Hundreds of bikers have taken to the streets of Paris in protest against the introduction of parking charges for all petrol-powered motorcycles.
The demonstration outside city hall in the French capital calling for the fees to be scrapped was organised by a group calling itself the Federation of Angry Motorcyclists, which says that the charges unfairly target those who need to commute to the city centre from Paris’ sprawling suburbs and for whom a bicycle or public transport aren’t options.
“It will cost €90 a month to pay for a place to park. How the hell can someone commuting from the suburbs to an ordinary job afford to pay that,” one of the demonstration leaders told the crowd outside the mayor’s office.
Until last week, motorcycles had been exempt from parking charges in Paris, but as of September 1, petrol-powered two-wheelers are now subject to a charge of €3 (£2.60) per hour, something that marks the culmination of a seven-year battle by mayor Anne Hidalgo and her predecessors to reduce the use of motor vehicles within city limits in Paris and to encourage commuters to use bicycles or public transport instead.
“This is a discriminatory measure that hits suburb-dwellers especially hard,” Jean-Marc Belotti, head of the Paris section of the Angry Motorcyclists, said. “Bicycles are fine if you live in Paris but not if you come 40 kilometres to work,” he said.
Some of the other tactics in the mayor’s war on the motor vehicle, aimed at turning Paris into a greener city with better air quality, have included a narrowing of traffic lanes, a 30km/h (18.6mph) speed limit on most streets, a large expansion of pedestrian zones including the former Left Bank expressway, a halving of street parking and the announcement of a ban on all diesel vehicles entering the city from 2024.
The parking charge for motorcycles isn’t without its supporters. News of the introduction of motorcycle parking fees was welcomed by one organisation known as Ras le Scoot (Fed Up with Scooters), a campaign group representing Parisians who see the rise of the scooter over the last two decades as making Paris a less comfortable place to live and work.
“At last. This is going to make them less attractive and put them on the same footing as car drivers,” said the group in a statement.
“We have to change our behaviour,” said David Belliard, a Green politician on Hidalgo’s executive team, responsible for transport and road management in Paris.
“You can’t get around in the capital any more on motorised two-wheelers, which make a lot of noise and often park in obstructive ways, especially for pedestrians and cyclists.
“The charge is aimed at encouraging people to use electric power, bicycles or public transport.”
Since last week, however, many of the affected motorcyclists are refusing to pay the charge, with traffic wardens estimating that only around one in ten of all scooter or motorcycle riders are, thus far, displaying a ticket or paying for their parking online.
Those caught without a valid ticket face a €37.50 penalty, which is the new maximum daily charge for motorcycle parking, and thousands of penalty tickets have already been issued.
Battery-electric motorcycles, along with and bikes or scooters belonging to health professionals making house calls, are still exempt from the charges.
What’s the situation in London?
At present, in the majority of London boroughs, like in the rest of Britain, parking is free for motorcycles in bays marked “Solo Motorcycle Only” and in designated bays in a large number of car parks around the city.
One exception to this is the borough of Westminster where, even in motorcycle-only bays, bikers must pay £1 per day, £3.50 per week or £100 per year, but parking is free in the evenings and on Sunday.
Beyond that, however, the rules as to the bays in which motorcyclists can park largely depend on the borough. Some boroughs allow motorcyclists to park in resident-only bays or pay-and-display bays, while others don’t, so bikers need to check the rules depending on the borough in which they intend to park.
Hackney, for instance, has recently announced a plan to introduce blanket parking charges for motorcycles on the grounds of emissions reduction, something which, like the rule changes in Paris, has garnered protest in its own right with a petition and calls for the plan to be scrapped. Though there’s no clear sign of it yet, where Hackney goes, other boroughs may follow suit.
Whichever borough you’re in, remember that unlike in most of the rest of the UK, it’s generally illegal to park on the pavement in London.
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