On Sunday, 4th February, voters in Paris voters backed a proposal from the city’s socialist mayor, Anne Hidalgo, to triple parking charges on SUV-style cars. Parisians voted 54.5% in favour of charging cars weighing 1.6 metric tons or more €18 (£15) per hour for parking in the city centre or €12 further out. However, only 78,000, or 5.7%, of the 1.3 million eligible voters turned out to vote in the referendum.

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, and taxi drivers, tradespeople, health workers, and people with disabilities will all be exempt.

Paris City Hall representatives have described safety concerns about taller, heavier SUVs, which they see as “twice as deadly for pedestrians as a standard car” in an accident. The vehicles are also singled out for taking up more public space, whether driving on the road or parked, than other vehicles. Paris officials say the average car has put on 250 kilograms (550 pounds) since 1990.

Paris Voters Back Large Increase in SUV Parking Fees

Under Hidalgo, Paris has raised pressure on drivers by increasing parking costs and gradually banning diesel vehicles. The city has reduced the number of on-street parking spaces to make drivers use underground parking. City Hall said there was a 71% rise in the use of bikes between the end of the Covid lockdowns and 2023, with an extensive network of cycle lanes built to discourage driving.

The move is mainly aimed at people from the suburbs who drive into the centre of the capital for the day. Hidalgo has been in office for almost ten years. Under her tenure as mayor, many Paris streets, including the banks of the river Seine, have been pedestrianised.

Drivers’ groups attacked the scheme; Yves Carra of Mobilite Club France dismissed the SUV classification as “a marketing term” that “means nothing”. He argued that the measures would not cover compact SUVs but affect family-sized coupes and estate cars.

France’s Environment Minister Christophe Bechu told broadcaster RTL the SUV surcharge amounted to “a kind of punitive environmentalism” while suggesting drivers should “opt for lighter vehicles.”

Hidalgo’s transport minister, David Belliard, of the Green party, says around 10% of vehicles in Paris would incur higher parking fees, which could bring in up to €35 million per year. Paris’s anti-SUV push has not gone unnoticed elsewhere in France, with the Green party mayor in Lyon planning a three-tier parking fee for residents and visitors starting in June.

Last year, Paris held a similar vote on whether to ban rented electric scooters and became the first European capital to do so. The turnout for that vote – 103,000 people, about 7% of registered voters – was higher than Sunday’s SUV vote.

Would you support fee’s like this for SUV’s in London and other UK major cities? Let us know in the comments. 

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