Can people in wheelchairs use the cycle paths? Yes and no

French regulations concerning the right, or not, to authorize people in wheelchairs to circulate on cycle paths are relatively convoluted. On the one hand, she does not allow it. But on the other hand, the Vienna Convention – ratified by France – of May 21, 1977 authorizes them to do so… under certain conditions.

With the massive development of cycling infrastructure in several major French cities, including Paris, it can be relatively common to come across a person in a wheelchair on a cycle path. Far be it from us to denigrate this practice, but a question naturally came to mind: what is the law surrounding the movement of people in wheelchairs?

This very simple question actually leads to a complex and convoluted answer, that CssTricks dissects you to see more clearly. First of all, it is necessary to define to which group people in wheelchairs are assimilated: to pedestrians, as explained in article R. 412-34 of the Highway Code.

Assimilation to pedestrians

It is thus written: Are assimilated to pedestrians: the disabled who move in a wheelchair moved by themselves or circulating at the pace of the walk “. On the other hand, and as this government page from the Ministry of Ecology explains, “people in manual or electric wheelchairs are allowed to travel on the roadway and sidewalks or shoulders, but not on cycle paths “.

The message is clear: cycle paths are prohibited for them, but not sidewalks, on which they must move at walking speed, around 6 km/h, or the roadway.

wheelchair bike path

During a sessionParliamentary questions» of March 14, 2023, the answers to which are available in this special issue of the Official Journal, MP Olivier Falorni (Modem and Independents) drew the attention of the Minister of the Interior and Overseas Territories to the subject in question. (page 4205).

The person concerned raises two issues: the first concerns “the danger incurred by people in electric wheelchairs, who have to use the road because of their speed or, in the absence of sidewalks, and are brushed against by trucks, buses and cars passing them“. The concern highlighted here is self-evident.

This first problem had also been pointed out in July 2018 by the deputy Hervé Pellois (La République en Marche).

When the Vienna Convention changes the game

The second issue concerns the opening of cycle paths to people in wheelchairs. Olivier Falorni says:

The Ministry of the Interior had indicated in a response to a written question in March 2020 that the opening of cycle paths to this public would present a risk for all users of these paths, due to the speed differential and the impossibility for a person in a wheelchair to move quickly in the event of a traffic conflict.

This is where things get a little complicated. On the one hand, the Ministry of the Interior had shown itself unfavorable to the idea of ​​opening cycle paths to them. But on the other hand, the Vienna Convention which came into force on May 21, 1977 and ratified by France authorizes people in wheelchairs to use cycle paths… under certain conditions.

CssTrickshas found the precise passage that authorizes them to do so. It is available on page 25 of the handwritten Vienna Convention, since digitized.

It is written : “If it is not possible to use the sidewalks or the shoulders or in the absence of these, pedestrians can circulate on the roadway; when there is a cycle path and when the traffic density allows it, they can ride on this cycle path, but without obstructing the passage of cyclists and moped riders“.

wheelchair cycle path

People in wheelchairs being assimilated to pedestrians, they are therefore concerned here by this text, which authorizes them to circulate on cycle paths provided they do not interfere with cyclists, and if and only if the sidewalk cannot be used. . Traffic should also be relatively sparse. The question being: when do you get in the way of a cyclist?

The maximum speed of an electric wheelchair can vary depending on the model. If many of them are limited to 6 to 10 km/h, some can climb to 15 km/h. Either a completely conceivable pace and adapted to a cycle path. If the latter is narrow and the wheelchair slow, the notion of “embarrassedmight make sense.

It is advisable in all cases to use common sense and to overtake with caution, with a minimum of safety distance, on any cycle path and any user.

The government wantsget out of this contradiction»

In its responses, the government and more specifically the Ministry of the Interior says it is ready to “get out of this contradiction» and has «sketched an opening by explaining that an evolution of the Highway Code in this direction could be studied in conjunction with associations of bicycle users“.

This reflection started in 2019 has obviously not evolved since, since we find this passage on the government page of the Ministry of Ecology already mentioned earlier in this article… and whose last update dates from June 26, 2023 . A form ofstatus quoseems to have settled.

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