Proposal for Anti-Idling By-Law

In September 2021, Council asked staff to investigate the idea of limiting idling for vehicles in the Town and at the CoW meeting on June 20, staff will present such a draft bylaw for approval.  Staff also suggest an initial education campaign.  The case for an anti-idling by-law is to reduce Green House gasses and improve air quality.  There are many exceptions such as hot or cold weather (details below), Transit, police and more and enforcement would be difficult.  As staff point out, the enforcement officer would have to watch a vehicle and time the duration of idling – although it’s suggested that the maximum idling permitted be only 2 minutes (and not 3 or 5 minutes as in other jurisdictions) to assist with this issue.

See by-law below for full list

  • Fire, police, emergency medical service, public transit and municipal vehicles when idling is required for their function
  • Vehicles that remain motionless because of traffic conditions or traffic controls
  • During hot or cold weather (e.g. over 27°C or below 5°C)
  • Where idling is necessary for maintenance or repair
  • Vehicles in a parade or other event authorized by the municipality
  • Armoured vehicles, where a person remains inside guarding the contents, or while the vehicle is being loaded or unloaded.

It’s hard to imagine how such a by-law would be enforced.  How can you tell if a car is idling from a distance?  Maybe that’s why staff are emphasizing the plan to implement public education.  Staff are aware of the problem – their report to Council lists the difficulties:

Issues relating to enforcement of vehicle idling include:

  • Officer must observe vehicle for the entire time limit;
  • Ticket must be served to the driver which lengthens wait for unoccupied vehicles;
  • Drivers can turn off their engines when they see the officer;
  • Uncertainty about applicability of exemptions (i.e., temperature).

It’s suggested that enforcement be

  • Primarily undertaken reactively to complaints and
  • Proactively based on the availability of staff resources.

Fines suggested are: $60 or $100 if you “contravene an order”.

Given the exceptions and the difficulty of enforcement, it seems that the suggested bylaw would have minimal impact.  The proposed bylaw and the Staff memo explaining it are available from the Resources below.

One thing that’s not mentioned is that most new cars now have a feature that they normally will automatically shut-down the engine when stopped and restart as required – so the default is “No idling”.

It remains to be seen whether Councillors will approve the proposed By-Law – but they did ask for it! Stay tuned.

Update – 21 June 2022

At the Committee of the Whole meeting on June 20, Council approved preparation of the by-law without debate.  It will now be ratified at the regular Council meeting on June 27.


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Just Wondering
20 June 2022 12:36 pm

I don’t quite understanding why this proposal is getting so much negative reaction. Anyone who watches any type of news must realize that climate change is a very serious concern, and anything that can be done to slow it down should be seen as a good thing. While some people may believe that we are all conscientious drivers, there are still too many that sit and leave the engine idling needlessly. While enforcement of a bylaw may be difficult, simply having one allows one to approach a idling driver and politely inform them of the bylaw. I have done it in towns that do have the bylaw, and it works.

Reply to  Just Wondering
20 June 2022 1:56 pm

I agree your sentiment and don’t disagree with the bylaw in principle – I think some of the negative comments are likely related to the fact that aside from declaring a climate emergency 3-years ago, Council took no other discernable action to address said emergency. Now as their collective terms in office come to an end, they choose the path of least resistance – a new bylaw.

As an aside, nothing brings communities and people together like individuals reminding others of bylaws they may be contravening. Let’s think back to the Covid snitch hotline idea….hmmm.

Pete M
Reply to  Just Wondering
21 June 2022 7:21 pm

And yet the Town of Cobourg approved a new Esso gas bar at Brook Rd and King St E.
And now I see there is application for another new gas bar north if Ultramar on Division, and across the from the Shell and just up from Petro Can. 4 gas bars within 100 meters of each other.

Looks like the experts believe there is a growing need for gasoline ( fossil fuels) in Cobourg.

The Town declares a climate emergency on one hand and yet approves more fossil fuel delivery facilities to increase gasoline use.


Ken Strauss
Reply to  Pete M
21 June 2022 8:02 pm

No, just attuned to reality with a smidgen of posturing for re-election.

