Pre-1997 cars banned from Paris streets as of this summer

citroens in paris
via Citroens in Paris

Le sigh. The Citroën DS 19, described as "technically unsurpassed, completely inimitable and the most beautiful car of all time" may never again grace the streets of Paris. Neither will the working man's 2CV or Deux Chevaux, "the most intelligent application of minimalism ever to succeed as a car." That's because as of July 1 this year, all cars built before 1997 are banned from the city center on weekdays. This is a good thing for air quality, but as Alissa Walker notes in Gizmodo, perhaps not a good thing for Égalité.

For those with vintage Citroëns, classic car owners can still drive their pretty smog-makers on the weekends, and they can always drive them out in the country. But these types of blanket policies still manage to anger residents. As with a similar ban in Mexico City, some people are outraged that older cars are targeted as they’re usually owned by the city’s poorest residents, who rely on those vehicles for their jobs.

On Slate, Henry Grabar picks up on the theme.

Not surprisingly, these anti-pollution measures have been perceived as elitist. The ban on older cars, one of the big French automobile organizations announced this month, is “socially unjust,” and “penalizes those of modest means first.”

Grabar continues worrying about the French working man and woman.

The city of Paris is increasingly the domain of the wealthy, and wealthy Parisians drive less than they used to. Car ownership has fallen over the past decade, the city’s transit coverage is excellent, and its bike- and car-sharing systems are well-developed. That’s not true beyond the city limits, where the majority of the region’s jobs, residents, and cars are located. Even if Hidalgo’s efforts achieve their environmental goals, they have inspired considerable anxiety in the Parisian suburbs.

Yes, but the ban does not apply to the suburbs and cities beyond the city limits where the majority of the jobs and residents and cars are. Mayor Hidalgo and her administration rule Paris proper, not the much larger Métropole du Grand Paris. And in fact, almost nobody drives in to Paris because as Henry notes, there is terrific transit. There is also very little parking, and what there is can be incredibly expensive. And really, when did big automobile organizations care about the poor?

Actually, it's times like this that seem to bring out the best in people, the concern for their fellow human beings. In a recent discussions about a bike lane in Toronto where some parking spaces were going to be removed, there was suddenly great concern for seniors who might not be able to park right in front of the piano store.

In San Francisco, there was so much concern for the poor when a congestion charge was proposed. It's almost universal when a change is proposed that affects the ability of people to drive what they want where they want for free. Far more concern than you ever hear when, say, the price of transit is increased.

It is heartwarming, to see this concern for the poor working driver, but it is a bit disingenuous.

Pre-1997 cars banned from Paris streets as of this summer
They worry about air quality, but what about equality?

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