March 11, 2021

Idle Reduction Bylaw


Idle Free in BC

Idle-free initiatives are a straightforward and cost-effective action that local governments can immediately take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. When a vehicle’s engine is turned off instead of idling, not only does this reduce GHG emissions, but saves fuel as well.

A successful idle-free campaign can also be a catalyst for public involvement in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. An idle reduction initiative may mark a personal transition that leads to other actions on climate change and support for policies that reduce emissions. This change in behavior can be a foundation for learning about climate change and our roles.

Myths and Facts About Idling

MYTH: Idling uses less gas than restarting the engine. Studies clearly show that idling for over 10 seconds uses more fuel and produces more CO2 emissions than restarting your engine. The amount of time to offset any potential maintenance costs to the starter or battery is under 60 seconds. So, as a guideline, if a car is stopped for more than 60 seconds the engine should be turned off. [1]

MYTH: Idling warms the engine. Idling is not an effective way to warm up your vehicle, even in cold weather. The best way to warm a car is to drive it. The tires, transmission, wheel bearings and other moving parts all need to be warmed up for the vehicle to perform well, and most of these parts do not begin to warm up until you drive. [1]

FACT: For the average vehicle with a 3-litre engine (e.g. 2000 Nisan Patrol) every 10 minutes of idling costs more than a quarter of a litre in wasted fuel or approximately 0.6 kg of carbon dioxide.

FACT: If Canadians avoided idling for just three minutes every day of the year, CO2 emissions could be reduced by 1.4 million tonnes annually, which is the equivalent of taking 320,000 cars off the road for the entire year. [1]

Community Examples

City of Duncan Anti-idlng bylaw 3004
Town of Golden installed community-wide anti-idling signage
Invermere Anti-idling Policy 1365
Kaslo Anti-idling Bylaw 1082
Kelowna Anti-idling signage
Massett installed anti idling signage
Prince George Anti-idling Campaign
Port Moody Anti-idling Bylaw
Sayward No Idling By-law No. 389
Squamish Anti‐Idling Policy
Terrace Anti-idling Policy 97
Section 2.7 of the City of Vancouver’s Motor Vehicle Noise and Emission Abatement Bylaw 9344
City of Victoria Idling Control Bylaw
Capital Regional District Idling Control Bylaw

Local Government Action to Stop Idling

Local governments have implemented bylaws, policies, and campaigns to reduce idling within their boundaries. In some cases such as North Vancouver, and Vancouver anti-idling bylaws have been passed to prevent idling altogether. Many more communities have taken advantage of Provincial and Federal initiatives to reduce idling in the community. Other communities such as Williams Lake and Richmond have introduced idle-free policies for their corporate fleets and have reaped the financial rewards from fuel savings.

If Canadians avoided idling for just three minutes every day of the year, CO2 emissions could be reduced by 1.4 million tonnes annually, which is the equivalent to taking 320,000 cars off of the road for the entire year. Office of Energy Efficiency, Natural Resources Canada

Idle-Free Bylaws

Idle-free bylaws specify the maximum amount of time that a vehicle can be left idling, typically ranging between one minute and three minutes. Idle-free bylaws might also be contained in a nuisance or noise bylaw, not specifying a time limit, but rather a disturbance provision. Communities have the power to create regulations to control idling through the Community Charter (Sections 8(3)(b) & (h), 16, 17, 62, 64, 260 to 263) and the Motor Vehicle Act (Part 3 and Section 124(1)(c)) [1].

Idle-Free Campaigns

There are several programs that provide toolkits to help communities initiate an idle-free campaign. Idle Free Zone is a great place to start. Working with the community, non-government organizations and community organizations can also help to implement a mix of anti-idling initiatives (e.g., workplace-based, school-based, municipal by-law and/or community outreach). Where a local government has an environmental advisory or air-quality committee, this would be a good place to start [2].

Prince George and Burnaby have successfully taken advantage of Provincial and Federal initiatives to reduce idling in the community through education and marketing campaigns.

Idle-Free Fleets Policies

Some local governments have started with idle-free policies for their own fleets in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cut fuel costs. The City of Richmond saved approximately 10% of their total fuel costs, equaling $117,000 during the first year of project’s implementation. Communication with the community about the importance of the project to environmental and human health was an important part of the project. The City of Richmond also partnered with the Richmond School Board to promote an idle-free pilot project in Richmond high schools and at the Vancouver International Airport [3].

Williams Lake has also implemented an idle-free policy within their government operations. Several other communities in BC have done the same.

[1] Gage, A. and Saha, S., 2006. The Clean Air Bylaws Guide. West Coats Environmental Law.

[2] BC Climate Exchange. Greenhouse Gas Action Guide.

[3] Idle Free BC. Fraser Basin Council, BC Climate Exchange, Ministry of the Environment, and Biofleet.


  • Land use and Transportation