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Just six tickets issued since 2015 under St. Albert's Idle Free Bylaw

City sees infractions as educational opportunities
Contraventions of the Idle Free Bylaw can come with a $100 ticket. KEVIN MA/St. Albert Gazette

According to city statistics, just six tickets have been issued since 2015 for contraventions of St. Albert's Idle Free Bylaw, which prohibits the idling of vehicles for longer than three minutes except when it's warmer than 30 C or colder than -20 C.

The bylaw was first approved by council back in 2007, and received an update in 2018. Besides personal vehicles, the bylaw also limits mass transportation vehicles like public transit buses and school buses for idling for more than 10 minutes except when temperatures breach the thresholds listed previously.

Contraventions of the Idle Free Bylaw can come with a $100 ticket.

In an email, the city's manager of policing services Aaron Giesbrecht said although just six tickets have been issued over the past eight years, the city has recorded 193 bylaw incidents or calls.

“Of those 193, six were resolved [or] handled through the issuance of a ticket, 108 were resolved through education [or] warnings, and 79 were unsubstantiated reports,” Giesbrecht said, adding that in some cases municipal enforcement officers found that calls were unsubstantiated because of weather exemptions.

The city was unable to provide data prior to 2015.

Bylaw changes unlikely

Speaking to the citizen-based Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) on Feb. 22, the city's environment manager Meghan Myers said that after a recent review of the bylaw, administration hasn't identified any necessary changes.

“From our perspective, I think the file has probably gotten ... as strict as it could be,” Myers told the EAC, adding the bylaw and a potential fine are more educational tools than a strict enforcement measure.

“It's more so like a carrot so that you can have something to encourage positive behaviour,” she said. “There is some instances where we do give tickets ... for those extreme situations, but it's more so that we have that tool in order to say, ‘this is what you should be doing and this is why it's a bylaw.’”

Myers, answering a question put forward by a committee member on Feb. 22, said municipal peace officers aren't usually combing through neighbourhoods looking for idling cars, which means recorded bylaw infractions generally are a result of residents calling in complaints.

One committee member commented she has a neighbour who will sometimes sit in their idling vehicle to smoke cigarettes for up to 30 minutes at a time, several times a day. When other committee members suggested that she call bylaw officers about it, she said she doesn't “like the idea of [snitching] on my neighbour.”

Besides enforcement problems, the committee also discussed idling issues they've witnessed around schools when parents line up to either drop off or pick up their children.

“You have a pollution problem, a traffic problem, neighbourhood fights, a safety problem — there are many, many issues involved there,” said Coun. Shelley Biermanski, who serves as a non-voting member of the EAC. Biermanski also said she thinks the long lines of parents idling cars could be a result of children not attending the school nearest to their house.

“I know at our kids school, Leo Nickerson, [parents] are all sitting there 40 minutes in advance in their vehicles because the problem right now is short capacity, because the [nearby water reservoir construction project] took out all the parking,” added EAC chair Bill Marsh.

“There's a lot of parents that just drive their kids compared to the amount of the buses that there used to be, and I understand their reasons as well, but it's a difficult fix,” Biermanski said.

Another committee member suggested that city administration work with school boards to promote some educational material for parents about the city's Idle Free Bylaw, and promote busing to school.

“It's not even safe for the kids with all those cars,” Biermanski said.

Jack Farrell

About the Author: Jack Farrell

Jack Farrell joined the St. Albert Gazette in May, 2022.
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