Will other cities follow in Paris’s footsteps and increase parking fees for SUVs?
While departing the polling place, Joanna and Louis pushed a stroller and came to a consensus that SUVs were not well-suited for navigating the congested city of Paris. “With our young child, we desire less traffic and more room,” explained Joanna, a 34-year-old consultant.
Similar to many other residents of Paris, the couple participated in a vote on Sunday regarding whether individuals with large vehicles should be charged higher rates for parking in a city that has rapidly transformed into one of the most bicycle-friendly metropolises globally.
The decision was made to increase payments threefold, which has been praised as a motivating factor for cities in Europe that are striving to improve street safety and air quality. This comes as the sales of large vehicles continue to rise.
Barbara Stoll, director of the campaign group Clean Cities, stated that cities like London, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen are at the forefront of enhancing urban settings by prioritizing human well-being and promoting clean air.
Given these considerations, the vote in Paris is likely to have a ripple effect in promoting bold actions to prioritize individuals over automobiles. The evidence shows that larger cars are more hazardous and contribute to increased air pollution and emissions that contribute to global warming.
However, cities that aim to decrease the presence of SUVs on their roads are met with opposition from owners and indifference from others. The outcome of the ballot in Paris, which was passed by a slim majority and had a low participation rate of only 5% of the city’s population, showed that 55% of voters favored the proposal.
According to Brian Caulfield, a transportation professor at Trinity College Dublin, the participation rate for the recent referendum on banning electric scooters was even lower than that of a previous one. He noted that Parisians have witnessed significant changes in transportation over the past ten years, making the new measure to ban SUVs less significant and possibly contributing to the low turnout.
At a voting location in the affluent ninth district of Paris, where 40% of vehicles are SUVs, even those in favor of the proposal admitted to feeling uneasy about the message behind the vote.
Marie-Claire Polo, a 30-year-old journalist, expressed her belief that the increase in popularity of SUVs is environmentally unsustainable. However, she also acknowledged that parking fees may be too expensive for individuals who rely on a car for transportation.
Joanne Boulenger, a marketer who is 33 years old, expressed her desire to promote a more environmentally friendly Paris. However, she also had concerns that the referendum may have caused division among people. Her boyfriend, on the other hand, viewed the referendum as manipulative and chose not to participate in the voting process.
Sandra Weigand, a 70-year-old individual, stated that she made the decision not to participate in voting due to the divisive nature of the issue. She believes in being environmentally conscious and supporting green initiatives, but she does not support measures that restrict people’s way of life, such as limiting parking.
Experts in transportation suggest that in order to improve the industry, policymakers must utilize a combination of incentives, such as affordable public transportation, and consequences, such as taxes on larger vehicles. However, implementing the latter has been a difficult task.
According to a recent report by the Guardian, new vehicles in the European Union and United Kingdom have been increasing in width by 1cm every two years. This trend has also led to a rise in sales of larger luxury cars. The International Energy Agency has expressed concern that the growing popularity of SUVs worldwide is hindering efforts to reduce emissions, but political leaders have not taken significant steps to address this issue.
A difficulty is that efforts have faced strong opposition from the automotive industry and in nations ranging from the UK to Germany, the matter has become embroiled in a cultural conflict.
Attempts to implement a universal speed restriction on highways in Germany have faced backlash from the country’s leading tabloid and high-ranking government officials, who argue it encroaches on individual freedoms. Similarly, there have been claims in the UK that the concept of “15-minute cities” is a means of government control over the populace.
Bernard, an 82-year-old individual, expressed his disapproval of the Parisian proposal as he exited the voting station. He argued that it could be seen as a form of discrimination. Additionally, he refuted the idea that larger cars are inherently more hazardous than smaller cars, despite evidence suggesting the contrary.
An individual identifying himself as Monsieur Durand, a former lawyer, stated that he opposed the proposal due to already paying a sufficient amount of taxes for his SUV. He believes that while some may have the means to own luxurious cars, others view it as a cause for envy.
Paris is on track to become the first capital to charge heavy cars more than lighter ones, though a similar scheme has been announced in Lyon, the third-largest city in France. The association of German cities has also come out in favour of such a scheme.
The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, aspires to serve as a source of inspiration for other cities. Additionally, the vote may serve as a message to car manufacturers to halt production of larger vehicles.
Arthur, a 27-year-old logistics worker, expressed his desire for the vote to change the current trend regarding vehicle size. He noted that there has been an increase in SUVs and a decrease in smaller cars in the city center, and he hopes that this vote can encourage a return to smaller cars.