A Letter from a Neighbor We’d Like to Share:

Dear Hilltop Civic Association,

I (along with several other new neighbors in this community) have become aware of a situation that is troubling those living along our beautiful neighborhood parks –

With the warm weather, several drivers have decided to stay in their cool cars and leave the car running to keep the air conditioner running inside. Though this is not very troubling if it is a short period of time, I have witnessed individuals doing this for over 30 minutes, as their kids have practice and they are waiting for them to finish their sports activities.

I enjoy sitting outside and would love to not have exhaust fumes and a car engine running less than 5 feet off my property line.  I’m trying to enjoy working in my yard, or having a cup of tea with a friend and instead I feel obligated to leave so someone else can continue to pollute the air I breath in order to stay cool. I don’t want to approach someone because I do not want any confrontation to occur.

I’m nervous this same behavior will happen in winter running heaters to stay warm!  Is there nothing that can be done to keep the air around the parks a bit cleaner and the noise level of car engines replaced by laughing and playing kids?

Signed – A Concerned Neighbor near Robinson Park

I loved this letter!  It is one of my pet peeves and a chance bust to some myths and share some facts about idling from the Engines Off effort of the Regional Air Quality Council

First, there is a Denver Municipal Ordinance relevant to this matter:  Sec. 4-43. – Idling restriction.  You can report this to 311.

MYTH: Pollution emitted from idling vehicles is insignificant to my health and the environment.

FACT: It’s actually quite significant. One minute of idling produces more carbon monoxide than the smoke from three packs of cigarettes. The toxic air pollutants emitted from idling can impair our lungs and heart, and exhaust fumes have been linked to asthma, decreased lung function, cardiac disease, cancer and other serious health problems. Kids, the elderly and folks with respiratory ailments are especially at risk. Idling just one car for five minutes per day can emit as many as 25 pounds of harmful air pollutants and 260 pounds of carbon dioxide a year, the primary greenhouse gas. Throughout the Denver Metro area, idling is responsible for an estimated 40,000 tons of harmful air pollution a year and 400,000 tons of CO2 emissions. This results in over 40 million gallons of fuel wasted while idling, costing area residences and businesses over $100 million dollars a year.

MYTH: It wastes more fuel to restart my vehicle than it does to leave it idling.

FACT: For cars with fuel injection (which includes almost all vehicles built since the late 1980s), idling for even 10 seconds uses more fuel than restarting the engine. In fact, Ford Motor Company recommends that drivers “turn the engine off when stopped for more than 30 seconds to save fuel and reduce exhaust emission.” Of course, we do not advocate turning your engine off while waiting in normal traffic. That’s not a safe opportunity to prevent idling.

MYTH: I need to warm up my car for several minutes in the winter.

FACT: Idling is not an effective way to warm up your vehicle. Modern engines only need to warm up for 30 seconds on cold days. Idling is a slow and ineffective way to warm up your engine. Furthermore, idling your car for several minutes before driving creates extra air pollution, since your car’s catalytic converter is not effective at reducing the pollution in your car’s exhaust until it is sufficiently hot— generally only after driving a few minutes. The best approach is to only idle for 30 seconds, and then just drive gently for the first few miles.

And whatever you do, don’t leave your car running unattended. During the winter months, thieves are on the lookout for “Puffers” — cars left idling in driveways, alleys, and at convenience stores—and they’re ready to hop in and drive away in your car! Denver Police can ticket you for leaving a running vehicle unattended.

EXCEPTIONS FOR EXTREME COLD TEMPERATURE: Many idling regulations include exemptions for the cold temperatures that are common in Colorado’s cold winters. For example, the City & County of Denver’s idling ordinance provides exemptions if the ambient temperature has been 20 degrees or colder for the last 24 hours or 10 degrees or colder for the last hour – but this generally occurs only 10-15 days per winter.

Turning your engine off is one of the easiest and most efficient steps you can take to improve air quality.  This simple act will help you save fuel and money, fight climate change, breathe easier and make you a better neighbor!

Wende Reoch – Cranmer Park/Hilltop Civic Association