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So I was watching todays stage and some of these mountain roads look more like bike paths than roads. They seem to be in perfect condition, very narrow, and have white lines painted on the outside.

How do 2 cars get past each other on these "roads"? They don't look wide enough at all. Or are some of these actually paved biking paths that go thru the mountains?
 

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ajoc_prez said:
So I was watching todays stage and some of these mountain roads look more like bike paths than roads. They seem to be in perfect condition, very narrow, and have white lines painted on the outside.

How do 2 cars get past each other on these "roads"? They don't look wide enough at all. Or are some of these actually paved biking paths that go thru the mountains?

They are roads.

Cars here in Europe are generally smaller.

It can prove somewhat challenging to put a four lane expressway up an Alpine pass.
 

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shabbasuraj said:
They are roads.

Cars here in Europe are generally smaller.
Ya but on that first HC climb, those roads were so narrow that not even 2 small cars could get by each other. Looked like a damn bike path (a very nice one at that!). Must be sorta dangerous to drive those roads if two cars come around a corner at each other...sometimes there is very little room to pull over and let somebody thru. Strange.
 

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They are all roads! There have been EU grants for paving mountain roads for so many years now that you'll be hard pushed to find a gravel road on mainland western Europe. Added to which its a matter of local pride to resurface the road if Le Tour is coming to town. Today's stage was a special case when a 2 km loop was added just to be the highest in France. It doesn't go anywhere and is one way only!
 

· haole from the mainland
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I think I heard Paul or Phil say the road over Col de la Bonnette is the highest 'continuously paved road' in Europe (not the highest pass according to Wikipedia, though). Considering that, it wouldn't surprise me if it did go down to a single lane at it's highest points.

As far as cars getting past one another, there are rules of etiquette about who is to pull over when cars meet (generally, downhill drivers yield to uphill drivers).
 

· haole from the mainland
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ajoc_prez said:
...sometimes there is very little room to pull over and let somebody thru.
There are probably pull-offs located every so often.

I haven't driven roads in Europe, but I've driven many, many miles on Forest Service dirt roads. And I've been in situations where a logging truck is going the other direction, and it works out fine. I have to imagine the roads they were riding today are substantially wider than FS logging roads.
 

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There are similar, super narrow roads all over - even in the US. The mountain roads are frequently narrow in Europe for a variety of reasons - they tend to only get tourist traffic (not commercial traffic) and a one-lane road with turnouts (or occasional wide spots) is sufficient. It's also not THAT uncommon for unpaved mountain roads in Europe to get paved to draw the Tour or Giro to that location. The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_de_Pailh%C3%A8res">Port de Pailhères</a> in the Pyrenees was paved on the east side for its debut in the 2003 tour and it's been used twice since then. There are places on that climb that make today's roads look like a freeway.

As to the immaculate condition of the roads - there are a couple factors. The big one is the lack of truck transport (generally true through most of Europe) which makes a big difference in the life of a road. There are plenty of bad roads in Europe though - see the Beloki crash in '03. A lot of the roads in the Pyrenees are pretty nasty chipseal.
 

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I believe it is an EU standard that if the road is narrow enough, it has the outer lines, rather than a center line. I have been on many mountain roads where if a tour bus is coming around a blind corner, someone has to back up. But generally these roads see little traffic. I regular bike on roads around there that are barely a lane and a half.

I drove across a mountain pass in Spain that has been used for some of their bike races. It was funny, we drove for what seemed like forever after turning off where the tunnel started (we were on vacation and wanted the scenic route). After all that driving, and all the insane switchbacks, we ended up at the other end of the tunnel (maybe an hour later). What was interesting was all the bike signs--- since bikes were not allowed in the tunnel, it was a bike route. There were all sorts of warnings about not riding two abreast on the descents.

BTW- for the most part, European roads are simply made better than in the US. Sorry, but it is true--- for western Europe, at least. But many mountain roads are simply neglected due to lack of traffic. Many are only driveable half the year anyway.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I wonder how many Euro's blast around these backroads in their Porsche 911's or BMW M3's? I would not want to encounter any of them blasting around some of the corners with little time to pull off and let them go by.
 

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filtersweep said:
BTW- for the most part, European roads are simply made better than in the US. Sorry, but it is true--- for western Europe, at least. But many mountain roads are simply neglected due to lack of traffic. Many are only driveable half the year anyway.

Also, people drive to drive---they usually don't try to talk on the phone, control the kids, drink coffee, and remember where they are going....with fines being higher, cost of licenses being higher, and roads being more challenging (versus US Interstats)---your average driver over there tends to be better.

