Paris SUV referendum introduces eye-popping parking prices

Rich Booth,Reuters
Monday 05 February 2024 08:48
<p> Cars drive on the Champs Elysee avenue</p>

Cars drive on the Champs Elysee avenue

Paris has voted in favour of a huge increase in parking prices for SUVs in the city.

A referendum was held on Sunday that saw sweeping changes to parking prices in the French capital presses on with long-term plans to become a fully bikeable city.

Some 54.5% of Parisians voted in favour of the measure, while 45.5% rejected it. Only 5.7% of voters turned out in the consultation decided by the municipality, according to official results.

The referendum, less than a year after city residents voted to ban e-scooters, aims to triple parking fees for cars of 1.6 tonnes and more to 18 euros ($19) an hour in order to discourage “bulky, polluting” cars, City Hall said.

The new tariff would also apply to electric cars of 2 tonnes and more.

“We’re proud of having posed an eminently environmental question at a time the environment is presented as the source of all evil,” Mayor Anne Hidalgo said after the results were published. “It’s a form of resistance here in Paris to this very concerning movement.”

Under Hidalgo, a Socialist, the streets of Paris have been transformed, with 84 km of cycle lanes created since 2020 and a 71% jump in bike usage between the end of the COVID-19 lockdowns and 2023, according to City Hall.

How much will it cost to park in Paris now?

Up to 12 euros an hour

The cost for non-residents to park 4x4s in Paris‘s central districts, numbered one to 11, would soar to 18 euro (£15) per hour for the first two hours, compared to 6 euro (£5) per hour for smaller cars.

After that, parking would become increasingly punitive. A six-hour stay with a 4x4 - for example to see a theatre performance and dine at a restaurant - would cost a whopping 225 euros (£193), compared to 75 euros (£64) for smaller vehicles.

Away from the heart of the city, in Paris‘s outer districts numbered 12 to 20, an out-of-town 4x4 driver would pay 12 euros (£10) per hour for the first two hours, progressively rising to 150 euros (£128) for six hours.

“Do you really need a SUV in Paris?” said Juliette Bruley, 27, at a voting station near Montmartre. “I carry my son on a bike, we found solutions.”

The changes have infuriated car drivers, however. SUVs have become increasingly popular in France, favoured by families in particular.

“It’s going to be about 200 euros a day. That’s extremely expensive. Life is expensive, children are expensive,” said Laure Picard, 37. “The goal is that we stop using our car, but we need our car to leave Paris during holidays and weekends.”

The motorists’ lobby group “40 millions d’automobilistes” launched a petition to support drivers’ freedom to use whichever vehicle they want.

“We must firmly oppose these attacks on freedom pursued under false green pretexts,” the group said. “If we don’t stop it now, this unjustified rebellion led by an ultra-urban and anti-car minority will spread like gangrene to other cities.”

A Renault Clio III and a Twizy electric car drive past the Arc de Triomphe in Paris

Cyreane Demur, 20, voted in the chic 8th district that includes the car-clogged Champs-Elysees and its chaotic traffic circle around the Arc de Triomphe.

The student said heavier cars make congestion “even more complicated” and “one must consider the ecology, the parking issues”.

But Jadine L’Orlendu, 75, said 4x4s “do not disturb me, they do not take more space than other cars, the parking places are marked, and people should drive what they want to drive. It’s about freedom”.

The question voters were asked was “For or against the creation of a specific rate for the parking of heavy, bulky, polluting individual cars?”

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