A word of caution for the droves of motorcycle riders coming from the UK, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany etc, transiting through France (or having France as their final destination) this summer. Many of you will take one of the famous autoroutes (motorways) to get to your destination quickly.
But in desperate economic times, the motorways operators (private for-profit-companies) have started reducing staff at the toll booths. Many exit points are now unmanned. In other words, when entering the motorway, you take a ticket out of a machine. When you leave the motorway, you go to the toll machine and insert the ticket. Normally the "computer" should recognize that you are riding a motorcycle and calculate the fare accordingly. But in reality this does not happen. The so-called computer just calculates that you in a car, and need to pay the (much) higher price.
Automated toll booth
The operator does have a "help" function on the toll machine, which puts you in touch with their call center. Right! We all know how call centers work, right? When you are eventually put through after waiting God knows how long, you'll need to remove your helmet to be able to hear what the foreign accent is saying. And in the mean time, chances are pretty high that there's a queue of cars behind you honking their horns to get you moving.
So you just shake your head and ride away, leaving more money in the operator's pockets. If this would happen once or twice, no problem, just a computer glitch. But this happens a lot, and I mean a lot.
Motorcycle toll booth
The French Association of Angry Bikers (FFMC) has been lobbying for motorcycle toll gates, but there are only a few operators that have actually installed them. Obviously when approaching a toll gate area, check to see (usually on the right) if there is a lane for motorcycles. That's the one you want to take. But in most cases, you're going to be stuck with a bandit (not the motorcycle model).