Bison Futé or the “Clever Bison”, is the national traffic website for Highways in France and now also available as a phone app. The Bison gives the current incident reports (accidents, closures, construction) for all highways in France as well as predictions of traffic volume for holiday weekends. It is a very helpful site for avoiding notorious traffic jams on French roads. But why on Earth is the traffic reporting system called “Bison Futé”? The “clever” part makes sense as the clever traveler avoids traffic, but why the “bison”? Well apparently the alternative suggestions for a mascot were a dolphin, giraffe, bird, and rat, so why not a bison? Bison Futé is an eye-catching, smart, affable American Indian, invented by the publicity man named Daniel Robert in 1976 as a gimic to get people’s attention as France rolled out a campaign to encourage people to use alternative routes and depart at different times of the day to avoid sitting in monster traffic jams like the one on 2 August 1975. That massive slow down stretched all across France down most of highway 10 from Paris to Bayonne, that’s 600km! It was the dog days of summer, (le canicule) temperatures rose to 35°C and of course very very few had air conditioning. To keep cars from overheating engines were turned off and people piled out to push their cars – they were only going a few kilometers an hour anyway. The government was blamed and so the next year they rolled out the Bison Futé campaign along with the ” itinéraires bis”. And it worked the next year there were half as many traffic jams and Bison became every French (Belgian and Dutch) driver’s best friend. Nostalgics can participate in the biennial re-enactment of the great Route 10 traffic jam in September 2019 http://nationale10.e-monsite.com/ Bell-bottoms (pattes d’eph), cars from before 1977 and Joe Dassin songs on the radio!
However as there are more and more cars and even with Bison Futé the all time traffic record was quite recent: 857 km total jams on all the routes of France on Saturday 5 August 2017.
Larger French cities have their own traffic sites which you can find via the national Bison Futé. There are more and more cars, Paris can see a total of 300+ kilometers of traffic during any given rush hour! You can get an up to the minute traffic report for the Paris area on http://www.sytadin.fr/. This site also allows you to look at traffic graphs to see what time is best to depart from home on a given day of the week, allowing you to figure how long you need to get to the airport for example.
Learn more about driving in France. https://www.fusac.fr/driving-in-france/