Because the City of Toronto keeps doing things like assigning scarce road resources to the half-dozen bicycles which will soon be plying our streets come January and taking those resources away from the twelve million cars that really need them, you might think that The Big Smoke is somehow anti-car.
Now, for once the City of Toronto IS trying to do something good for car owners, but it may not be getting the credit it deserves.
I'm talking about the proposal to change the anti-idling bylaw from a three-minute limit to a one-minute limit. It was proposed by the Toronto Board of Health to City Council recently; last time I looked it was bogged down somewhere (governmental progress can be glacial).
Some think this looks like another car-baiting cash grab.
Well, it may be.
But it isn't ONLY that.
Why is this a Good Thing?
Because idling your car is just about the stupidest thing you can do to it.
It doesn't take a quadruple-digit IQ to understand that idling isn't the way to better fuel consumption. Obviously, it nets you zero miles per gallon, or uses infinite litres per 100 kilometres.
A study conducted in Europe some years back showed that you can switch an engine off and back on again 30 times a minute - i.e. about as quickly as it is possible to do so - and still use less fuel than leaving it idle for that minute. That study was of large truck Diesel engines ('fuel' for thought for truck owners everywhere) but I bet it can't be far wrong for any engine.
OK, so I am preternaturally cheap. But do you have that sort of money to throw away on gasoline? Even at a buck a litre - cheap by world standards - I sure as heck don't.
One of the main fuel economy advantages of hybrid cars is that they automatically shut their engines off when at rest. So-called 'idle-stop' systems are available on many models in Europe, which make some of them nearly as efficient overall as hybrids, and a lot less expensive.
Ironically, the only non-hybrid idle-stop system I can think of currently available in Canada is on that paragon of fuel efficiency, the Porsche Panamera.
Idling can hit you in the wallet other ways too. Especially when an engine is cold, it's the worst possible thing you can do to it, because unburnt fuel in the rich cold-start mixture can wash away the protective oil coating on cylinder walls, leading to premature engine wear.
Again, who's got the extra cash to rebuild an engine before its time?
If you have any concern whatsoever for the environment, idling is clearly stupid. We have to accept a minor (VERY minor) contribution to atmospheric pollution if we're driving (but probably less than those methane-generating cyclists, all half-dozen of them...).
But when just sitting there going nowhere?
That's just stupid.
So: Waiting for a friend outside her office? Flick on the four-ways and shut it down.
Stuck at a level crossing waiting for the GO Train or a slow freight? Flick on the four-ways and shut it down.
Heading for the drive-thru at Timmy's? First, improve your standards w/r/t your morning beverage (the word "coffee" does not compute with Timmy's) then park your car and walk in to the bleedin' store. The server might even be cute.
Just don't idle the car.
Don't be stupid.
Let your City help you be smarter.
Now, the current three-minute limit is not enforced very vigorously; the cops aren't likely to be any more diligent with the one-minute limit. Maybe they should stop their illegal flagging down of high-beam-flashing radar-trap-warners and do something productive and useful.