Be Idle Free

The City of Edmonton’s Environment branch has started a new campaign called Be Idle Free: A Minute or Less is Best. The campaign is trying to get drivers to turn off their car’s engine when they think they will be stopped for more than one minute, except in traffic.

A campaign like this has one major goal: to get people to change their behaviour. And while the graphic Edmonton created to illustrate this campaign may well be used by other groups and municipalities across the province, that’s no guarantee the campaign will be successful.

There have been lots of anti-idling programs all over the Canada but none of them has ever really made a difference. Why is that? Is it just because we live in a cold climate and people want to warm their cars before they travel? I know I’ve heard people say they prefer to warm their cars before they put their children into them but that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. After all, children play outside in the snow don’t they? What’s the difference? As I’ve told my friends, your children would probably prefer to spend a couple of minutes in a cold car than to grow up in a polluted atmosphere.

Those of us who are…shall we say…of a certain age, remember getting into cold cars as children, and back then they didn’t warm up as fast as today’s vehicles. I don’t remember suffering unduly and I spent seven years in the Yukon!

My neighbours with command start tend to let their vehicles run for 10 minutes or more. That’s too much! For one thing, the AMA says that idling your car for more than a minute is harmful to the engine due to the build up of water condensation and fuel residue. Idling is also kind of useless because some parts of the car, like the transmission and wheel bearings, only warm up with driving. Of course you have to run your car long enough to clear the windows but not long enough to make you think you’re sitting on a desert island!

I’d love your feedback on why you continue to idle your car (assuming you do) and what it would take to convince you to stop. If you are already one of the anti-idling converts and would like to get the Be Idle Free message out, visit the city of Edmonton’s Environment pages, print off one of our posters or flyers and put it up around your home or office.

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