A Lane Cove Local’s Campaign to Stop Idling Around Schools and in Car Parks

Do you leave your car engine running when you do the afternoon school pick up or perhaps when you are in a carpark waiting for someone to do the shopping?

To cut air pollution around schools, there is a call for parents to turn off their cars in pick-up lines.

Lane Cove local Paul Cleary is leading a campaign to reduce idling near schools.

In March 2021, Paul Cleary approached Lane Cove Council about a campaign to bring awareness to the air pollution created when a car is idling.  He was concerned about cars idling in front of Lane Cove Public School.

Paul applied for a Sustainability Grant from Lane Cove Council to start an awareness campaign.

The application was knocked back due to the issue being a Local Government Area wide issue.  The Lane Cove Council told Paul they would undertake a social media campaign.  ITC searched their social media archives and found only one post.

Paul Cleary has continued his campaign and wrote to the Lane Cove Mayor Andrew Zbik asking for action.  The mayor mentioned that he would raise the issue at the next NSW Local Government Convention.  This is a significant step forward however, in practice, all this means is it will another issue for the LGANSW to lobby on, which may or may not get traction.

Researchers Have Been Calling for Action

Research has found emissions from vehicle exhaust are pollutants known to cause serious health problems such as asthma. By reducing car idling, the potential of lung irritation and inflammation can be reduced, therefore potentially reducing the risk of developing asthma and other exhaust-related health problems. Children are especially sensitive because their lungs are still developing, and they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults.

In 2017 a joint submission presented to the Turnbull Government by researchers with the Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub and the Melbourne Energy Institute called for broad introduction of anti-idling legislation, beginning with schools.

Peter Rayner was the director of the Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub at the time of the submission.

Professor Rayner said the idling of cars and buses was of particular concern given the proximity of the height of a young child and the exhaust pipes.

In 2021 Victoria held an enquiry into the health impact of air pollution.  A submission to the state parliamentary inquiry was signed off by six authors across the University of Melbourne, the University of Queensland, and the Royal Melbourne Hospital. The submission compares leaving a car engine running unnecessarily to lighting up a cigarette next to a non-smoker.

The submission noted:

“Raising public awareness is perhaps the single most important required action. The significant government investments into improving air pollution in Victoria should include advertising campaigns, similar to previous anti-tobacco and current anti-idling campaigns in the UK and New York.

An anti-idling campaign is in bold as of all the strategies it is the easiest to implement and perhaps the simplest way to gain the impetus required to achieve the rest of the recommendations. If the public were made aware that leaving their engine running was tantamount to smoking a cigarette around a non-smoker, it is easy to envisage behaviours and attitudes rapidly changing. Raising awareness is imperative to the success of any of the mitigation strategies that require behavioural change.”

A Research paper by Dr Robin Smit in 2022 noted:

“That Australians are likely to idle 20 per cent of their driving time, and this contributes 1–8 per cent of total carbon emissions of the journey.

When many cars are idling in the same location, it can create poor local air quality. For example, idling has been identified overseas as a significant factor in higher pollution levels in and around schools. That’s because parents or school buses don’t turn off their engines when they drop off their kids or wait for them outside.”

New York City has had anti-idling laws since 1972.  Their public awareness campaign even. Include Billy Idol.

The million-dollar “Billy Never Idles” campaign hoped to take the equivalent of 20,000 cars off New York City’s busy streets.

The Campaign Continues

Paul Cleary has continued his campaign by putting up the poster below outside Lane Cove Public School and St Michaels pick up zones and Lane Cove Council Car Parks.

He also raised the issue with Bunnings and the Manager called him back and said they would look into the issue.

He would like the Lane Cove Council to act with a LGA-wide public awareness campaign.

If you support this campaign, Paul Clearly would like you to write to the Lane Cove Council calling for action – send your comments to [email protected]

Idling Outside Construction Sites

Another area where idling takes place is outside construction sites.  It is not uncommon to see cement trucks idling on River Road while waiting for a call-up to the construction site at 4 Northwood Road.

This photo was taken on 13 March 2023.

This photo was taken on 9 March 2023

This photo was taken on 2 March 2023

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