Idling bylaw in the works for Richmond

Motorists who allow their vehicle to idle longer than three minutes could soon face a $60 fine.

Richmond city council is considering changes to its traffic and parking regulation bylaws that would make idling on city property—including streets—an offence.

Staff presented their proposal at city council’s community safety committee meeting yesterday—five years after elected officials asked staff to research an anti-idling bylaw. Forty-six B.C. municipalities already have bylaws restricting vehicle idling, according to a B.C. Ministry of Environment report cited by staff.

“It certainly seems...that other cities are ahead of us on this particular issue,” said Mayor Malcolm Brodie. “Whether we’re trying for cleaner air, to enhance the environment or just to bring about awareness of the issue, it seems that we have to very seriously consider the kinds of bylaws that are being proposed.”

Motorists who exit their vehicle while it’s running—for any length of time—would also be committing a bylaw offence.

Bylaw officers frequently find vehicles idling unnecessarily on city streets, including large trucks, taxis and charter buses, according to bylaws manager Wayne Mercer.

“The availability of an enforcement tool such as a clear and effective bylaw would assist as a deterrent in these instances,” said Mercer in his report.

City staff say the impacts of unnecessary idling include a degradation of air quality, climate change and consumption of nonrenewable resources.

Mercer acknowledged challenges in implementing idling restrictions. Enforcement by complaint, for example, is ineffective, as idling vehicles will likely have moved by the time an officer arrives.

Nonetheless staff say the bylaw changes would serve as a deterrent, and public awareness via new street signs would help drive the restrictions home. New restrictions would also give authorities a new enforcement tool to deal with problem idlers.

Motorists waiting in traffic are exempt from the proposed restrictions, as are those on private property. In other words, the bylaw wouldn’t apply to motorists idling in shopping mall parking lots or waiting in restaurant drive-throughs.

Mayor Brodie said the wider the bylaw restrictions, the more effective they’d be, but he said city-controlled land is a good place to start.

“We can measure its effectiveness and, once it’s in place, see if it’s working for us and whether we should be increasing it in scope.”

Andrew Gage, a staff lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law, said cities can extend idling restrictions to private property—and some B.C. communities have.

“Almost all of the clean air bylaws are based on powers related to public health, powers related to nuisance. None of which are restricted to public lands. If they’re restricting it to public lands that’s a political choice.”

Other exemptions under the proposed anti-idling rules extend to emergency vehicles, tow trucks, armoured vehicles, utility service vehicles and bylaw enforcement vehicles. Also exempt are vehicles used in parades, those carrying passengers where loading or unloading can take more than three minutes and vehicles in which a running engine is required to power onboard equipment.

City council has yet to vote on the new measures.

The proposed $60 fine rises to $100 if not paid within 61 days.

The city began cracking down on idling within its own fleet in 2004. Richmond School District followed the next year with anti-idling initiatives around schools.

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