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City bylaw declares no idle zones

John King
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 02/05) - Yellowknifers for the most part are careful about leaving vehicles to idle in the winter cold. For Marjorie Sandercock, it's all about common sense.

"As long as your vehicle is winterized and you're dressed for the cold, letting your vehicle idle is just a waste of fuel," Sandercock says.

The city makes a half-hearted attempt to discourage the practice, but leaves it mostly to the discretion of drivers.

One bylaw prohibits vehicles from idling unattended for more than 20 minutes anywhere - unless the vehicle is locked and it's colder than -20 C.

Daryle Foster, supervisory bylaw constable for the city, says the city handed out just four tickets in 2004 to Yellowknifers who ignored the no-idle rule and one so far this year.

Doug Ritchie, program director for Ecology North here in town, says that anytime greenhouse gases are emitted, it's a bad thing.

"We try to put emphasis on the positive," says Ritchie. "Like using public transit, or walking, for example, saves money in fuel costs, provides exercise, and gets you to where you want."

Mitch Dentinger service manager at Yellowknife Chrysler makes a distinction between letting a car warm-up and leaving it idle to make it comfortable for passengers.

"A car should never be driven without being warmed up," Dentinger says.

"About a couple minutes is fine when it's warm, but when it's -20C, then 15 to 20 minutes."

Gary Doering, service manager for Kingland Ford, suggests motorists warm their vehicle until they can feel warm air from the heater.

"It comes down to a question of are we more concerned for the environment or more concerned for what's best for our vehicle," Doering says.

Natural Resources Canada says that idling is not an effective way to warm up your vehicle, and that the best way to get an engine in driving condition is to drive it.

The RCMP is urging motorists not to leave their vehicle idling and unattended.

The Motor Vehicle Act states that if a vehicle is left unattended while running, the doors must be locked.