Environment committee recommends anti-idling policy for Nanaimo

NANAIMO – The municipality's first anti-idling policy for its vehicle fleet is expected to hit the city council table.

New one-minute idling limits could be en route for municipal vehicle drivers.

But for one Nanaimo resident, it’s not enough.

Nanaimo’s advisory committee on environmental sustainability is recommending politicians clamp down on unnecessary idling with the city’s first anti-idling policy for its vehicle fleet.

The new rules are about reducing air pollution and greenhouse gases while having an efficient use of city resources and healthier work environment, the draft policy shows.

There are exceptions, including for emergency vehicles, but gas and alternative vehicle drivers would see a one-minute idling limit if they stop for any foreseeable amount of time, while diesel drivers would have three minutes.

All new employees and drivers would also have to undergo anti-idling training and information sessions.

City resident Natalia Kuzmyn calls the new policy commendable, but she wants the city to cap idling for all hub city drivers with a city-wide bylaw.

Cities like Vancouver and Victoria already have idling restrictions. Kuzmyn believes it’s time for Nanaimo to consider one of its own, for reasons of health, greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.

“When you are woken up in the middle of your sleep because engines are turned on and there’s the exhaust going, you can’t do anything about it. There are no bylaws,” said Kuzmyn, who lives near light industry on View Street. She’s proposing an education program, bylaw to limit idling to 10 minutes within an hour, and fines of $100.

“The amount of time they idle is up to the city … it’s a thing of let’s just not allow excessive idling to the detriment of the health of the people and the environment.”

The effort to appeal to the city for a bylaw has won support from the South End Community Association and Island Health, whose medical health officer Dr. Paul Hasselback said anything we can do to improve our air makes sense from a health perspective.

While the vast majority of transportation contributions are associated with back-and-forth movement, rather than idling, it’s idling that tends to happen where there could be vulnerable populations, like school children, according to Hasselback.

But he also said it’s helpful for a community to look at its own practices before it asks everyone else to do it.

“So coming forward from an environmental health community the concept of looking at a policy for fleet vehicles, makes total sense and saves money,” he said.

The city’s environmental committee has called on city staff to look into the anti-idling bylaw issue but municipal environmental planner Rob Lawrance calls a bylaw an extreme and believes it would be difficult to enforce.

“With the city going ahead at least to get this [internal policy] report to council for adoption is one step and hopefully we can be seen as a bit of a leader in starting an anti-idling program and we can work with others in the community on growing a program like this city wide,” he said.