Drivers urged to switch off idle engines in new air quality campaign

Published: 18 October 2016

A campaign from Wandsworth Council and 12 other London boroughs will launch this week to tackle air pollution from idling vehicles and help protect people’s health.

The Vehicle Idling Action Campaign, supported by the Mayor’s Air Quality Fund, will launch at the Southside Shopping Centre in Wandsworth Town Centre tomorrow (Oct 19).

The aim is to encourage more drivers to switch off their engines when not on the move. This can have a significant impact on harmful emission levels which build up around stationary traffic.

The launch event will include an interactive air quality themed snakes and ladders board to help demonstrate the issue, with everyone invited to come and play.

The campaign will also include community volunteers working in the borough, chatting to drivers and spreading the word about the effects of idling cars. Drivers who agree to switch off and pledge not to idle again will receive a mini version of the campaign board game to help teach others.

The council’s civil enforcement officers are also being trained to address the issue, asking stationary drivers to switch off their engines and handing out fixed penalty notices for idling if a driver refuses to respond.

Wandsworth is committed to improving air quality in the borough, and has already installed 155 ‘No Vehicle Idling’ signs outsider the borough’s primary schools.

The signs aim to reduce the number of idling cars during the school run.

Businesses throughout the borough will also be encouraged to ask their drivers and customers to make sure they switch off their engines when stationary.

Environment spokesperson Councillor Jonathan Cook said: “It is important that we work together to improve the quality of the air we breathe.

“This campaign is a perfect example of a small change many of us could make, that could have a positive impact on everyone’s health.”

The council is taking a wide range of actions to tackle air pollution, including:

  • The installation of new air quality monitoring stations (such as the ones in Putney) in Tooting, and Clapham Junction to further assess air quality in these areas.
  • A ban on day-time deliveries on Putney High Street.
  • A rolling programme of environmental theatre productions in local schools to teach children how their travel choices affect air quality.
  • Helping schools develop ‘school travel plans’ which reduce the number of cars used on the school run through initiatives like 'walking buses' and car pools.
  • Providing free vehicle emission checks in public places like supermarket car parks. The popular programme has offered residents the chance to check if their car will pass its next MOT and raise awareness about harmful vehicle emissions.
  • Championing car clubs which dramatically reduce total vehicle use and take older, more polluting cars off the road. Wandsworth now has the highest car club membership in London.
  • Free bike safety lessons for children and adults to give more residents the confidence and skills they need to start cycling.
  • 'Dr Bike' cycle surgeries promote cycling and teach residents basic maintenance skills.
  • Electric vehicle charging points have been installed in key locations which enable residents to switch over to low emission electric vehicles.
  • A free airTEXT messaging service warns residents when high pollution levels are forecast.
  • The council promotes walking through a range of public health campaigns and smarter travel awareness schemes.
  • Making the boroughs more pedestrian friendly including projects in Clapham Junction, Southfields, Putney and Earlsfield.
  • Lobbying for higher capacity rail, bus, riverbus and tube services so more residents can switch from cars to public transport.
  • The council's Smarter Driving campaign encourages drivers to take simple steps to reduce their emissions like inflating tires.

Vehicle Idling Action events will be running for the next six months.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer and helping to improve your local air quality, you can find out more on the council’s website.