Even before World War II in France, pedestrian crosswalks existed. They consisted of two white or yellow stripes, or two rows of «nails». The «nails» were parallel rows of slightly raised rounded disks of about 10 cm in diameter, they were held in place by a stem that was wedged in between the paving stones. They were shaped like giant nails and thus were called «les passages cloutés» or «les clous». In the 1960s the passages were standardized and the les clous were gone, but not before leaving behind the expression être dans les clous which means to follow rules and do what is expected. In American English you might say «to color between the lines» or «to stick to the script». The British might use «It’s all in the game». The French expression is likely to come from the crosswalks where law abiding citizens crossed traffic following the rules dans les clous.
Now Paris is experimenting with new styles of crosswalks and pavement markings. Why experiment with new markings ? Apparently it is not always easy to know when you enter and when you leave a or zone where several types of traffic cross. Regulatory signage panels mark these areas, but the City of Paris thinks they are poorly perceived by users. So, several cities in France are looking for solutions to improve the navigability of these areas. In Paris, five different types of markings are being tested. The markings are placed where different types of traffic meet, notably at the beginning and end of pedestrian areas and crossings. The city is conducting a study to evaluate markings, determine how they are perceived and understood and how people react to them. Here are a few examples that the FUSAC drivers have seen when out and about in Paris.
Comment on the new markings on paris.fr rubrique pratique/déplacements and let the City of Paris know what you think!