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Bylaw request aims at idling vehicles

Environmental activists received preliminary city councillor support for a proposed bylaw targeting idling vehicles.
Anti-idling signs outside the Rainbow Centre downtown encourage taxi cab drivers not to idle their vehicles while waiting for passengers. Photo by Bill Bradley

Environmental activists received preliminary city councillor support for a proposed bylaw targeting idling vehicles.

Idling vehicles emit pollutants that affect human health and are responsible for increasing greenhouse gases, Naomi Grant, the chair of Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury, argued. She and Mercedez Quinlan, a member of the organization, stood before the city’s policy committee Aug. 11 and asked the city to consider an anti-idling bylaw.

They said fumes from idling vehicles — buses, trucks, or cars — pollute city school yards, residential areas, and streets in Greater Sudbury. Grant said idling increases greenhouse gasses, such as carbon dioxide — a major contributor to climate change — as a product of engine combustion.

Grant cited past actions of EarthCare Sudbury, a local partnership of more than 100 organizations and businesses dedicated to environmental improvement, to educate residents and city departments on reducing pollution caused by idling vehicles.

“The groundwork has already been done,” Grant said.

In 2002, led by EarthCare Sudbury, the City of Greater Sudbury held an anti-idling campaign, she said. “Surveys revealed that a very high percentage (close to 90 per cent) of Sudburians believe that turning off their engines is the right thing to do.”

The campaign, funded by Natural Resources Canada, was able to reduce idling at various test sites that displayed anti-idling signs by 33 per cent, Bill Lautenbach, Greater Sudbury general manager of growth and development, said.

He added there has been an anti-idling policy in place for city departments and contractors for two years. The policy doesn’t affect non-city employees and contractors, however.

One City Taxi cab driver outside the Rainbow Centre, who gave his name as Don, said he turns off his vehicle’s engine most times.

“Leaving my engine off means I am not burning gas,” he said. “That saves me money.”

Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann said she has received complaints about pollution from idling vehicles.
One resident told Landry-Altmann, she suffers from pollution from idling vehicles and supply trucks from the convenience store next door.

In another area of Landry-Altmann’s ward, several schools in close proximity to each other had higher-than-normal levels of emissions from school buses loading and unloading students.

She said education was “the way to go,” but admitted enforcement of a bylaw could be a challenge.

“You have to catch (idlers) in the act.”

Ward 8 Coun. Ted Callaghan, though he said he agreed emissions needed to be curtailed, said the city might not be able to enforce yet another bylaw.

He suggested the coalition make a formal presentation to the Sudbury and District Health Unit, since the health unit would have the necessary expertise as to the effects of pollutants on human health. He noted city staff could help with the presentation.

Quinlan said in some jurisdictions, it is the health units that enforce anti-idling bylaws, much as with the current anti-smoking measures.

All councillors present agreed the major stakeholders, environmental groups, EarthCare Sudbury and the Sudbury and District Heath Unit should come together to discuss developing the contents of a proposed bylaw and how it could be enforced. Public education would also be necessary, they said.

The stakeholders with staff support could present a report back to council later in the fall, committee members agreed.


Facts presented in a 2000 EarthCare Sudbury employee awareness tool kit CD on climate change: 

- Idling is a waste of gasoline-tests by the federal government have shown that no more than 30 seconds of idling is required to circulate engine oil before driving away even on cold days; 

- The best way to warm a vehicle is to drive it, not idle the engine; 

- Every 10 minutes of idling costs the driver one-tenth of a litre in wasted fuel and up to four tenths of a litre if your vehicle has an eight-cylinder engine; 

- Idling can damage an engine because the engine is not working at peak efficiency, leaving fuel residues that can tend to deposit on spark plugs — as the amount of engine idling increases, the average spark plug temperature drops and plug fouling is increased, in turn increasing fuel consumption in a vicious circle; 

- Using a block heater to warm the the engine in winter before starting it can reduce idling, reducing engine wear, improving fuel efficiency and reducing emissions up to 20 percent in cold conditions-use an automatic timer to turn on the block heater two hours before starting the vehicle.