During the winter months, many drivers leave their cars running to warm them up before setting out to their destination, or to keep them warm while they wait to pick up their children from school. This practice, known as "idling," can affect air quality and may eventually prompt the city of Bexley to adopt a ban.
Excessive exhaust fumes can cause air pollution, which can exacerbate health conditions such as asthma in children and heart and lung problems in senior citizens, said Keith Dimoff of the Ohio Environmental Council.
"We have many sensitive populations in Franklin County," Dimoff said during a presentation at city council's Jan. 28 meeting.
Research has shown that idling is often unnecessary since modern gasoline and diesel engines are more efficient.
"Thirty seconds of idling is typically enough, even on cold winter days like this," Dimoff said.
Dimoff outlined strategies that municipalities can take to combat excessive idling, including "clean" construction policies that require fuel-efficiency standards for service vehicles and encouraging local businesses to be sensitive to the needs of residents who live near loading and delivery zones.
Municipalities can set an example by setting idling limitations for government-owned fleets, which the city of Columbus has done, Dimoff said.
"Fleet managers have a real opportunity to save money in terms of the fuel that's used, as well as cleaning up the air," he said.
Municipalities also can pass ordinances to create "clean air districts," especially around schools, which the Cleveland suburbs of Maple Heights and Lakewood have done. These anti-idling ordinances are enforced when the cities receive a complaint of a violation, similar to a smoking ban, Dimoff said.
"Minor misdemeanors are included in the statutes and there's typically an education period and phase-in," he said.
Dimoff added that anti-idling ordinances also typically include exemptions for law enforcement, emergency and armored vehicles, and have exceptions for traffic jams and specific conditions that require cars to be left running to maintain heating and cooling.
Council President Richard Sharp said Bexley already has "no idling" signs posted near schools, but the signs are only suggestions for drivers and are not legally enforceable.
Mayor Ben Kessler said the city's Recreation and Park Board, at its most recent monthly meeting, discussed a no-idling policy for parks.
"That might be a good place to start," Kessler said, "that there be no idling at our city parks."
Steven Keyes, chairman of council's zoning committee, said the committee will further investigate no-idling policies and determine whether it would be beneficial for the city to adopt them.