Reply to  Pete M
23 June 2022 8:20 am

Or common sense and reality. Yes we need to switch to green. However gas engines aren’t going away any time soon. Switching to green doesn’t happen overnight and would be a 20-30 year plan. You need a plan before you can start advancing it and that is the purpose of the ICSP to help the town create that plan. These things don’t happen over night people like to compare running the town to running a business and other than fiscal responsibility it is a bad comparison to make. I don’t know too many businesses that have to take care of roads, sewers, police departments, fire departments etc.

Wally Keeler
18 June 2022 2:46 pm

The Anti-Idling Bylaw is unfitting to the climate emergency. The boat is sinking from a so-called emergency and all the Town can offer is a tablespoon to bail out the boat. Not only is this by-law silly on the surface, the satire continues with the Town diluting it with so many exemptions that it is a megamockery of common sense.

How much time was spent on this plan? How many municipal employees worked on this plan? How many committee meetings set up to work out all the exemptions? All that work and time could have been better spent fixing rickety sidewalks, replacing broken brick tiles throughout Victoria Park, or several other items that often make their appearance on this blog by taxpayers?

The Town would do well to examine all of its landscaping equipment, lawnmowers, hedge trimmers, etc to make them electric. The Fully Electric Future of Landscape Maintenance – CleanTechnica. An electric Zamboni is being used by other municipalities and earning savings. Our Town Council goes DUH?

The Town declared a climate emergency well over a year ago and this is all that they can come up with, a useless idling bylaw? It is about time that Council stop idling on this emergency file, abandon their chronic virtue signaling with painting crosswalks, pretty flags and foreign flags, and get to some serious work mitigating the emergency with something substantive.

17 June 2022 4:12 pm

Sure is silly
The Town should have come up with a parking lot 15 yrs ago
not at the last Min. and thats if there is a location left
As it is King st is suffering and all attempts to rejuvenate it have failed so far.
If this town Ties up the Covert st lot for Reconstruction for just 1 yr we will loose
a good majority of the remaining small business . This idling Bylaw won’t help either
How ever if it were to change to a more Corporate / Professional Office type area
ie: Lawyers , Accountants Drs, Medical Ear , Eye shops then there will be No need to attract Tourists to our Novelty type Shops & stores ( Less Parking Impact )

17 June 2022 10:18 am

This is getting silly…….the mayor and council need to be replaced this fall !

Reply to  mike
17 June 2022 1:00 pm


Reply to  mike
18 June 2022 11:33 am

Hear, hear!

17 June 2022 9:38 am

… is this the start of a revolt of drive-through patrons and operators? may we see many more exemptions and perhaps consultants….

17 June 2022 9:20 am

Good idea re idling reduction. The Town may also wish to take a look at the major changes they made, about 3 yrs. ago, to the timing of traffic lights at the Ontario/Elgin intersection. The long waits for the main artery, Elgin, is certainly not helping pollution reduction as at every light cycle there are several moments of complete four red lights, with traffic just sitting there idling. This is also adding valuable time for business deliveries many times each day! About half an hour of appropriate Town staff time to do an on site timing and observation, just might reveal it’s time for a light sequencing and timing change to further add to the time idling and delivery efficiencies.
ALso, it’s not unusual to spot private vehicles just sitting with their A/C, heater, and cell phone all being a great pre-occupation , for 5-10 mins. in front of a store or, even while they are in the store!

Reply to  Art
17 June 2022 8:05 pm

I believe Elgin Street east beyond Burnham Street is Northumberland County Road 20. Who is in charge of traffic lights when a county road intersects with a town street, I do not know. Maybe the higher priority road takes precedence. I find the Ontario/Elgin intersection safer now as a driver. The traffic accidents there at the intersection on a bridge forced a change.

Reply to  MiriamM
18 June 2022 11:38 am


Forcing drivers to proceed with great caution through that particular intersection by slowing the light changes is nothing compared to the loss of time and resources for each of the accidents that has happened at that corner in recent times.

