Community-wide anti-idling education, bylaw up for discussion

NANAIMO – Forty-eight B.C. communities have an anti-idling bylaw, or provisions to address the issue, according to a city report.

Nanaimo infrastructure isn’t ready for a community-wide anti-idling bylaw, but public awareness can go a long way toward change, according to Gail Adrienne, chairwoman of Nanaimo’s environmental committee.

A new report, released in December on the potential for a community anti-idling bylaw, shows while it could be seen as part of a larger strategy, there could also be challenges with the bylaw enforcement department which has indicated it’s too limited in resources and employees to conduct education or public awareness on what provisions are already in place.

Forty-eight B.C. communities have an anti-idling bylaw, or at least provisions in other bylaws for idling, while municipalities like Whistler and North Vancouver also have an overall idling-control strategy of education and enforcement.

Nanaimo has no idling-specific bylaw for the general public, but adopted its first corporate policy on idling in October and has a provision in its noise bylaw for the commercial trucks and buses left to idle. The bylaw, however, is complaint driven and the report shows the city’s bylaw enforcement division also hasn’t had the resources, nor the staff to do public awareness and education about the rule.

If the city moves ahead with a new blanket bylaw, the report says it would ideally be part of a larger strategy that includes education and there should be encouragement for stakeholders like commercial trucking companies to educate employees and find their own solutions before bylaw enforcement is seen as necessary.

The issue is on hold until the advisory committee on environmental sustainability meets in January to discuss priorities for the next year, but Adrienne said there is concern about how a bylaw would be enforced. There would have to be the budget for 24-hour enforcement, employees and a plan.

There’s nothing to say it won’t happen, Adrienne said, but she’s learned through Nanaimo and Area Land Trust that awareness can go a long ways toward change. When NALT’s Project 2000 started in 1997 to raise stewardship awareness for lakes to rivers and streams, for example, people didn’t know what ‘steward’ meant, she said. Now people watch what they put on their lawns or down storm drains, have formed stewardship groups and keep an eye on the health of streams. The same kind of thing can be done with idling, she said.

“My experience is that a vast majority of people want to do the right thing, they are just not aware,” said Adrienne.

Coun. Diane Brennan, member of the committee and former chairwoman, said education is always something Nanaimo has done when it has introduced new environmental standards. She wants more research and an education plan as well as talk to affected businesses like drive-thru restaurants, before council is asked to implement a bylaw.

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