For that is the day that free-parking ends in central Strasbourg.

Admittedly it was something we rather enjoyed when we first arrived, being able to pull up outside your own house and park for an unlimited time for free was such a novelty, and it felt liberating almost, when compared with what we had to put up with in London (massive parking fees, bus-lane fines and the congestion charge).

However, knowing the chaos that such freedom bestows upon the local community, I for one am glad to see the city take another step toward ending the car culture that so many of us are so addicted to. In the Contades area commuters have regularly treated the vicinity like a free park-and-ride zone six days a week, making it almost impossible for we residents to park anywhere near our respective abodes when we do have a car.

Future CTS Tram network

In Strasbourg, like it or not, it’s hard to argue against the introduction of such schemes when a big chunk of our local taxes go toward improving transport infrastructure. I’m not just referring to the construction of new tramways, although Line F is due to open later this month, it is the holistic approach they take in improving all forms of displacement around the CUS.

  • The current streets programme is focussed on narrowing road-space in favour of better managing pavements, cycle lanes and parking spaces either side of the thoroughfare, and introducing more greenery wherever possible.
  • Auto-trement is one of the most progressive self-service car rental schemes in Europe with rechargeable hybrids available in a number of key locations and they also plan to introduce a number of entirely electric vehicles by 2013.
  • While Velo’hop, Strasbourg’s new cycle rental scheme, is nothing particularly unique it has raised the profile and the viability of using a bicycle as the preferred form of transport across the city, a city which boasts an impressive 520km of cycle lanes (and most of them are REAL cycle lanes – running along routes that are not shared by any other form of transport).

The effects of ending free-for-all parking has already had some pleasing results elsewhere: before the parking meters were installed you would have been forgiven for thinking that rue de l’Observatoire was some sort of elongated supermarket car-park thanks to every car-owning student fighting for a space from dawn five days a week. Now the street has been returned to a state of near normality and it’s possible once again to appreciate it’s 19th Century Prussian vista.

For residents the price of parking a car on the street comes in at around 120€ per year per car, hopefully most will feel that this is a small price to pay for the environmental benefits that residents of cities other than Strasbourg are ever likely to see.