Parisians vote in anti-SUV parking and pollution referendum

AFP/The Local France
AFP/The Local France - [email protected]
Parisians vote in anti-SUV parking and pollution referendum
A car drives past the Louvre Museum in Paris city centre on February 2, 2024 as Paris' city hall is organising a vote on February 4 on the creation of a special parking fee for the heaviest and most polluting cars and SUVs. (Photo by Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP)

Parisians were voting on Sunday in a referendum on tripling parking costs for hefty SUV-style cars, a campaign that has drivers' groups up in arms against city hall.


Some 1.3 million Parisians are eligible to cast their ballot on the change, which would see cars weighing 1.6 tonnes or more charged 18 euros ($19.50) per hour for parking in central areas, or 12 euros further out.

Polls will be open from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm (0800 to 1800 GMT) in 38 voting stations for voters to answer: "For or against creating a special tariff for parking passenger cars that are heavy, bulky and polluting."

Fully electric cars would have to top two tonnes to be affected, while people living or working in Paris, taxi drivers, tradespeople, health workers and people with disabilities would all be exempt.

Paris has already pedestrianised roads along the River Seine, banned private cars from the central Rue de Rivoli, built bike lanes across the city, and closed off several local streets.   

Justifying the latest proposed measure, Paris's socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo said in December: "The bigger they are, the more they pollute."

Hidalgo also argued that SUVs monopolise space: city officials said the size of the average car had put on 250 kilogrammes (550 pounds) since 1990.

Most people at one polling station in the city's 10th district said they were voting in favour of the higher fees.

Caroline, a 51-year-old teacher who asked not to give her family name, said she backed the move "for obvious environmental reasons", adding that "to be honest, no-one really needs an SUV in Paris".

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.

City hall has further pointed to safety concerns about taller, heavier SUVs, which it says are "twice as deadly for pedestrians as a standard car" in an accident.

The vehicles are also singled out for taking up more public space -- whether on the road or while parked -- than others.


'35 million euros per year'

Drivers' groups have attacked the scheme. SUV is "a marketing term" that "means nothing", said Yves Carra of Mobilite Club France.

And while compact SUVs would not be covered by the measures, they would hit family-sized coupes and estate cars, he argued.

Conservative opposition figures on the Paris council say this imprecise targeting of the referendum "shows the extent of the manipulation by the city government".

"A new, modern SUV does not pollute more, or can even pollute less, than a small diesel vehicle built before 2011", said drivers' group 40 millions d'automobilistes (40 million motorists).

"We're fed up with Hidalgo's decrees from on high," said Jeannine, a 75-year-old voting in Paris's upscale eighth district.

"All these environmentalists are killing us," she added.

France's Environment Minister Christophe Bechu told broadcaster RTL the SUV surcharge amounted to "a kind of punitive environmentalism" -- even if drivers should "opt for lighter vehicles".


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.

Hidalgo has made a credo out of turning Paris into an environmentally friendly city as it prepares to host the 2024 Olympics this summer.

Her office claims the measures would affect about 10 percent of cars parked in Paris, and bring in an extra 35 million euros a year.

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.

Hidalgo will be hoping for a higher turnout Sunday.




Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also