervals. We did find that some of the “red” and “yellow” roads had painted stripe bike lanes. We felt safe cycling on these.

Other good maps to use for touring are the IGN 1:100 000 ‘Carte de Promenade’ maps with lots of detail. Their web site is at: We have had difficulty finding these maps in smaller towns. The company publishes 1:25 000 and 1: 50 000 maps that are excellent but do not cover enough area for cyclists. These maps are easier to find.

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