Clear the air – please!

By Jennifer Humphries


In past articles, I’ve asked those of you who drive gas-powered motor vehicles to cut your engines while parked. Why? To reduce GHG emissions and by doing so:

  • Contribute to better air quality
  • Protect everybody’s health
  • Reduce GHGs that contribute to climate change

I also mentioned that you would reduce your fuel consumption and therefore save money.

Now, whether you drive or not and whether you drive an EV, hybrid or gas vehicle, I have another request. Please start your “survey-taking engines” and complete the City of Ottawa questionnaire on motor vehicle idling.

The city is consulting the public about updating our idling control bylaw. They are acting at the urging of several community associations (including the Glebe Community Association) with the support of Councillor Shawn Menard. Their survey is open until March 15 at

Why should the bylaw be changed, you ask? What good will it do?

The current bylaw offers idlers lots of scope to idle. While it may seem stringent, there are numerous loopholes and exemptions. And there is no restriction on the amount of time you can idle if the temperature is below five degrees or above 27 degrees. No restriction at all. Maybe that is why we often see drivers with their vehicles parked and running, windows wide open, tapping on their cell phones for ages, oblivious to the impact they are having on the air on the street.

For many, notably the public health and education communities, idling is a concern because it affects air quality, which in turn impacts human health. Children are especially vulnerable to harmful effects from polluted air. And sadly, much of the long-duration idling in our communities takes place right beside schoolyards. It’s not just buses, though they are a particular concern given that their diesel engines emit more CO2 and more nitrogen oxides than gasoline engines.

If you wonder why it’s a good idea to reduce the permitted three minutes of idling per hour to one minute and to reduce the temperature thresholds, take a look at the City’s web page “Reducing Idling in Ottawa.” It explains that’s all you need to warm up your car, it and offers more tips for a comfortable ride.

Community associations are asking the City to prioritize information, education and signage, not enforcement. As we all know, enforcing the existing idling control bylaw has proven challenging. But our view is that a huge number of people idle because they don’t realize what it does to the air we breathe. Or they don’t think it matters much – a drop in the bucket, they may say.

But it does matter. Natural Resources Canada states, “if Canadian motorists avoided idling for just three minutes every day of the year, CO2 emissions could be reduced by 1.4 million tonnes annually. This would be equal to saving 630 million litres of fuel and equivalent to taking 320,000 cars off of the road for the entire year.”

Remember the ugly blast of truck emissions that our city endured during the 2022 convoy? Remember last summer’s smoke days? Sure, wildfires caused the smoky haze in 2023, but their terribly obvious impact makes it even more critical to take every step, especially the easy ones, to keep our air healthy to breathe.

The survey is open until March 15 at


Jennifer Humphries is a member of the Glebe Community Association’s Environment Committee who believes that cutting the engine when parked is an easy way to clear our air. If you’d like to see the research and recommendations on idling prepared by the Community Associations group, email For the Glebe Report article from last September – Drivers cut your engines, see

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