Bristol’s big ‘switch off’

This article is reprinted from the March 2001 issue of CCN News, the newsletter of the Cycle Campaign Network.

We here in Bristol are enjoying the first official Government approved road signs in Britain that read: ‘Please switch off engine while waiting’. They are working and, according to Bristol’s Air Quality Manager, Pete Tryer, they significantly reduce air pollution.

Image as described adjacent
Reduce pollution: switch off the engine at traffic lights

All of Bristol City Council’s vehicles carry an in-cab sticker requesting their drivers to switch off whilst idling. The city’s Black Cabs Association is also supporting the initiative. Secretary Ian Johnstone says, ‘It has greatly enhanced public awareness; customers and drivers are encouraged by the scheme. We are pleased to be doing our bit to improve Bristol’s air quality.’

Pete Tryer has written to all head teachers in Bristol requesting parents to switch off their car engines whilst delivering and picking up their children. Transport Minister, Lord MacDonald, is impressed with the scheme and says that more councils could be given powers to help prevent motorists from leaving car engines running while they are stationary. Many people don’t realise that a car engine idling produces 80 per cent more pollution than one in motion. Check out your traffic jams!

Bristol Cycling Campaign spearheaded the switch-off campaign and can make resources available to other groups to help spread the message nation-wide. We have rear window and in-cab stickers. The rear window ones really work – people look in their mirror and notice the person behind switching off! The in-cab stickers are good for multi-use vehicles.

I’d be pleased to send out a free information pack, rear windows stickers at £1 each and in-cab stickers at £3 for 10, to anyone wishing to start their own local campaign.

Pete Taylor, Bristol Cycling Campaign ‘Switch-off’ co-ordinator Tel: 0117 951 2610.

Legislation introduced on 2nd February 1998 made it an offence to cause unnecessary emissions by leaving a vehicle’s engine running unnecessarily whilst stationary. This extended an existing offence of causing unnecessary noise by the same means. Enforcement is predominantly by the police and the offence carries a maximum fine on conviction of £1,000. In addition, regulations in December 1997 enabled seven local authorities-Birmingham, Bristol, Canterbury, Glasgow, Middlesbrough, Swansea and Westminster-to issue £20 fixed penalty notices in relation to any vehicle with an engine running unnecessarily whilst stationary. It is proposed that these powers be extended more widely in England and Wales.

According to the NHS in London, transport emissions account for 70 per cent more deaths than road crashes. The US Department of Energy says that it’s more economical to cut the engine if waiting longer than 30 seconds. Re-starting a car engine again after that time uses less petrol as well as saving on emissions. In Germany, drivers must stop the engine when waiting at traffic lights. An added bonus is that traffic restarts more calmly.