Dec 31, 2010
It seems fairly appropriate, given that I’m passing my New Year in Paris, to catch wind that the City of Light is looking to ban SUVs from the town centre.
In a two-fingered salute to the haute bourgoisie, Dennis Baupin, deputy mayor, said of the SUV
“Sell it and buy a vehicle that’s compatible with city life. I’m sorry, but having a sport utility vehicle in the city makes absolutely no sense”.
Bravo! say I to monsieur, having witnessed one to many inelegantly parked Range Rover in the 16th for one week. But the most laudable aspect of this story (whcih the Detroit Free Press and, by turns, Autoblog failed to link) is the fact that Paris is providing a carrot to go with their 2.5 tonne stick.
Having got to grips with providing velos en masse through the Vélib’ scheme, the city is now rolling out Autolib’, a system of 3,000 Pinifarina deisgned electric cars available from 1,000 stations for a subscription of €12/month. Chic, easy to park and -above all- producing zero emissions, the little Autolib’s should prove immensely attractive to urbanites who are keen to live without the pain of car ownership (Parisian cars spend 95% of the time parked and 16% of Parisians use their cars less than once a month) but maintain the liberty that comes with four wheels and a roof over one’s head.
For me, the take with one hand and give back with the other approach will be the crux of the success of Autolib’. The city of Paris recognises that cars give us enormous personal freedom, a freedom we’re loathe to give up in the name of “better” living for everyone. But if the city can provide us with an alternative that doesn’t cost us in terms of access, usability or -importantly- style and personality, we’ll be far happier to hand over the keys to the tank.
Now Boris, where are our Barclays Beetles?
P.S. Apologies for bowing to the cliché of dropping some Francais into this post. Paris tends to have that effect…