Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for November 26th, 2012

Paris to ban older cars

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BY proposing to reduce air pollution by banning vehicles made before 1997, Mayor Bertrand Delanoë has angered vintage car owners and motorist groups and raised concerns among those who say they cannot afford new cars.

That is the first paragraph of a New York Times story last week – and is an admirable example of summary of the story.  And much better than the Grist follow up which is just facetious, but at least made it to my twitter stream this morning. It is not that there are no local stories – just that Voony, Gord Price and Eric Doherty are beating me to the blog. And, it just so happens that I happen to have a set of flickr pictures I took when in Paris earlier this year of some very nice classic cars.

Deux Chevaux

There are apparently 367,000 vehicles that would be affected. Just how many that is as a percentage of the fleet is not mentioned. Nor is the fact that old collector cars tend not to be used every day – unless there is some special reason.

Another big old Bentley

An old (British built) Bentley, used as a wedding limo in Paris

There are some 2CVs (they look like the one above) that are used to drive tourists around the city. I think the Woody Allen film has probably cemented the idea for all that one of the reasons for visiting Paris is an attempt to re-visit its history. It is a lovely idea that one could be picked up by some antique vehicle to whisk you off to a party with Fitzgeralds, Hemingway and Dali. I would settle for the opportunity to see again the Paris on 1964 – just for the old cars, old trains and older buses that were running then, when I first visited. In those days, the streets were full of French cars. These days, it is not just Europe that has become the “home” manufacturer – but the far eastern volume makers too. The street scene, automotively speaking, is more like everywhere else.

Renault Twizy

Renault Twizy

Though I doubt you would see one of these anywhere else.

I think it is right that there is a move to make the city a low emission zone, and, as with Greater Vancouver, the decline of manufacturing industry means that cars have become – proportionately – the main source of air polluting emissions in the city. And the opportunities for other kinds of mobility are far greater in Paris than here. We, of course, do not ban old cars. They get grandfathered emissions standards, but we do have the, very successful, ScrapIt program,  and ICBC does give special status to collector vehicles that have very low usage limits set on them. That does not mean they cannot be licensed for everyday use, of course, nor do we have the sort of mandatory vehicle safety testing program that gets dangerous clunkers off the road elsewhere. They don’t even have to be all that old – just cars that are not properly maintained, which is not usually the case for collector vehicles but can, too often, be the case for older cars used by people who cannot afford to pay for preventative maintenance – and will often have several older donor vehicles in order to keep one runner going.

Citroen XM

I will admit to an affection for the daring designs and technological innovation of Citröens – I did not see any of the lovely DS Pallas that the NYT features at the top of their story – this XM was later and less attractive.  But the French are by no means exclusive in their affections and still run classics like the original (British) Mini or (Italian) Fiat 500 (“cinquecento”)


FIAT 500

These were real small cars unlike their repro modern equivalents. And while their tailpipes might not be as pristine in terms of common air contaminants, they were certainly very fuel efficient because they were light cars with tiny engines. Obviously it is better that people walk, ride bikes or use transit. But if they are going to use a car, surely there is less CO2 emitted from either of these  than an SUV. Or – the ones that make me especially irritated – the huge pick up truck with the off road tires.

The need for a ban is apparently driven by European air quality directives. And if that is the way that Paris can meet these then I suppose that is the way it has to be. In general, I think that there are usually better ways of ensuring compliance. And if we are going to ban vehicles then perhaps we should turn our attention as well to the needless huge, gas guzzlers – and the high performance vehicles which are designed to be operated at race track speeds which ought never to be permitted on public use roadways.


These things have so much power the problem is keeping them within legal speeds – and earlier versions (prior to EFI) used to die in traffic congestion. But really, does anyone actually need to have this kind of performance available in a city bound runabout? Anymore than they need a Hummer?

Model T Ford

Model T Ford on the Champs Elysees

Amphibious car

Amphibious car on the Seine, near the Tour Eiffel

Written by Stephen Rees

November 26, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Posted in cars, Environment

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