Parking hefty vehicles in Paris could soon come with a matching price tag if a Sunday referendum to triple the cost for SUVs is passed, in a vote that has raised the hackles of some drivers in the French capital.
The tall, heavy cars’ higher output of pollution and increased threat to pedestrians have been put forward by Mayor Anne Hidalgo to justify the move, which follows steps to pedestrianize some streets and build a network of cycle lanes.
“The bigger they are, the more they pollute,” Socialist Hidalgo said in December.
Environmental group WWF has dubbed SUVs an “aberration”, saying they burn 15 percent more fuel than a classic coupe and cost more to build and purchase.
Hidalgo further charges that SUVs in particular monopolise space on the road and in parking places, with the town hall saying the average car has swollen by 250 kilogrammes (550 pounds) since 1990.
Some 1.3 million Parisians will be eligible to vote in the latest plebiscite offered by the French capital, with city hall hoping participation will be up on the meagre showing in a vote last year on e-scooters.
The plan would see non-Parisians’ internal combustion or hybrid vehicles weighing over 1.6 tonnes — two tonnes for electrics — charged 18 euros ($19.60) to park in the city centre for an hour, falling to 12 euros further out.
People living or working in Paris, taxi drivers, tradespeople, health workers and the disabled would be exempt under the town hall plan.
Hidalgo, whose city will this summer host the 2024 Olympics, rarely misses a chance to boast of the environmental credentials of the town hall and its drive to drastically reduce car use in the centre.
‘Something’s going to give’
But drivers’ groups have attacked the scheme, with Yves Carra of Mobilite Club France saying the “SUV” classification is “a marketing term” that “means nothing”.
He argued that compact SUVs would not be covered by the measures, which would however hit family-sized coupes and estate cars.
Conservative opposition figures on the Paris council say this imprecise targeting of the referendum “shows the extent of the manipulation by the city government”.
Maud Gatel, an MP from the centrist MoDem party, said that “if this was really about limiting pollution, there would be a distinction made between internal combustion and hybrid or electric vehicles”.
The wide range of exemptions would leave almost 27 percent of SUVs in Paris unaffected by the higher parking fees, she added, citing figures from research firm AAA Data.
Even among fuel-burning cars, “a new, modern SUV… does not pollute more, or even pollutes less, than a small diesel vehicle built before 2011”, said drivers’ group 40 millions d’automobilistes.
“All you want is to annoy motorists in their daily lives… you’re pushing too hard, something’s going to give, something’s going to break,” Pierre Chasseray, a senior member of the group, said of the town hall on news channel BFM TV.
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 both residents and visitors from June.
The last city referendum in Paris, on banning hop-on, hop-off rental scooters from the capital’s streets, passed in an April 2023 vote — but only drew a turnout of seven percent.
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