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Autoroutes are numbered using a cluster system for 2- and 3-digit routes. 1-digit routes tend to roughly follow their corresponding routes nationales. Autoroutes beginning with a 1 are based around Paris and the Île-de-France, those with a 2 are in the North, 3 in the East, 4 in the Alps, 5 near the Mediterranean coast, 6 in the southwest, 7 in the centre and 8 in the west. There are exceptions, however: notably the A20, which follows the N20.
Many long-distance autoroutes are à péage (tolled), though travel is often free over the immediate area when an autoroute acts as a town or city bypass.
The Routes nationales are the main nationally funded all-purpose roads in France. They are derived from Routes impériales, which were originally proposed by Napoleon in the early 19th century, and were revived by Michelin in the 20th century. These consisted of a number of "primary" radial routes from Paris (N1 - N15), followed by "secondary" radial routes (N16 - N25), and other routes crossing France but not connecting with Paris. This "hub and spokes" numbering system was highly influential on the original numbering scheme in Britain.
In the early 20th century, many routes had alternative diversions, usually marked as "bis": e.g. N5 bis. The scheme was discussed for British road numbering, but never taken up (though it did occasionally appear in the original Irish road numbering).
Since 1973, and particularly again in 2006, many Routes Nationales have been downgraded to become Chemins départementaux (D roads). Many of these were renumbered to retain some connection to their original N number, frequently by adding 900 (for example, much of the former N5 west of Dijon has become the D905), but there are no hard and fast rules.
Routes nationales radiating from Paris are measured from a point zéro in front of Notre Dame Cathedral in the centre of Paris.
The rule of priorité à droite (give way to all merging / crossing traffic coming from the right) applies at all intersections where no other rule is indicated (by means of "you have priority" yellow diamonds, or "give way", "stop", "roundabout" signs, etc.). In practice, the number of such exceptions to the general give-way-to-the-right rule has grown to such an extent over the years that they now take precedence over priorité à droite at the vast majority of the country's intersections. Nevertheless, the default rule still applies to many speed-limited junctions, particularly in built-up areas, as well as (notoriously) to the Boulevard périphèrique, the grade-separated inner ring road that runs around Paris (meaning that here entering traffic has priority).
- Autoroutes 130 km/h when dry, 110 km/h when wet
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