Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Idling Control Bylaw Just Makes ‘Cents’

By Stephen Vance, Editor

At their next meeting, Meaford’s council will be presented with a request to establish an automobile idling control bylaw. Possibly the only surprise in the previous sentence is that Meaford doesn’t already have such a bylaw.

After some highly unscientific polling of people I talked to over the past week, most of the people I raised the topic with assumed that Meaford already had such a bylaw, or assumed that it was a provincial offence to let your automobile idle. A few folks sighed, and complained that once again government would be telling them what to do, however the majority supported the establishment of an idling control bylaw.

It is perhaps somewhat amazing that idling vehicles is an issue today at all, if only due to the ever-rising cost of fuel. At this point my conservative friends would likely expect me to point out that if there are still a significant number of auto-idlers, then perhaps we aren’t paying enough for fuel, however I will hold my tongue. Although, I might ask when was the last time you poured a fine wine on the ground? Or that you randomly and needlessly sprayed cologne into the air? That would be silly, those things are expensive. I’m so bad at this tongue-holding thing.

For those that might think that idling is a thing of the past and that we have learned not to do it all on our own, I would suggest spending a morning or an afternoon in close proximity to a convenience store, and just watch. Our first Meaford Independent office was across the street from a convenience store, and it was amazing how many people would park their vehicle outside our window, and leave it running while they ran across the street to pick up their milk, or their cigarettes. Summer, winter, it didn’t seem to matter. A time or two after coughing on fumes seeping through the door into our office I raised the issue upon the return of the driver, and the excuses were somewhat predictable.

It’s so hot out, and my seats are black, so I want to keep the air conditioning running. Besides, I was only a minute.”

It’s so cold I didn’t want the kids to freeze when I went inside. Besides, I was only a minute.”

It uses more gas to shut it off and then start it again. Besides, I was only a minute.”

Only a minute” of several cars each day, at convenience stores and coffee shops, outside schools waiting to pick up the kids, and road-side chats to the neighbour while keeping Fido cool inside with conditioned air adds up to a lot of unnecessary pollution, and it’s long past time that we all acknowledged it and changed our ways. And if some of us can’t do it on our own, then governments need to make some rules.

Two summers ago, I even witnessed two older men, their trucks parked on the road outside my house, driver’s window to driver’s window, engines running, complaining to each other about increasing property taxes, and how much money the municipality wastes. If those types of in-vehicle discussions are common for those two gentlemen, then I suspect that they waste more money on fuel for idling than their property taxes increased that year.

Aside from some discussion of how the bylaw would be policed, how many and where signs should be posted (and of course how they will be paid for), I can’t imagine council having much need to debate this proposed bylaw – but then, it is Meaford, and stranger things have thrown council for a loop in the past.

You don’t need to be a tree-hugging environmentalist to understand and agree that letting your car idle is wasteful, and that it is almost always unnecessary. You just need to be thrifty, and averse to breathing in fumes on your way into the pharmacy.

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