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Speak French to Me: Walking across the street not for the weary at heart

I have never feared for my life more than I have in these past four weeks.

Anyone who has ever seen the movie Taken will automatically think I am afraid of being kidnapped and forced into prostitution.

But this has nothing to do with sex trafficking. This is a different, yet still dangerous experience — crossing the street. 

By the age of 19, one would think they had mastered the art of crossing the street, because for the most part, the rules are always the same. Go on green, stop for red, but if there are no cars coming, just go for it.

Not in France.

With multiple lanes of traffic and cars coming from every direction, it’s enough to throw one into a full-fledged panic.

First, there are multiple lights indicating who can walk where, and looking at the wrong one could prove to be quite problematic. 

But the problems don’t end with the coming of the green light. Au contraire, that’s where things really start to get confusing.

With the green light, one has the right to walk, unless another car decides otherwise. 

This happens on many occasions during my walk to and from university; the green walk light gives pedestrians the right of way while, at the same time, the intersection gives drivers a turning light. 

The most sensible thing would be for those cars to wait for the pedestrians to pass, and sometimes this happens. But more often than not, the situation turns into a power struggle that results in angry drivers and pedestrians power walking for their lives.  

The Avignonaisse seem to have it down to a science, but many a foreigner, like myself, have reason to be afraid. 

Coming from a society where pedestrians always have the right of way, this new change can be quite shocking. 

What’s worse is that it’s not solely at the crosswalks that there is a problem. Many of the streets in Avignon are very narrow, and the sidewalks barely allow walking space for one person. 

In this instance, it is the pedestrians, and not the drivers, who have to be cautious, because to be frank, the drivers really don’t care. 

Buses and cars take up entire streets, and it’s not a rare phenomenon to literally feel an oncoming vehicle as it passes you. Some of the lucky ones (myself included) have actually been hit by a side mirror or two as a result of walking too close to the edge of a sidewalk. 

Needless to say, it is my goal for the rest of this trip to avoid any potential traffic mishaps. So when the French lycée students cross on red, and then look at me like the strange foreigner I am, I will feel no shame in staying safely where I am, and waiting for the green light.

Danielle Limon is a freshman studying journalism and columnist for The Post. What have you learned about crossing the street abroad? Email her at


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