Soon it may get very costly to park an SUV in Paris, Source: Depositphotos

Paris faces a new referendum: more or fewer SUVs on the streets?

Paris faces a new referendum: more or fewer SUVs on the streets?

The French capital has opted for grassroots democracy when it comes to making the tough decisions on mobility policy

4 February 2024 is the next important date on the Paris calendar – at least as far as mobility policy is concerned. This is when the French capital authorities decided to organize a referendum on whether to increase the parking price rates for sports utility vehicles (SUVs).

More specifically the question which will be put to voters to decide on is: “For or against the creation of a specific rate for the parking of heavy, bulky, polluting individual cars?”

The referendum is open to all registered voters living in Paris, who will be able to head to one of the 223 polling stations on that day in order to state their stance on the matter.

Why are SUVs the target?

This is the second referendum on traffic (and public space) matters that the Parisian local government is organizing in less than 12 months. Back in April, the French capital made the news headlines by letting its residents decide whether they would like to ban publicly shared scooters from its streets (voters said ‘Yes’ to that).

The move made Paris an interesting example of participatory democracy in daily matters, but now this second referendum makes one wonder if this is setting up a regular pattern for the things to come in all matters of traffic policy.

What’s notable about the new polling is that the outcome doesn’t seem so radical, no matter what the voters decide. After all, SUVs face no threat of becoming extinct on the Parisian boulevards for the time being.

Nevertheless, the local authorities have proposed tripling the visitor (non-resident) parking rates for the largest type of private cars. This would mean for Arrondissements 1-11 these would become 18 euros per hour, and in Arrondissements 12-20: 12 euros per hour – if approved.

These financial obstacles could thus have a domino effect in putting a dent in the popularity of SUVs and 4x4s in France.

For three decades, the average size and weight of cars in the country have been increasing, taking up more and more space on the road, on sidewalks and in public spaces in general. In less than thirty years, cars have become heavier by almost 250 kilos. The average weight of a vehicle was 975 kg in 1990, today it is 1233 kg.

This is a problem because even if the number of private vehicles on the streets decreases the otherwise positive development is then offset by the growth in the size of the remaining cars. Thus, no environmental benefit is achieved as the larger cars are also more polluting.

It is now up to Parisians to decide which direction the fate of SUVs will go in their city.



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