OPINION: Stuck in traffic, I wonder if this car-free European city's vision is a success

Benoit Tessier/Reuters

Parisians have voted to double parking fees for SUVs on Sundays in their city.

Editor's note: David A. Andelman, a CNN contributor, two-time Deadline Club award winner, Knight of the French Legion of Honor, author of “A Red Line in the Sand: Diplomacy, Strategy, and the History of Wars That May Still Be Happening” and blogs at SubStack's Endelman unleashed. He was previously a foreign correspondent and bureau chief for The New York Times in Europe and Asia and for CBS News in Paris. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. Scenery More opinion On CNN.


Picture this: There are no new gas-powered cars for sale 11 years from now. Zero carbon emissions 15 years later. This is not news from another planet. This is what the Europeans are facing up to this moment Law By European Union countries.

On Sunday, Parisians voted overwhelmingly (barely 78,000 out of a million eligible citizens cast ballots) in favor of the vote. Triple parking fees on gas-guzzling SUVs on Sundays In their beloved city

It's a small step on a continent poised to change course in a very different way than the United States.

The truth is Gas cars are not running armed In most parts of the continent The way they are in America. They simply disappear, or are about to do so. Those cars left behind in Europe are now confined to ever-narrower lanes.

By the middle of this year, private cars will completely disappear from the center of Milan, Italy's second-largest city and its financial capital. “We will start with the center, but then we will expand,” said Mayor Giuseppe Sala He said late last year.

Likewise, in the Swedish capital Stockholm, gas and diesel cars will operate be prohibited of 20 blocks of desirable shopping and office districts within the city starting next year. And already in the capital of Austria in October, our taxi Our hotel can't be closer than one block away On Stephansplatz Square in central Vienna.

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Other European cities have banned cars for decades. In Pontevedra, northwest Spain, there has not been a single private car in most parts of the city since 1999. The last fatality on the road was 13 years ago when a traffic accident occurred. An 81-year-old person was run over by a delivery truck.

In Paris, things are likely to blow up this summer. That's when the Olympics come to the French capital, and much of the city center will become inaccessible to most motorized traffic. “We are not saying that people should leave Paris,” city police chief Laurent Nunez said. He said at a press conference in November Adding that there will be exceptions for emergency vehicles and residents. “Pedestrians are allowed everywhere,” he said.

But then, there's what comes next. my darling.

Take Place de la Concorde. The king was Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette The guillotine was there during the French Revolution. Now, after the Olympics, “the place given to the car in this symbolic place will be just a bow in history,” Mayor Anne Hidalgo said earlier this year. In other words: half the space “will not be returned to motorists after the Olympics.” She said.

For years, Hidalgo has made it her mission to tackle traffic pollution in Paris – banning cars on the banks of the Seine and expanding pedestrian and bike lanes on a host of other roads. But doing so also squeezed cars into narrower spaces, compressing already congested city streets.

None of this is to suggest, of course, that reducing car emissions around the world is not easy An essential element in controlling global warming Which causes havoc to our planet. I'm all for the laudable end to gas cars that Europe has now adopted – after a decade or more. But in reality, doing so in small quantities appears to make commuting longer, more difficult, or more expensive than has been the case in a large number of cities where infrastructure has failed to keep pace with innovation.

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Tried to get to one of my favorite restaurants, Bovinger, opposite the Bastille from my apartment near the Orsay Museum at lunchtime. Forever. And watching the taxi meter go up and up and up. Or sit on the bus, rarely with air conditioning, in 90-degree heat. (Hidalgo doesn't even want to Olympic village for athletes with air conditioningtrying to be environmentally friendly).

Of course, this is just one aspect of what happened to Paris traffic under the Hidalgo regime. I still remember the good old days in Paris, when it was possible to take the highways along the quays of the Seine – limited ingress and limited exits – to race across the city at 60mph from the Maison de Radio far away in Paris. The 16th arrondissement past the islands of the Seine and almost to the Bastille in the 4th arrondissement in minutes even at the height of rush hour. Ditto along the “left” bank of the Seine. Not longer.

Now, all the cars are jammed on the nearby city streets. Taxis, buses, delivery vans and the remaining private cars jostle for space. And many of them are about to go up in a puff of smoke as well. Hidalgo's plans are on New restrictions on much of central Paris From Notre Dame to the Seine Islands, By some estimates, 100,000 cars are taken off the road every day.

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It seems to go much slower across the pond. The same year the European Union plans to end its sales everyone New Gas Powered Cars – 2035 – US Government alone by order From President Joe Biden, plans to stop purchasing them. (US government It owns more than 650,000 cars and buys about 50,000 each year).

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This is three years earlier than some American cities. Last October, New York Mayor Eric Adams signed a law requiring just that Starting in 2038, all city-owned vehicles must be electric. There is no end in sight for gas-powered cars in America, at least not in the near future. The nation's love affair with cars is inevitable.

Are my asthmatic lungs likely to breathe better during the months I spend these days in Paris? Not on your life, or mine. The same toxic global warming emissions are being generated, especially as it all sits in place amidst endless traffic jams.

Sunday parking fees for gas guzzlers are fleeting. Maybe a couple of decades from now, when all those gas-guzzling cars are gone entirely? Of course, by then I will pay 100.

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