Parisians vote for higher SUV parking fees in reaction against large cars

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Parisians have voted for a sharp increase in parking fees for SUV owners, in a sign of a growing backlash against large cars that is gaining ground across Europe.

The local referendum has been presented by environmental activists and Paris city hall as a test of tolerance in urban centers for vehicles that are considered by critics to be more polluting and annoying, but which are also becoming more popular, in France and elsewhere.

In the French capital, which in recent years has limited traffic arteries and is considered a trend-setter in terms of local mobility, residents voted on Sunday by 54.5% to 45.5% in favor of increase in SUV parking fees.

In some parts of the city rates will triple to 18 euros an hour and car owners will only be exempt if they have a permit for their immediate area. Electric SUVs will also be hit with the higher tariffs if they weigh more than 2 tonnes.

“Parisians want to limit the space these cars have on our streets for safety reasons and because they pollute,” said Mayor Anne Hidalgo, adding that she is “very proud of this achievement.”

Anne Hidalgo arrives at a polling station
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo arrives at a polling station. You welcomed the outcome of the ballot ©AFP via Getty Images

Just under 6% of Paris’ 1.4 million registered voters turned out for the referendum, the second of its kind after the vote to ban electric scooter operators last year. Paris has also introduced low-emissions zones, is set to crack down more broadly on older diesel cars with a ban starting in 2025, and has become much more bike-friendly, with new lanes laid out across the city following the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19.

The SUV referendum has proved divisive, however, as more people opt for the bulky vehicles that have raised seats and are favored by some families for their spaciousness.

“We are talking about the cars used by Mr and Mrs Tutti here,” Xavier Horent, head of dealer lobby group Mobilians, told BFM TV before the results were announced on Sunday. “We shouldn’t be surprised to see people rejecting environmental causes after this.”

However, clean air and green transport campaigners outside France also welcomed the outcome of the vote, with many lashing out at “monsters on wheels”.

Signs advertising the referendum: Lyon, France's third largest city, has already adopted similar measures
Signs advertising the referendum: Lyon, France’s third largest city, has already adopted similar measures © MOHAMMED BADRA/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

“Hopefully, cities across Europe will be inspired to follow the example of the French capital,” said Jens Müller, deputy director of the Clean Cities campaign at Transport & Environment, an advocacy group.

Lyon, France’s third-largest city, has already adopted similar measures, and some London boroughs base their parking on car tax brackets, requiring larger or more polluting models to pay more.

Some activists said Paris could do more to send a message about SUVs, which emit more emissions than smaller cars and pose a greater risk of accidents for pedestrians and cyclists.

“What Paris needs next is a tobacco-style ban on advertising the largest, most polluting cars to passengers on its public transport network,” said Leo Murray, co-director of the climate charity Possibile.

However, demand for SUVs remains strong. In 28 European countries, including the UK, more than half of sales were SUVs last year, up from one in five in 2014, according to data group Jato Dynamics.

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