Sounds to me more like the problem is driver impatience having to sit looking at a red light for any length of time in the interest of safety.

Reply to  JimT
18 June 2022 1:41 pm

I do a lot of in town driving and I avoid that intersection when I can. I use the 401 to the north and University Ave to the south when planning my routes.

Old Sailor
17 June 2022 8:57 am

It appears that the entire Cobourg Council are going to try to get the Liberal nomination for the next Federal election. Their Cobourg crisis identification program replicates our Prime Minister’s favourite agenda topics. Now that the Cobourg Diversity and Inclusion Crisis has being wrestled to the ground, and we have figured out how to paint feathers on Albert Street that don’t wear off in a day, we must save the planet by enforcing uneeded Greenhouse Gas Legislation on unsuspecting Cobourg miscreants. The Three Stooges would be strong contenders for Cobourg Council nominations this year.

Reply to  Old Sailor
17 June 2022 12:58 pm

Thanks for the ‘morning smile’!! I loved getting up on Saturday morning, back in the 50’s, just to make sure I didn’t miss Curly, Larry and Moe, on the TV!

Maybe more people would get interested and or involved, in Municipal politics? 🙂

How about Don Rickles for Mayor?

Last edited 7 months ago by Ken
Bill Thompson
Reply to  Ken
17 June 2022 5:22 pm

Any idea where he’s buried ? He’s been dead for years !

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Bill Thompson
17 June 2022 6:28 pm

From the wisdom of the net, Mr. Rickles is buried in (died
April 6, 2017 at age 90).

17 June 2022 8:49 am

If only we had vehicles that did not pollute while not moving. This proposed by-lay will be obsolete once gas/diesel powered vehicles are phased out. It will be 2035 before production stops, if things go as planned. By the time the by-law is passed and enforced will it really make any difference? Is it just a feel-good type of thing to do? If you really want to make a difference walk, ride a bicycle or use some type of small electric vehicle for as many trips as possible. The staff suggested education campaign could help if it focuses on alternative modes of transportation.

17 June 2022 8:23 am

Not wanting to appear virtuous, it is time for us all to ‘think green’ in simple ways whenever we can and this is one of them that should be at least province wide, the town can act as a pilot project. Public education, buy-in will eliminate the need for heavy handed enforcement. UK and Europe seem to have had these laws in effect for some years now.
Small steps make a difference.

Reply to  Brenda
20 June 2022 8:50 am

Unfortuantely the town and many residents don’t realize how far behind we are the rest of the province in many areas. Idling by-laws have existed for many years, parking fee increases are just reaching us now, they also started many years ago, waste water charges started many years ago. The complaining here on these issues happened in most areas years ago and smaller municipalities are just catching up now. Many of the problems we have now were inherited from previous councils inaction on many items. The waterfront being a big one. A lack of forward thinking from past councils has put this council in the predicament of having to raise fees to pay for things. Many issues have been around for years not just four years ago. This council is just getting into the climate game where were councils 8 to 10 years ago when everyone else was already looking at. We like to blame this council for past sins when we should be looking at past councils. Parking should have been dealt with years ago, is it perfect no, have they said adjustments will probably be needed yes, with change are there growing pains, all kinds. Give them some credit for actually finally making decisions on some of the more touchy subjects because no one before them did they just kicked the decisions down the road.

Lemon Cake
17 June 2022 8:20 am

Awareness of emissions from idling has been growing for at least 2 decades – most people understand it and know what to do. This proposed program is a waste of time and money.

17 June 2022 8:17 am

and as the town permits more on street double parking situations
ie: the newly proposed mixed use development thats lacking a lot of parking at the south west corner of Albert / Queen and Division intersection . where deliveries of both goods and clients will be at curb side which there is none of now . This Provides an excellent location for the town to issue fines of this sort . But will they . They won’t even fine the people driving the wrong way on the Esplanade just a warning We counted 37 cars and trucks going the wrong way yesterday in just 3 hours

Reply to  Sandpiper
18 June 2022 5:57 am

The Esplanade should be a two-way street.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Sandpiper
18 June 2022 10:23 am

We counted 37 cars and trucks going the wrong way yesterday in just 3 hours

I have seen that happen multiple times. Yesterday afternoon, I drove my mobility scooter off Division onto The Esplanade when a car drove out of the parking lot turning towards Division Street. There was lots of room but I decided to block the wrong-way miscreant. I earned a brief curse, but I stayed where I was until they backed up, turned around and existed the right way.

