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Paris votes to triple parking fees for SUVs to deal with 'autobesity'

Toni Waterman in Paris


WATCH: Toni Waterman reports on the new parking charges in Paris

Parking a sports utility vehicle - or SUV - in Paris is about to get a lot more expensive. 

In a referendum on Sunday, residents in the French capital voted 54.45 percent in favor of increasing parking fees for heavy vehicles, including electric and hybrid models, in a bid to reduce the number of big vehicles on the narrow roads in the French capital.

‌In some locations, drivers will have to pay as much as $19.40 an hour to park.

"This citizens' vote sends a clear message to manufacturers. For our cities, we need vehicles that are much lighter," said Marie Cheron, the E-mobility manager at Transport & Environment, an NGO association that promotes sustainable transport in Europe. 

"There will certainly be fewer vehicles in cities in the future, but there will always be some."

A poster reads 'More or less SUVs in Paris?' ahead of Sunday's public vote in the French capital. /Benoit Tessier/Reuters
A poster reads 'More or less SUVs in Paris?' ahead of Sunday's public vote in the French capital. /Benoit Tessier/Reuters

A poster reads 'More or less SUVs in Paris?' ahead of Sunday's public vote in the French capital. /Benoit Tessier/Reuters

Nearly half of all new passenger cars sold in France are SUVs. According to a Transport and Environment analysis, the 100-best selling vehicles in Europe get one centimeter wider every two years.

"This phenomenon of vehicle obesity occurs in cities that are already dense, where there isn't much space and where there is a need to reduce the role of the car in order to share space with pedestrians and motorists," added Cheron.‌

Besides taking up more physical space, Paris officials say SUVs emit more pollution, require wider parking slots and are a hazard to pedestrians and cyclists.

‌A recent study by the road safety institute Vias found that car noses that are 10cm higher than average carry a 30 percent higher risk of fatalities for pedestrians or cyclists.

‌The new levy, which follows a similar measure in France's third largest city Lyon last year, aims to kick SUVs and other large vehicles out of the city.

‌"This is a very, very bad idea," said Yves Carra, spokesperson for the Mobility Club of France.

‌He said SUVs in Europe are still small - at least compared to the U.S. - and are not as dangerous as politicians make them out to be. He added that officials are ignoring one important thing: that the U in SUV means utility.

‌"If you buy it, it's because you really need it - to get around, to go to work, to take the kids to school. To point the finger and accuse the people of Paris of driving these cars and making them pay a very, very high price because, supposedly, these cars are worse for the planet than others, is a scandal," Carra said.


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‌Setting standard for Europe?

The Paris SUV parking fee could ripple out across Europe. London Mayor Sadiq Khan told the British newspaper The Guardian that he is open to a similar levy if the one in Paris proves effective. There is reason to believe it could change consumer behavior in the same way the introduction of ultra low emissions zones impacted diesel cars.

‌"We're seeing a massive decline in the registration of diesel cars over the past few years in cities like London and also Paris and Amsterdam because of the measures they've been taking at a city level where actually it was going to cost you more to use these vehicles - because people factor this into their choice," said Oliver Lord, Head of Strategy at the Clean Cities Campaign.

‌Even if consumers ditch SUVs for sedans, there is little hope of a return to the mini-vehicles of yester-years.

Bigger vehicles often mean bigger profits for car manufacturers. And since the turn of the century the average car in Europe has not only got wider, but also heavier. It is known as 'autobesity'. As any dieter knows, it is much easier to gain weight than losing it.

"These choices have an impact on our collective lives. Today, the challenge is to share space. The freedom of some is limited by the ability of others to be themselves, to be able to move around freely," said Cheron.

Paris votes to triple parking fees for SUVs to deal with 'autobesity'

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