Also, Le TdF also probably picks decent roads to use.
 

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Highest paved road in Europe.

jorgy said:
I think I heard Paul or Phil say the road over Col de la Bonnette is the highest 'continuously paved road' in Europe (not the highest pass according to Wikipedia, though). Considering that, it wouldn't surprise me if it did go down to a single lane at it's highest points.

As far as cars getting past one another, there are rules of etiquette about who is to pull over when cars meet (generally, downhill drivers yield to uphill drivers).
I just finished watching this guy in today's stage going down the steep cliff after failing to negotiate the curve...wow that was scary! He went down sliding in slow motion and the bike just kept rolling down the cliff very fast. I felt his fear and frustration. Who is going to recover the bike now? I was contemplating a "road riding vacation" to Italy and France this fall, but I have my doubts now as to these mountain roads, no guard rails like in our USA.
 

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Room 1201 said:
Also, people drive to drive---they usually don't try to talk on the phone, control the kids, drink coffee, and remember where they are going
Just returned from 10 days in Dijon and some of the surrounding area. I NEVER saw anyone driving a car and talking on a cell phone. Now riding a bike and talking on a cell... :D
 

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I was watching France 3 TV Rhone-Alpes (the local government TV broadcast) 3 weeks ago and they showed the local roads inspectors going up all the TdF roads on road bikes. These guys were all decked out in racing kit and bikes and their job was to make a meticulous inspection of irregularities so these could be fixed before the race.

Also, on rides around Aix-les-Bains at least there are a lot of signs on narrow mountain roads reminding motorists that they must leave 1.5 meters distance for bicycles when passing. I never had any problems with cars on those ride. Now here in Paris, another story, I rode out from my house and within one block I had a Smart drive straight towards me on my side of the road, a pedestrian jay walking right in front of me, a car passing over the median (illegal) to beat me to the red light, etc....

-ilan
 

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I've cycled lots of those roads

in France, Scotland and to a lesser extent in Spain. Not a lot of room to be sure, but more than enough for two carefully driven cars. Those few roads that are just not wide enough have frequent pullouts. And guardrails? naa ... those are for nervous North Americans. FWIW, I always found the drivers, particularly in France and especially on those narrow roads, to be tremendously respectful of cyclists.
 

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Room 1201 said:
Also, people drive to drive---they usually don't try to talk on the phone, control the kids, drink coffee, and remember where they are going....

blah, blah, blah..... how many times have you ridden in a car in Europe with a mother and her 2 kids, with the dog in the cargo area of the station wagon. Its the same as it is here. The variance in drivers' capabilities, and attention to the road in europe is the same as in the US.

This thread, along with the thread about team cars is so cliche. These stereotypes are so 80's too. It reminds me when bikers complain about cars, or cars complain about bikers. Both groups have idiots that give it a bad reputation.
 

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philippec said:
Driving and talking on a cell phone is against the law in France. That doesn't mean people don't do it but people who have been fined once ($$) don't tend to do it twice
Its a fine in a lot of place in the U.S. now too. It illegal in DC (with a fine of $250 to $500) yet people do it all the time.
 

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Blah blah blah, indeed. Yes, everyone knows the roads, the drivers, the weather, the cars and everything else are ALL better in Europe. Ive been there, does not compute. There are idiots everywhere. I drove to 14000 feet in the rockies (USA) with no guardrail and there was PLENTY of room to pass, so I wouldnt say its impossible at the "dizzy heights" of 9000 feet. We have 4 lane interstates at 10000 feet in colorado. I think tiny roads are function of just very little traffic.
 

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bigmig19 said:
Blah blah blah, indeed. Yes, everyone knows the roads, the drivers, the weather, the cars and everything else are ALL better in Europe. Ive been there, does not compute. There are idiots everywhere. I drove to 14000 feet in the rockies (USA) with no guardrail and there was PLENTY of room to pass, so I wouldnt say its impossible at the "dizzy heights" of 9000 feet. We have 4 lane interstates at 10000 feet in colorado. I think tiny roads are function of just very little traffic.
Sure it's possible to build 4 lane roads at high altitude but you have to bear in mind that these roads are usually much older than mass transportation (and that's blatantly ignoring Hannibal crossing the Alps 218 B.C. :wink: ) and that when mass transportation hit Yurp it was much more cost effective to simply tunnel through a couple of mountains than to widen the roads over the passes.
 
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