Politics is a subject we generally avoid, but this one hits a bit too close. Mayor Bertrand Delanoë has proposed a ban on all automobiles in the city of Paris that are more than seventeen years old (MY 1997 or older), as well as motorcycles more than ten years old, and trucks more than eighteen years old (cars and trucks older than that do not meet current EU emission standards). If approved by the ministerial council in January, the ban would go in effect in 2014. Other changes to reduce traffic are also included, including limiting traffic along the Seine, and lowering speed limits on city freeways. These changes are intended to reduce emissions and vehicular traffic, and their effects are intended to be offset, at least in part, by the bike-sharing program Velib and the EV-sharing program Autolib. After spending ten days in Paris two years ago, I have some very mixed feelings.
(I’ll pepper my comments with some pictures from that trip). As any of you who have spent time in European cities know, they weren’t designed for the heavy traffic they’ve come to bear. And that traffic does have a very real impact on the quality of life for those who live and walk or bike in their neighborhoods. If one spends their time there (like we did) walking and riding public transport, the traffic is a nuisance. Especially when it’s visibly smoking, like this old Mustang.
Parking is a nightmare, and is typically done with lots of body contact. The obvious goal of the ban is to reduce traffic more than emissions, which have already been cut, and Paris is hardly dirty. In fact, traffic has already been cut by some 25% over the past decade by various measures.
The streets that have already been closed off to vehicular traffic, like this one below our apartment, are a boon to pedestrians and sidewalk businesses (this was shot in the morning before it got very full of people).
Nevertheless, many depend on the automobile, including older ones for transportation (probably not this Corvette), both to come in to the city for work or to get out of it on weekends. And quite a substantial portion of those coming in to work are of low-to-moderate income. Proposals to offer a free six-month trial to Autolib are not adequate, motoring advocates say.
Opponents say that the mayor’s intentions are to make it so difficult to drive in the city that motorists will get so disgusted and give up their car. Some obviously already have, given the 25% reduction claimed to date. But many say that will never be a reality.
But the trend line is clear, regardless of whether this specific new ban is implemented or not. Non-motorized and EV vehicles are already on the rise, not only in Paris, but throughout Europe.
Little EV trucks and such are common sights,
And older ones, like this Citroen H-Van, are rare. But couldn’t there be some exemption for really old and classic vehicles? I’d be a bit sad to go back to Paris and not be able to stumble into one of these.
Unfortunately, its cars like this that tend to exacerbate the anti-car crowd’s feelings on the subject in European cities.
Hummers are a rare sight. This is more typical. Note the parking “bumper” in the Mini’s grille.
Don’t ask how you’d get your car out when you need to. Parking is a rough and tumble business, and it is liberating not to have to deal with it. Ask New Yorkers or San Franciscans.
It explains all the small cars, including old ones.
Obviously, I’ve used this post to wallow in a bit of Paris nostalgia. I also attended the Auto Show, where Renault unveiled the EV Twizzy, which is expected to be a big seller in Paris. It’s fairly easy to see why, as one already sees lots of three-wheeled Mopeds and such, fusions between bikes and cars, and designed specifically for high density areas.
Change is the only absolute. And I’m torn on the issue. I love finding old cars, but traffic in a crowded city is intrinsically not a people-friendly affair, unless you need or want to drive somewhere.
This issue tends to bring out very strong feelings, often political ones. If you have them, and need to express them, I encourage you to do it in a way that comes off not too heavy handed or insulting. It’s their city. Either way, I’ll still be happy to come back.
Full story and top picture: NYT