Instead of moaning about it Sandpiper, why don’t you come down to ground level and stand in their way for an hour or half an hour? I might do it again, wait for a bit until I see a miscreant, then legally block them driving the wrong way. If you see me do that, I expect you to come down from your expensive condo and shake my hand. Sitting on one’s butt does nothing, my great grandpa once said.

Pete M
17 June 2022 12:41 am

Heres a list of worst air quality cities.

Can’t find Cobourg amongst them. I did note there seemed to be a fair number in China and India

Pete M
17 June 2022 12:20 am

Well, it looks more “great” Toronto ideas have made their way down the 401.

After reading the report, I see no where in the report where it establish where there have been specific areas or locations where this has been a problem.
This appears more as a means for the Town to be seen as being Green.

One of the supposed benefits is air quality. In order to determine if the by-aw is having an effect would it not mean establishing a starting base line of air quality to monitor and compare year over year??

The cost of this is unknown and will be made mire clear as the Town moves along on rollout, as it creates public education campaigns.

I note in the report there are to be reactive and proactive enforcement. Does this mean by-law will be sitting at level railroad crossings monitoring for violators when those lengthy oil trains and other cargo go through forcing you to sit for more than two minutes?

Can we expect to see by-law at various area schools for drop off and pick up as parents and school buses deliver and take children to and from school?

And lets not forget the hyper-vigilant eco justice warriors with cellphone camera in hand, going gotcha; climate shaming people.

Is this something the Town really needs(a pressing priority) or the Town’s way of virtue signalling to a particular segment of the population during an election year?

Pete M
Reply to  Pete M
17 June 2022 12:27 am

And given the high cost of gas, who can afford to idle. One can barely afford to go get groceries. But I digress. That complaint is meant for the person with initials JT. This discussion is focused on JH and his council and supporting staff.

Reply to  Pete M
17 June 2022 5:38 am

It’s virtue signaling, just as you say.  

Ken Strauss
Reply to  JimT
17 June 2022 8:16 am

After declaring a climate emergency years ago Council needs at least one action related to the emergency. It is strange that the emergency isn’t even on the list of unfinished business.

16 June 2022 8:34 pm

While the reduction of Green House gases is important, developing a by-law and then enforcing it is ridicules. The Mayor and Council need to get a grip and focus on key priorities for Cobourg. In my view the mayor and council need to be replaced.

Reply to  Rational
17 June 2022 7:38 pm

Crossing fingers that somebody else put in their hat for Mayor.

Pete M
Reply to  Kathleen
17 June 2022 7:49 pm

It wont be Susan, she registered to run for deputy mayor again.

Im thinking its going to be the same cast of characters for another 4 yrs?

Reply to  Pete M
18 June 2022 8:53 am

Well now we see if any of the rumoured candidates for the DM’s chair on Council have the cajones to run against her or will they just sit back in their comfy seats?
If nobody runs against her from the present crop then most of them should be voted off for lack of ambition

Reply to  ben
18 June 2022 1:30 pm

I hope someone does run against her and force her to run a campaign and get (or not get) elected to the position. She’s made it up the chain to the position of DM only being elected once.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Frenchy
18 June 2022 2:38 pm

French, I’m unsure of your point.

Henderson became Deputy Mayor without a majority (he got less than 43% of the votes cast) and he became Mayor without even being elected.

Reply to  Pete M
18 June 2022 1:26 pm

Suzanne could always change her mind and at the last minute run for Mayor.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Frenchy
18 June 2022 2:20 pm

She has been doing a good job as Deputy Mayor. If she ran for Mayor who would replaces her as Deputy Mayor?