Paris votes to triple parking fees for SUVs as city presses on with plans to become fully bikeable city

Parisians voted in a referendum on Sunday in favour of subjecting large SUVs to a threefold increase in parking charges as the French capital presses on with long-term plans to become a fully bikeable city.

Some 54.5 percent of Parisians voted in favour of the measure, while 45.5 percent rejected it. Only 5.7 percent of voters turned out in the consultation decided by the municipality, according to official results.

The referendum, less than a year after city residents voted to ban e-scooters, aims to triple parking fees for cars of 1.6 tonnes and more to 18 euros ($19) 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.

"We're proud of having posed an eminently environmental question at a time the environment is presented as the source of all evil," Mayor Anne Hidalgo said after the results were published. "It's a form of resistance here in Paris to this very concerning movement."

Under Hidalgo, a Socialist, the streets of Paris have been transformed, with 84 km of cycle lanes created since 2020 and a 71 percent 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."

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."