Paris residents set to vote on plan to triple parking charges for SUVs

Green activists in Paris are making a final push to win a landmark vote tripling parking charges for SUVs in a move aimed at tackling air pollution that is being closely watched by other cities such as London.

Paris residents will be asked to vote on Sunday for or against a special parking tariff for heavy, large and polluting SUVs parked by non-residents, as the French capital aims to target rich, out-of-town drivers entering the city in order to tackle climate breakdown and air pollution.

In final campaigning before Sunday’s vote, the socialist mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, canvassed parents outside a primary school in the 10th arrondissement near the Gare du Nord, where pollution from large boulevards, traffic on small backstreets and a lack of green space had led many residents to call for fewer cars.

“We’re doing this to reduce pollution and to make our children safer because these cars are dangerous,” Hidalgo said. “Paris is transforming itself to allow people to breathe better and live better.”

If Paris votes yes on the parking tariffs, the cost of on-street parking for an SUV or 4×4 car will rise to €18 (£15) an hour in the centre of Paris and €12 an hour in the rest of the city. The prices will apply to vehicles weighing more than 1.6 tonnes with a combustion engine or hybrid vehicles, and more than 2 tonnes for electric vehicles. The move will not apply to Paris residents’ parking.

In August last year, Paris held a similar vote on whether to ban rented electric scooters and subsequently became the first European capital to ban them. Turnout for that vote was 103,000 people – about 7% of registered voters in Paris – with 89% approving a ban. Environmental campaigners are hoping for a higher turn-out for the vote on SUVs.

An Opinionway poll for Le Parisien this month found that 61% of Paris residents backed raising parking charges for SUVs. Motorist groups and rightwing opposition parties have criticised the proposals.

Hidalgo said a citizens’ vote was important because French democracy was “in crisis”. She said the new parking tariffs would reduce the presence of SUVs. “This measure would have a dissuasive effect because these large cars are taking up more and more space … We saw with the end of rental scooters that the sense of peace was visible. As soon as the rental scooters disappeared last year, there was a feeling of liberation and calm. We expect that [with SUVs].”

Outside the Paris primary school, Tony Renucci, director of the air quality campaign group, Respire, said: “Paris has a chance to send a strong message to car manufacturers: stop building SUVs.” He said it was about changing the narrative of ubiquitous advertising for big cars. In 2021, a study for the World Wildlife Fund in France found that in 2019, adverts for SUVs accounted for 3 hours and 50 minutes of television time in France each day.

Lucie, 39, a caterer dropping her nine-year-old to school, said: “I get so angry seeing people sitting alone in their big SUVs in traffic in the morning; it just doesn’t make sense. We live in an era of massive contradictions: there is a climate crisis yet manufacturers are making these giant cars. My son finds the disproportionate size of these SUVs quite shocking. The other day one was trying to park in a narrow sidestreet and was half crushing all the bikes parked behind. At my firm, we do deliveries daily and choose do it all by bike, but I know not everyone can do that.”

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Diane, a stylist, who travels by electric bike with her two children aged seven and two, said: “I’m voting to send a message that we don’t want cars in general: for air quality, noise, for the climate and even for the overall mood of the city. It is possible to live in a city centre without a car if public transport is improved.”

Pauline, 37, who works in publishing and has three children, said: “Like a lot of Parisians, I don’t even have a driving licence. Ultimately, for the sake of my children, I want a city without any cars at all. We all want Paris to be greener – less pollution, less noise. SUVs are disgusting. I understand that in rural places you need a car to get around, but in Paris SUVs make no sense.”

Before Paris, Lyon – France’s third biggest city, which is run by the Greens – devised a progressive parking tariff system to incentivise people away from the use of heavy sports vehicles. Lyon’s scheme will begin this summer. “It’s about putting the issue of SUVs out into the public debate,” said Valentin Lungenstrass, a deputy mayor of Lyon in charge of mobility. “We want to incite people who have to use cars to choose vehicles which are more sober, lighter and electric.”


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