The mayor of Paris is to hold a vote on whether SUVs - sport utility vehicles, large and heavy 4x4 vehicles that are becoming increasingly popular - should pay more to park in the city.
Anne Hidalgo has long campaigned against highly-polluting vehicles but this latest vote is set to target vehicles by size.
The vote will take place on February 4, 2024, and will be open to all people living in Paris who are registered to vote, as long as they are registered by January 8.
And while some of the suggested proposals - including providing larger spaces and electric recharging stations for SUVs - arguably appear to be more accommodating towards the vehicles, Ms Hidalgo is overtly trying to discourage SUV use.
In the latest video, published on November 14, she states: “We are proposing to change our parking policy by voting on a very significant increase in non-residential parking charges for SUVs and 4×4s.”
The exact amount has not yet been revealed.
Combustion and electric SUVs included
The increase would apply to combustion or rechargeable hybrid vehicles that weigh 1.6 tonnes or more, and to electric SUVs weighing two tonnes or more.
It would apply to all SUV drivers in Paris, whether they are resident or not (residents would only be charged if they are parking outside of their existing residential car parking space or zone).
The higher rate will “allow better sharing of public space for the benefit of ‘soft mobility’, from streets to schools and for pedestrians”, Ms Hidalgo said in a press release. ‘Soft mobility’ refers to other forms of transport other than cars.
The press release also said that reducing SUVs would cut pollution and make roads safer. It explained that the average weight of a vehicle was 975 kg in 1990, but that this has now grown to 1,223 kg.
Currently, most parking spaces in the capital are five metres long and 2.3 metres wide, which means SUVs fit into them. However, for some, the space is tight and leaves very little room for manoeuvre. This is even more true in small underground car parks.
Ms Hidalgo said: “While the number of private cars in Paris has fallen over the last 10 years, thanks to a proactive policy on the part of the Parisian executive, at the same time the average size and weight of vehicles have continued to increase.
“With this vote, we want to say stop. Stop the excesses of car manufacturers, who are pushing people to buy ever bigger, more expensive, more raw material-intensive, more polluting vehicles.”
The increase would not apply to:
- SUV drivers when parking in their residential car parking space
- Taxis in dedicated taxi ranks
- Professionals - including healthcare workers - who pay the ‘tarif pro’
- Disabled people with an official parking badge
- Anyone driving a combustion car weighing less than 1.6 tonnes, or an electric car less than 2 tonnes.
Ms Hidalgo’s plan has received some support, especially among Green MPs, who are typically allies in her anti-car plans.
And David Belliard, mayoral deputy in charge of transport and leader of the Green Party in the Paris council, told Agence France-Presse: “There is a section of the population that has had enough of these SUVs.”
He said that SUVs are “extremely dangerous” in the event of collision with pedestrians, a “social bomb at exorbitant prices” and are very “polluting and cumbersome" vehicles. “This is an opportunity to send out a very strong signal to the public and to manufacturers: stop building big cars,” he added.
He said that he was “confident in [our] ability to mobilise public opinion in Paris on these issues”.
However, the plan has already attracted criticism from some right-wing opponents to Ms Hidalgo.
The right-wing Changer Paris group - which is mostly formed of Les Républicain MPs - denounced the move as a “delaying tactic”.
It said: “Anne Hidalgo is creating a diversion, as she always does when she is in difficulty.” The group did not comment directly on the proposals, or offer a position on SUVs.
Overall, SUVs are becoming increasingly popular in France, and in Europe overall. In 2022, they accounted for almost half of all the new passenger cars sold in the EU, according to figures from the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association.
In 2022, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said that SUV sales had “increased sevenfold” in recent years, representing nearly two in five of all new car purchases.
“An SUV consumes around 15% more fuel than a standard car, and over the last 10 years these vehicles have been the second biggest source of growth in French CO2 emissions, behind the aviation sector,” it added.
The vehicles are often caught in the crossfire of politicians who want to act on pollution.
They have also been targeted by environmental activists, who oppose them. Militants have deflated the tyres of hundreds of SUVs across France, saying: “We want to make life difficult for their owners and force them to see what they have refused to take into account: driving an SUV is bad for the climate.”
Mayor of Lyon, Grégory Doucet, has already confirmed that a pricing system penalising heavier, more polluting vehicles will be applied from 2024 in his city.
The SUV vote in Paris is the second similar ‘citizen vote’ that Ms Hidalgo has organised. It comes after the poll in April on whether to ban electric scooters in the capital. This ended with the scooters being banned, after 89% of participants voted in favour of a ban.
Yet, critics highlighted that only 7.46% of eligible voters actually took part in that poll, throwing doubt on the true size of the mayor’s mandate.