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I'm traveling to Europe soon and I'm wondering if I can legally skate on roads in France and if so, am I required by law to wear a helmet, reflective vest etc.

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You're a Pedestrian, Act Like One

In France roller skates and other wheeled contraptions are considered as games, rather than means of transportation, and are therefore not subject to any specific regulation. Indeed from a legal standpoint the French Traffic Code states that skaters are considered pedestrians and must therefore abide by the same rules. These include:

  • rolling on the pavement
  • respecting traffic lights
  • using pedestrian crossings

In addition note that it is forbidden to skate on cycling lanes, since it is also forbidden for pedestrians to walk on them.

All in all you should use common sense to ensure that your safety and that of others around you. Wearing protection might not be mandatory but it's nevertheless a smart thing to do. So is limiting your speed, and maybe even moving onto the road if the pavement is too crowded and it's safe for you to do so.

More information can be found on this public utility website on the topic (in French), which I paraphrased above. Below are the relevant quotes from the site:

Peut-on rouler n'importe où avec des rollers, une trottinette ou un skateboard ?

Aucun texte spécifique national ne réglemente spécifiquement la circulation des engins à roulettes (rollers, trottinettes, skateboards, planches ou patins à roulettes). Cette activité n'est pas assimilée à un moyen de transport, mais à un jeu, y compris si les engins à roulettes sont mus par l'énergie électrique.

[...]

Obligations minimales

Les utilisateurs d'engins à roulette sont soumis, comme tout piéton, à une obligation générale de bon sens et de prudence.

Sauf autorisation temporaire d'occupation de la voie publique, ils sont aussi soumis, comme tout piéton, aux obligations particulières suivantes

  • circuler sur les trottoirs,
  • respecter les feux tricolores,
  • emprunter les passages protégés.

Further reading can be found in this article (in French) from a roller skating blog detailing the current regulations and best practices for skaters in France.

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    +1 for the good information (I did not know that site which is full of useful information). A comment on it is forbidden to skate on cycling lanes: this is not something which is enforced, at least not in the Versailles area. – WoJ May 21 '15 at 15:35
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    @WoJ this is in fact rarely enforced, pretty much anywhere in France. But some towns actually pay policemen to enforce such rules as speed limits for bikes. – Vince May 21 '15 at 23:48
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    This surprises me. I used to travel everywhere with my rollerblades and found France about the most skate-friendly place I'd been. Even in Paris there was a massive organized skating event right through the heart of the city twice per week I think. There would be police on skates to make sure drivers let the skaters through (presumably also there in case some skaters misbehaved) and I believe an ambulance was also trailing the pack. This was about fifteen years ago and regularly had thousands of participants. In Australia I've been hassled by the police for skating in every city except Sydney! – hippietrail May 22 '15 at 14:22
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    @hippietrail You are referring to the Critical Mass. I suppose their rallies still occur regularly in Paris. This is however a particular case. Indeed when organising such events you can get a autorisation temporaire d'occupation de la voie publique from the council which allows you to occupy the street. Regular everyday skaters don't have that though. :) – JoErNanO May 22 '15 at 14:35
  • No city in Australia would ever grant any such thing to lowly skaters. I recall there were two events in Paris at the time, one in the daytime and one at night. I think the daytime one was for people of all levels and the night one was hardcore. I went on the daytime one in winter. I don't know if they were organized by the same people. – hippietrail May 22 '15 at 14:42

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