Paris, February 5, 2024 – In a decisive but sparsely attended referendum, Parisians voted to impose substantial parking fees on SUVs weighing 1.6 tonnes or more, a move applauded by Mayor Anne Hidalgo as a “clear choice” for the environment. 

The measure, set to take effect on September 1, will charge €18 per hour for parking in the city centre and €12 further out.

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Despite the resounding 54.55 per cent approval from those who voted, the voter turnout was disappointingly low, with only 5.7 per cent of the 1.3 million eligible voters casting their ballots at the 39 voting stations scattered across the French capital. 

Hidalgo, a member of the Parti Socialiste, hailed the decision as “good for our health and good for the planet.”

The referendum, perceived by some as a significant step towards environmental sustainability, has its critics. 

Jeannine, a 75-year-old resident of the wealthier 8th district, expressed frustration, stating, “I’m sick of all these diktats from Mrs. Hidalgo.” 

The dissenting voices, particularly from areas where SUVs are more prevalent, highlight potential challenges in accepting such measures.

The new parking charges are part of Hidalgo’s efforts to reshape the urban landscape and reduce harmful transport emissions. 

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Over the years, Paris has witnessed the pedestrianization of numerous streets, the establishment of cycle lanes, and a targeted approach towards SUVs.

However, not all SUVs will be subject to the surcharge. Fully electric cars weighing over two tonnes will be exempt, and specific groups, including Paris residents, taxi drivers, health workers, tradespeople, and individuals with disabilities, will also escape the additional fees.

Gregoire Marchal, a 43-year-old cinema distributor who voted in favour of the measure, emphasized the ecological and societal aspects of the decision. 

“It’s an ecological issue, but it’s also a societal issue, and it’s about how cities need to evolve in a changing environment,” he stated.

Critics argue that the categorization of SUVs is imprecise and unfair. Yves Carra of Mobilite Club France dismissed the “SUV” label as a “marketing term” that “means nothing.” 

Some contend that compact SUVs may not fall under the new regulations, while family-sized coupes and estate cars could be impacted.

France’s Environment Minister, Christophe Béchu, criticized the SUV surcharge as “punitive environmentalism” and urged drivers to “opt for lighter vehicles.” 

Hidalgo’s transport chief, David Belliard, estimated that around 10 per cent of vehicles in Paris would be affected, potentially generating up to €35 million per year.

The impact of Paris’s anti-SUV stance is spreading beyond its borders. The Green party mayor in Lyon plans to implement a three-tier parking fee system for residents and visitors starting in June, drawing inspiration from the French capital’s initiatives.

As Paris gears up to host the 2024 Olympics, its commitment to reducing car use in the centre remains at the forefront of its agenda. 

Whether this latest move will transform behaviour and contribute to a greener, healthier Paris is a question that only time and implementation will answer.

 

This article was created using automation technology and was thoroughly edited and fact-checked by one of our editorial staff members

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