Parisians vote in referendum on whether to increase SUV parking charge

Pairs mayor Anne Hidalgo is backing the scheme (PA)
Pairs mayor Anne Hidalgo is backing the scheme (PA)

Paris residents have voted in a referendum on whether large SUVs should be subject to a threefold increase in parking charges.

London mayor Sadiq Khan has said he is keeping an eye on which direction Parisians take on the plan which could pave the way towards creating a fully bikeable city.

Voters cast their ballots on Sunday, less than one year after city residents voted to ban e-scooters. The plan aims to triple parking fees for cars of 1.6 tonnes and more to 18 euros an hour in order to discourage "bulky, polluting" cars, City Hall said.

The new tariff would also apply to electric cars of 2 tonnes and more.

"Heavier, more dangerous, more polluting ... SUVs are an environmental disaster," Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Gregoire said on X.

Under socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo, the streets of Paris have been transformed, with 84km of cycle lanes created since 2020 and a 71 per cent jump in bike usage between the end of the Covid-19 lockdowns and 2023, according to City Hall.

"Do you really need a SUV in Paris?" said Juliette Bruley, 27, at a voting station near Montmartre. "I carry my son on a bike, we found solutions."

Sadiq Khan has said he will keep tabs on the result in Paris (PA)
Sadiq Khan has said he will keep tabs on the result in Paris (PA)

The changes have infuriated car drivers, however. SUVs have become increasingly popular in France, favoured by families in particular.

"It's going to be about 200 euros a day. That's extremely expensive. Life is expensive, children are expensive," said Laure Picard, 37. "The goal is that we stop using our car, but we need our car to leave Paris during holidays and weekends."

The motorists' lobby group "40 millions d'automobilistes" launched a petition to support drivers' freedom to use whichever vehicle they want.

"We must firmly oppose these attacks on freedom pursued under false green pretexts," the group said. "If we don't stop it now, this unjustified rebellion led by an ultra-urban and anti-car minority will spread like gangrene to other cities."

The result of the referendum will be announced at around 8.30pm on Sunday evening.

SUVs are among the heaviest of polluters among customer cars driven in London, but newly bought models can still qualify to be driven in ultra low emission zone (ULEZ) areas.