Russell wants tougher idling law: Current one “useless,” he says


A city councillor wants to toughen up St. Albert’s idling bylaw so it actually works when it’s cold out.

St. Albert council supported a motion from Coun. Bob Russell last Monday to defer revisions to the city’s anti-idling bylaw until next year.

Passed in 2007, St. Albert’s Idle-Free bylaw bans people from idling a vehicle for more than three minutes in a half hour. Anyone who does can be fined $100.

The law doesn’t apply if the outside temperature is below 0 C or above 30 C.

It’s that temperature exemption that Russell wants gone.

“It’s pretty silly when you read it,” he said in an interview, as, due to St. Albert’s climate, the exemption means the bylaw is rarely in effect.

“It’s a useless piece of legislation.”

Russell said he’d received many complaints about idling vehicles, particularly big noisy ones. At the same time, there were very few vehicles that actually needed to idle in cold conditions. He said he’d support a temperature exemption if administration could show it was necessary, but wanted a more stringent threshold of, say, minus 20 C.

Russell said he decided to defer this discussion as he’d heard that this law was already set to be reviewed next year.

City peace officer supervisor Garnet Melnyk said the city doesn’t get a lot of complaints under the idling bylaw, and that the ones it does get usually happen in the winter when the bylaw doesn’t apply due to the temperature exemption.

“I’ve been here seven years and I don’t think we’ve (ever) written a ticket under the idling bylaw,” he said.

However, the city does respond to calls about noisy idling trucks in the winter under the city’s noise bylaw, Melnyk said. Tickets are also rare in those cases, as warnings and driver education are usually enough to dissuade drivers from idling again. If council removed the temperature exemption, officers would likely continue to go with education and warnings over tickets when enforcing the idling law.

The idling law is set to go before the Environmental Advisory Committee next year as part of its 10-year review, said city environmental manager Christian Benson. The temperature exemption was an alternative to the long list of specific exemptions other communities have in their idling bylaws.

Idling your car isn’t good for your vehicle, as most work fine after less than 30 seconds of running in the winter, Benson said. Idling also wastes fuel and produces unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants.

“It doesn’t serve really any practical purpose.”

See for the text of the idling bylaw.


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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.