"No Idling" in Our Village . . . Not an Ordinance - YET!

Oak Parkers could breathe easier with the help of an anti-idling ordinance currently under staff consideration and possible recommendation to the Village Board. Two years ago, the Environmental and Energy Advisory Commission started championing an education campaign built around encouraging drivers to turn off their engines while their cars are stopped for periods of time. They viewed this campaign as an effective way to educate the community about the health effects of emissions pollution.  These health effects are particularly harmful to children who have smaller, developing lungs and often ride on school buses that are not equipped with particulate air filters.  The campaign kicked off at village elementary and middle schools by placing “No Idling” signs near village parkways where cars and school buses drop off and pick up children.

The response was overwhelmingly positive and there were dozens of requests for permanent signage at schools, in business districts and at drive-in banks and pharmacies.  Oak Park was awarded a grant in 2010 that would have paid for these signs but the grant remains unfunded due to the state’s budgetary limitations. “We need permanent signage to continue the education piece of this campaign,” K.C. Poulos, Oak Park’s Sustainability Manager, said.

An Illinois state statute fines drivers caught idling; however, the statute only pertains to diesel engines, has many exceptions and the idling must be observed for 10 minutes within an hour, which is impractical to enforce.  Currently, Evanston is the sole municipality in Illinois with a comprehensive no-idling ordinance. The city of Evanston imposes fines on vehicles weighing more than 8,000 pounds (for comparison sake a Honda Pilot weighs about 4,500 pounds) that idle more than 5 minutes in a 60-minute period, with some exceptions.

Poulos would like to see a similar ordinance in Oak Park, and has drafted one for review by the Commission and village legal department.

“Residents who support this next step toward a healthy environment are encouraged to contact the [Oak Park] Environmental and Energy Advisory Commission or Village Board members directly,” said Poulos.

Poulos said in addition to “No Idling” signage, an enforceable ordinance that imposes fees on noncompliant vehicles is the most effective way to reduce air pollution and other ill effects from idling vehicles in the village.

Contributed by Melanie Weiss