Paris goes to war against bulky vehicles

In news that will surely upset French soccer parents (or parents de football), it will soon be a lot pricier to drive an SUV in Paris. 

Driving the news: Paris has declared war against SUVs after the city voted to triple parking charges in the city centre on out-of-town gas-powered and hybrid vehicles weighing over 1.6 tonnes. The move aims to cut pollution, free up space, and make life safer for pedestrians.

Why it’s happening: While SUVs have been a hit for years in North America, they’ve only recently taken European cities by storm. For the first time last year, half of all new whips sold on the continent were SUVs. They are now clogging up rustic and tiny Parisian streets.

In Canada: Canadian drivers have a passionate love affair with SUVs. Half of the nation’s top 10 bestselling vehicles are SUVs, and ~82.5% of new vehicles sold in the country in 2022 were either SUVs or (also bulky) pick-up trucks — that number was just ~56% in 2012.

Why it matters: Paris’ new law highlights the growing tension across the world between cities trying to reduce emissions and become more pedestrian-friendly versus drivers who love driving bigger and bigger vehicles and are upset at policies they feel cause congestion.

  • From Barcelona and Berlin to Oslo and Milan, many European cities have implemented traffic-reducing strategies like adding more bike lanes, replacing parking lots with benches, creating car-free zones, and lowering speed limits.

  • Perhaps no city has gone further (or faced more backlash) than Brussels, which cut city centre transit traffic by 27% a year after expanding an ambitious program. 

Bottom line: The war against the SUV looks ill-fated in Canada, but cities are still moving to slash traffic. Winnipeg and Vancouver are developing pilots for pedestrian-only zones, while cities like Edmonton have faced increased pressure to pedestrianize their streets.—QH