Skip to content

Doctor pushes for tougher idling restrictions

Dr. Nicki Wilberforce recommends drafting a bylaw to limit idling to 60 seconds with temperature exemption for winter months.
Nicki Wilberforce
Physician Nicki Wilberforce speaks to Thunder Bay city council at their Monday, February 26, 2018 meeting. (Matt Vis,

THUNDER BAY – A local doctor is urging city council to put up a stop sign against idling vehicles.

Citing health concerns of air pollutants from motor vehicles, physician Nicki Wilberforce appeared before Thunder Bay city council on Monday evening to call for a bylaw to limit vehicles running for only 60 seconds while parked.

“Part of it is looking around the neighbourhood and seeing the number of idling vehicles in streets, parking lots, the hospital parking lot, shopping centres and other workplaces,” Wilberforce said, adding idling can produce unnecessary emissions of greenhouse gases like nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide and sulphur oxide.

“These air pollutants are associated with all sorts of health effects, especially in the more vulnerable population of the children and elderly and also those who spend a lot of time outside either for work or leisure.”

Thunder Bay currently has a five-minute idling restriction that was implemented more than a decade ago, city manager of development and emergency services Mark Smith said.

“Generally speaking, the concerns relating to idling at the time linked more to noise as an annoyance. It was not adverse health effects driving the concern of the day,” Smith said.

“That bylaw is now getting long in the tooth. Engines have evolved and the needs of an engine in terms of warming up are very different now.”

Wilberforce said modern vehicle engines only need to run for 30 seconds to warm up and excessive idling can damage cylinders, spark plugs and the exhaust system.

Toronto and Burlington each have municipal bylaws limiting idling to only one minute. Other Ontario municipalities with shorter times include Guelph, Kingston, Waterloo, Oakville and Mississauga, which all have three-minute restrictions.

Coun. Ian Angus noted the city already has challenges enforcing current bylaws.

“We don’t have a horde of men and women going around with tickets in their hands, checking on things today, let alone with that,” Angus said.

Wilberforce responded that she would recommend this bylaw, if ever implemented, to be enforced just like any others.

“I think it would still have to be complaint driven,” Wilberforce said.

“I do think there are going to be a lot of people who are not going to be charged with this bylaw but I’m hoping there would be enough education around the bylaw that it will help decrease the amount of idling.”

Some municipalities have also included temperature exemptions into their bylaws. Wilberforce suggested a new bylaw to not be enforced below freezing as a starting point.

“I’d be happy to have it lower but 0C would probably be the best place to start,” Wilberforce said.

Council unanimously directed city administration to prepare a report outlining anti-idling options.

Matt Vis

About the Author: Matt Vis

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Matt is honoured to tell the stories of his hometown.
Read more