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The growing problem of bigger, newer cars!

Attention to all young professionals and informed readers: Recent research conducted by the esteemed organization Transport & Environment (T&E) reveals a notable trend in the automotive industry across Europe – vehicles are incrementally increasing in size, specifically gaining an average of 1 centimetre in width every two years.

This expansion is attributed primarily to the escalating popularity of Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs), both within the United Kingdom and throughout the continent. Remarkably, approximately half of the new vehicles sold have surpassed the width dimensions for standard on-street parking spaces in numerous countries, the UK included.

Analytical findings indicate that, in the initial half of 2023, the average width of new cars reached 180.3 cm, a notable increase from 177.8 cm in 2018. Among the top 100 new vehicles sold in the European Union in 2023, 52% were found to exceed the standard minimum on-street parking space width of 180 cm in major urban centres such as London, Paris, and Rome.

Furthermore, the challenge of accommodating vehicles in off-street parking spaces is intensifying, particularly for standard new cars measuring 180 cm in width. This issue is exacerbated by large luxury SUVs, which, measuring approximately 200 cm in width, struggle to fit in conventional parking spaces, thereby complicating ingress and egress for occupants.

Historical data from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) corroborates this trend, indicating a consistent increase in vehicle size over the past two decades, up to 2020. T&E has articulated concerns that, without the implementation of width restrictions for new vehicles and the adoption of higher parking fees for larger models, there may be significant safety implications.

James Nix, the Vehicles Policy Manager at T&E, has highlighted the persistent expansion in vehicle width over decades, cautioning that this trend is likely to continue in the absence of regulatory interventions. He criticizes the current legislative framework, which permits new vehicles to attain widths comparable to trucks, leading to substantial SUVs and American-style pickup trucks encroaching upon pedestrian pathways and posing risks to pedestrians, cyclists, and other road users.

The report specifically identifies large luxury SUVs as principal contributors to the issue of oversized vehicles in urban environments. T&E also notes that the trend towards wider vehicles has facilitated increases in vehicle height, which, according to crash data, significantly elevates the risk of fatal outcomes in collisions involving pedestrians and cyclists.

Barbara Stoll, Director of the Clean Cities Campaign, characterizes “monster SUVs” as detrimental to the urban landscape, advocating for immediate action to prevent these large vehicles from monopolizing public spaces, contrary to the aspirations for a cleaner, more sustainable urban future. She emphasizes the opportunity for Parisians and others to lead by example in rejecting the dominance of these environmentally and spatially invasive vehicles.

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